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Seattle seniors and preschoolers put on 'Rafunzel' musical

The preschoolers and seniors come together five days a week to learn through art, music and philanthropy.

SEATTLE — For the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown, the preschoolers at Providence Mount St. Vincent’s Intergenerational Learning Center in West Seattle have reunited with the nursing home’s seniors for “Rafunzel,” an adaptation of the childhood fairytale “Rapunzel.”  

The performance is a family affair as the young students attend school in the basement and the residents live upstairs. The generations come together five days a week to learn through art, music and philanthropy events like preparing meals for the homeless. 

Providence Mount St. Vincent garnered worldwide attention in 2019 with the release of “The Growing Season,” a 4-minute film trailer released in anticipation of a full-length documentary about the unique program that combines preschoolers and seniors. 

Molly Swain is the director of development for Providence Mount St. Vincent and says after more than three decades, their Intergenerational Programming has become an international role model for programming that puts residents and children together. 

The childcare center opened 35 years ago and the staff takes pride in connecting the beginning and the end of life through shared experiences between the children and the seniors. Today, the program connects 400 elders who make The Mount their home with 125 students who attend the learning center.

Niki Flynn is the Art and Soul Program facilitator and director for the musical.  She says the best part of the Intergenerational Program is that it’s a level playing field.  

“Most of these kids and the elders have never performed before.”  

Joann Bellipanni says she was a Sunday school teacher once upon a time and always daydreamed about being an actor.  

“It’s more fun now!” says Bellipanni, who volunteered to play the role of “stink bug.” She says she was willing to set aside her pride for the sake of the kids.  

“I knew the kids would think the stink bug was funny and I want to make them smile,” says Bellipanni.  

Spiritual Care Director Rev. Deanna Drake has a kindergartner of her own who participates and can’t say enough about the impact.  

“The kids are a part of our lives here at the Mount, that’s a beautiful part of working here because I get to see the beauty and the joy of these relationships that form," Drake said. 

The Intergenerational Learning Center has wrapped production on “Rafunzel” and will take a break before preparing for a new musical performance in August.  Learn more about the program through Providence Mount St. Vincent Foundation.

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