As the world took careful steps this spring to stay safe from the coronavirus, Nancy Gruskin Warner worried that her mother, Doris Gruskin, would spend her 102nd birthday on May 9 without any family or friends to help her celebrate. Since she turned 90, Nancy has made sure to visit Doris regularly where she lives at Belmont Village in Oak Park, and especially on every birthday.
But this year, visitors were forbidden at assisted living facilities or nursing homes throughout Illinois during the height of the pandemic. So, Doris’s JourneyCare team, Nancy and the Belmont Village staff teamed up to plan an unforgettable surprise.
The JourneyCare Volunteer Services Department mobilized dozens of volunteers to create birthday cards for Doris, while also commissioning a volunteer artist Deb Hendriksma Anderson to paint a custom watercolor for her. Nancy ordered 102 cupcakes – shaped like a giant cake – to be delivered to Belmont Village. The Chicago Tribune/Oak Leaves even wrote about the party and Doris’s life growing up and raising a family in Oak Park. And JourneyCare’s Jewish Care Services program – which offers culturally sensitive services for patients – organized a Zoom call with Doris’s family to visit and sing “Happy Birthday” in tandem with the Belmont Village staff at her side.
Joining the celebration via Zoom were Warner, her brother, Mark, their spouses, Doris’s three grandchildren and her great grandson, Jude, who is just 4 months old.
“It was quite the event!” Nancy said.
While on the call, the family talked about Doris’s life and childhood in Oak Park, laughed about their shared love of the famous Johnnie’s Beef stand in Oak Park, and how they wished they could be sharing the time together.
“The Zoom call was great,” Warner said. “She was very happy to see her great grandson in his little Cubs outfit.”
Though the family couldn’t celebrate in person with Doris, they say they are grateful to JourneyCare and Belmont Village for making the day special for her.
“My mother was just thrilled!” Nancy said.