AARP Cupid Crew delivers Valentine’s Day roses to kūpuna throughout East Hawai‘i
February 15, 2023, 4:00 AM HST
Del Pranke from Pāhoe can’t remember much past last January. So when the U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who was born in 1946 and has been a resident of Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home for more than a year, was asked if he had any special Valentine’s Day memories, nothing instantly came to mind. He hadn’t even really thought about it.
But Pranke, who is single and pushing 80, now has a Valentine’s memory thanks to AARP Hawai‘i.
On Tuesday, he and other residents at the Hilo veterans home received roses from Pam Bruce, an AARP Hawai‘i volunteer from East Hawai‘i and a member of the 10th annual Cupid Crew.
Pranke was wearing a mask, so his facial expressions were hidden, but you could tell he appreciated the gesture.
“It was nice,” Pranke said. “I was very pleased to receive it.”
The yellow red-tipped rose also stirred good memories of him seeing roses growing elsewhere on the Big Island.
The Cupid Crew’s mission was to bring joy to many people like Pranke. They delivering nearly 2,000 of the multi-colored flowers and 150 hand-made Valentine’s cards to kūpuna at nursing homes and extended care homes and to participants of other senior services throughout the east side of the Big Island.
The Cupid Crew is part of Wish of a Lifetime from AARP, a program that combats the negative effects of isolation and strengthens social ties and intergenerational connections of people 65 and older.
“It feels so good just to bring joy,” said Bruce, who on Valentine’s Day had already delivered nearly 100 roses to other locations, including the Hilo Medical Center Extended Care Facility.
“Mahalo Wish of a Lifetime and AARP Hawai‘i for supporting our kūpuna and bringing joy to our residents on Valentine’s Day,” said Porsha Deguair, activities coordinator at Hilo Medical Center Extended Care Facility Activities, in a press release last week.
This is the first year the Cupid Crew has delivered the Valentine’s flowers to East Hawai‘i kūpuna. They delivered cards last year and thought they’d “go bigger” this year with the roses.
Bruce was happy to participate, especially since this time of year can be socially isolating for many seniors who might not have anyone with whom to celebrate.
Reactions from the kūpuna were priceless. Bruce said many of them commented about how beautiful the roses were and all were thankful.
Before Bruce handed out the roses at the veterans home, Yukio Okutsu Activities Director Stacyn Sakuma thanked her, saying the residents would love them.
Sakuma said later that there is love in the air everyday at Yukio Okutsu. The staff, whose hearts are filled with love for the kūpuna, try to make fill days such as Valentine’s Day and other holidays with even more love — and make the residents feel special at the same time.
The veterans smiled as they received the roses and took part in other Valentine’s activities, including “love bingo” karaoke and being treated to cupcakes from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and waffles made by staff.
“It was heartwarming seeing our residents’ faces brighten up and know that they are loved,” Sakuma said.
Other members of the Cupid Crew delivered Valentine’s Day cards last week at the Hawai‘i Island Adult Care and on Tuesday to clients of Meals on Wheels. AARP Hawai‘i distributed about 6,400 roses and 700 Valentine’s cards throughout the state Tuesday to bring love and social connection to kūpuna.
“For a decade, Cupid Crew has uplifted and spread love to more than half a million older adults at risk of social isolation on a holiday that is all about community and appreciating those who shine a light in your life,” said Wish of a Lifetime from AARP Vice President and Executive Director Tom Wagenlander in last week’s press release.