MHS freshman finds way to connect with local seniors amid virus restrictions

Colin DiPasquale had plans to entertain the seniors of Brandywine Living on Saturday, March 14.

The 14-year-old Moorestown resident recently started Senior Serenades, a program with the nonprofit Local Acts of Kindness where musical teenagers donate their time to perform for seniors at local assisted living facilities.

But on Thursday, March 12, came the news: Brandywine has restricted visitor access to protect the health and safety of its residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DiPasquale wasn’t going to let that stop him: On Friday evening, he assembled his musicians and fellow Moorestown High School freshmen. With Raghav Akula on saxophone and Andy Chang on violin, the trio recorded a virtual performance and edited it in time to send to Brandywine for a scheduled 2 p.m. performance.

“Since they’re shut in and can’t see everyone, I thought I would bring people into my home,” DiPasquale said.

Senior Serenades stemmed from DiPasquale’s visits to his grandparents’ house. Having long taken piano lessons, his grandparents frequently encouraged him to perform for them, and he began thinking about how he could bring the joy his performances brought to them to other seniors. So last summer, DiPasquale began traveling to local assisted living facilities and offering to perform.

In December, 2019, the DiPasquale family created Local Acts of Kindness, an organization dedicated to issuing challenges to spread kindness throughout town, and the MHS freshman created the Senior Serenade program shortly thereafter. His goal for Senior Serenades is to link musically inclined teens with local seniors at assisted living facilities. 

Typically, when DiPasquale and his fellow musicians perform, they play about five songs each. So, they gathered in the DiPasquale family living room and recorded their performance in full with a personalized greeting for the Brandywine seniors.

Rebecca Lentine, the facility’s activities director, said since DiPasquale first reached out, he’s exhibited a maturity and eloquence well beyond his years. When he sent the video, she wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I was blown away by the quality of the video,” Lentine said.

DiPasquale and his fellow musicians were dressed in shirts and ties, and one by one, they introduced themselves before performing. Lentine said residents were not only impressed by the quality of the performance, but by the fact that the trio had taken time out of their Friday night to create the video. The performance was so well received, Brandywine aired it a second time on March 18. 

Lentine said COVID-19 has changed the senior assisted living facility’s procedures for the time being and has further restricted the lives of residents. But she said they’re grateful to people like DiPasquale for making entertainment accessible with technology. 

DiPasquale plans to keep the virtual serenades going in the weeks to come. He’s already recorded personalized introductions for other assisted living facilities he and his fellow musicians were scheduled to visit. He plans to record and edit new videos at home for online viewing, until he can resume in-person visits. 

For more information on the Senior Serenades program, visit www.seniorserenades.org.