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Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
May 22, 2024 ·  6 min read

5th Grader’s Boredom while Visiting Her Mom’s Job Led to $70,000 for the Elderly in Need

Ruby Kate Chitsey was feeling bored at a nursing home near Harrison, Arkansans. The eleven-year-old spends much of her summers there since her mother, Amanda Milford Chitsey, is a nurse practitioner, and besides, Ruby Kate likes chatting with the elderly in need of a kind, listening ear.

One that particularly dull day, she approached a woman in a wheelchair who was staring out the window, curious to find out what the woman was looking at.

I figured whatever it was must be pretty exciting because I hadn’t seen anything exciting all day,” wrote Ruby Kate on her GoFundMe page. “So I hurried to catch up to her before whatever this was disappeared. I thought maybe it was a baby bird? A wreck in the parking lot? Ambulance?

The woman’s name was Pearl and she explained that her dog of 12 years had just visited her, and she was watching it leave. A friend was nice enough to bring it, but the woman didn’t know when she would see the dog again.

It was very sad. We have a lot of dogs and I could feel her pain,” Ruby Kate said to CNN.

Ruby Kate knew it was costly to hire a pet sitter to bring pets to the nursing home, and many residents didn’t have the $12 to pay per visit.

Meeting Pearl left a profound effect on Ruby Kate. She wondered how many other residents couldn’t afford little, joyful things like this. She decided to do something about it. [1]

“Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents”

Ruby Kate got to work setting up a Facebook page for her project, which she called “Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents,” and her mother helped her create a GoFundMe account to sponsor these wishes.

Then the fun part began. Ruby Kate began interviewing the residents with the question: “What three things in the world do you wish you had right now?” She recorded their answers in a spiral notebook she had neglected to fill out from third grade.

The answers were surprising to the little girl and even to her mother, who said, “I had known some of these patients 20 years. They told her things they would’ve never told me because she was a child.

One resident requested pants that fit. Another wanted fresh fruit, saying she hadn’t eaten a fresh strawberry in eight years. In fact, many desired food from outside the nursing home, particularly Vienna sausages. Several others asked for good books since the ones they had were usually castaways from thrift shops. Others wanted phones because they got lonely in their rooms. 

Many residents, however, were stricken with dementia and were unable to make a wish, so Ruby Kate and her mother gifted these people with comfort — thicker blankets, quality pillows, and better snacks, along with lumbar pillows for back support, and neck pillows for residents who struggled to hold up their heads.

They also purchased dolls that resemble real babies for lonely residents to cradle. “Those are awesome for dementia residents,” said Chitsey.

They weren’t new cars or a million dollars [they wanted]. They were very simple things that you could just go in Walmart and get — and that’s what we do,” Ruby Kate said.

Perhaps the saddest wishes were for hearing devices for those who had “correctable hearing” but couldn’t afford the equipment to hear their visitors, friends, or TV.

In February 2019, the Chitseys created “Operation Happy Meal” and gave 100 residents free burgers and French fries. It seems like such a little thing, but the residents were overjoyed. [2]

Residents that never smile — they melted. Nurses were crying, family members...” Chitsey said.

Read: Scientist who helped develop new drug for ovarian cancer donates all profits to charity

“Kid Hero of the Month”

GoFundMe was inspired by Ruby Kate’s page and named her “Kid Hero of the Month.” She has raised over $70,000 for five nursing homes in Arkansas so far.

Besides for bringing awareness to the simple wishes of the elderly, her mother wants to spread the word about how financials usually work in nursing homes. Many of these residents rely on Medicaid, which provides them with medical care along with room and board. However, they are given just $40 a month to buy anything extra.

The system is built for your family to cover those gaps. In reality, we see over 90% of my residents, they don’t have family visitors,” said the 46-year-old nurse. “They don’t have family come. Some families don’t have a car to come or their family is old and can’t drive. For whatever reason, families are not filling those gaps.

Forget about using that 40 dollars for some simple pleasure like good books or new pants. It’s usually used for haircuts, pet food, and often gifts for grandchildren. Since many grandparents would choose to spend the little money they have on their children, it’s poetic that a child decided to return the favor and give them the gifts they want.

“I thought I was really good at what I did for a living and I was really good at treating colds and pain and diabetes and hypertension,” said Amanda. “But I was really terrible at looking at their joy… [Ruby] changed that for me and that notebook totally changed my career.” [3]

“Starting a Movement”

The wish project continues with the program covering five nursing homes. Ruby Kate visits the residents two or three times a week to write down their wishes and deliver them. Her mother found an eager helper for the program, Marilyn Spurlock.

“It gives me something to do. It took away a lot of my depression because I felt worthless and couldn’t do anything to help anybody,” the 74-year-old said. “I’ve been here so long. I was no longer useful.

Spurlock has lived in the nursing home for eight years but her daughters visits every day with a home-cooked meal, a luxury Spurlock knows many others don’t have. It has saddened her to see others lonely, missing their families and the taste of home life, which makes her the perfect candidate for the wish project. 

“Every day that goes by, I get a little more excited,” Spurlock said. “I go out into in the hub — the areas where people sit. I look and talk to them and ask if there’s anything they need.”

Chitsey is moved by her daughter’s kind, innovative idea and hopes to spread “Three Wishes” to homes across the country.

“I think Ruby’s starting a movement, recognizing a need and just doing something about it. This is about their quality of life, bringing them joy.” [4]

If you’re inspired by Ruby Kate’s project, you can donate to her GoFundMe page, or take a leaf out of her book and visit a local nursing home. The residents’ wishes are so simple yet they bring them so much joy. All these people need is a helping hand. To get involved, check out the Three Wishes’ “How to Help” page on their website.

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  1. Steve Hartman. 11-year-old expands her charity granting wishes to nursing home residents. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/11-year-old-expands-her-charity-granting-wishes-to-nursing-home-residents-arkansas/ June 28, 2019
  2. Meghan Overdeep. This 11-Year-Old Has Raised More Than $70k to Grant the Wishes of Nursing Home Residents. Southern Living. https://www.southernliving.com/news/ruby-kate-chitsey-three-wishes February 1, 2019
  3. Sabrina DelMonaco. This 11-Year-Old’s Summer Plans Include Helping Elderly Residents Get Their Wishes. Wbur. https://www.wbur.org/kindworld/2019/08/06/three-wishes August 6, 2019
  4. Amy Chillag. A 5th grader’s boredom while visiting her mom’s job led to $70,000 for the elderly in need. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/29/health/iyw-5th-grader-nursing-home-mission-trnd/index.html February 7, 2019