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Prime Time: Party time at Colleen's made St. Pat's special

Pictured at the St. Patrick's Day celebration at Colleen's Caring Hands are, front row, from left, Vivian Ellis, Alice will, Virginia Basinger and Betty Basinger, and back row, from left, Lyndon Ellis, Russell Doakes, Luella Knutson, Steve Buhn, Ida Krumrey and Colleen Hill. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Vivian Ellis dances with personal care attendant Breanna Adams at the St. Patrick's Day party.2 / 2

Although St. Patrick's Day is long past, I just have to tell you about the good time I had that day anyway.

I was lucky enough to be invited to Colleen's Caring Hands, an adult foster care home in Bemidji, to celebrate this great day for the Irish.

Colleen Hill is the owner and director of Colleen's Caring Hands, and she has been known to throw some mighty fine holiday parties for her residents, their families and her staff. St. Patrick's Day was no exception. In fact, the party was bigger and better and more fun than ever.

The party got rolling about 1 p.m., at which time we all sat down to a good old-fashioned home-cooked Irish boiled dinner. Of course, there was corned beef and cabbage with all the trimmings, including homemade soda bread and green cake, and to top it all off there was green punch. Colleen and her staff treated us like royalty. But the dining was just for openers.

Like it wasn't enough to be served this delicious dinner, we were all invited to stay for some musical entertainment as well. Russell Doakes arrived with his accordion and it was "show time"! Russell was ready to play all our favorite polkas, waltzes and any other kind of music we wanted to hear.

Russell barely got going before the residents were in the swing of things. They began tapping their toes and, with the help of the staff, were on their feet dancing the afternoon away. Needless to say, everyone had a grand time, but one couple seemed to have an especially good time.

Lenny and Vivian have lived with Colleen for three years. Vivian suffers from the ravages of Alzheimer's disease and has very few if any lucid moments. But when Russell began to play Vivian immediately began to keep perfect time with her hands and feet. One of the staff helped her to her feet and it was like it all came back to her, that somehow she remembered that she loved music and dancing. She danced all afternoon. She was completely engaged in the moment. She was a participant. She was with the program. She was in the real world!

As for Lenny, he was so happy and touched to see Vivian having such a good time, he couldn't help but shed a tear or two. He told us, "In the old days, Vivian always danced every dance. And she never took a drink." I guess music is indeed "the international language."

I left the party thinking about what a fine time we all had and how lucky the residents are to have caregivers like Colleen and her staff who watch over them 24/7. It is so nice to know that special events like that party can happen in adult care settings. I wonder if many facilities have the staff, the time or the means to provide extra activities. I hope they all do.

But for now, I just want to say thanks to Colleen and all her staff for going that extra mile and for making every resident feel like 2525 Bemidji Ave. NW is their special home away from home.

To make a long story short, I just have to say that when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick's Day, those downtown pubs got nothin' on Colleen's place. And if and when she decides to throw another party I sure hope she invites me.