(Photo by Adina Keeling)

Staff at Three Crowns retirement community are all too familiar with the sight of children and preteens flooding the facility and bouncing off the walls on hot summer days. 

Although staff experienced some changes this summer due to COVID-19 precautions, three things stayed the same: children, ice cream and intergenerational friendships.

The children were campers at GoodSports Youth Summer Camp, and after camp ended at 1:30 p.m, they poured into the retirement home located across the street at 2323 McDaniel Ave. to enjoy ice cream with residents. 

GoodSports baseball coach Chuck Carra started this tradition eight years ago after discovering that Three Crowns is open to the public and serves food. He started going to the retirement home for his lunch break, and when he learned they serve ice cream, he decided to bring the kids over after camp. 

Residents loved seeing the kids, and the staff were extremely welcoming. “They are the ones who made it happen,” said Carra. “The staff there are really, really cool.” 

Jackie Hanks, a resident at Three Crowns, said she remembers seeing the children waiting in line for ice cream in the bistro during a pre-COVID summer. The children peered into the ice cream display cases, their noses almost touching the glass, she said. She added that they were always well-behaved. 

Carra did not quite see it that way. “I had to make sure that this group of 20 little kids was not rambunctious and crazy,” he said. Even after talking to them, “they were still rambunctious and crazy.” 

Lisa Dye, Interim Executive Director at Three Crowns, said aside from the terrible losses that the pandemic brought, another devastating part of the past year and a half was the lack of young people at the retirement home. 

The children weren’t vaccinated this summer, and it wasn’t safe to have them inside the building. But, Dye said, she and GoodSports staff still wanted to keep the tradition going, so they delivered ice cream to the children outside. Instead of scoops of ice cream, Three Crowns switched to ice cream bars, a slightly COVID-safer option, and they offered a variety of frozen treats to accommodate kids with allergies and lactose intolerance. 

Gathering the children outside for ice cream was a great opportunity to keep engaging with the campers, but from a distance, said Dye. She said residents loved that Three Crowns continued supporting their young friends, and they always made comments to each other about seeing the children. 

Residents also enjoyed hearing the children laugh and play across the street while camp was in session, said Dye. “It fills everyone’s heart with joy.” 

The summer camp concluded several weeks ago and will resume next summer. The intergenerational bonds created between campers and Three Crowns residents continue even after the summer ends and the children age out of the camp, as many go on to volunteer at the residential facility, said Dye.

Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...