WARREN - Fourth graders at Jefferson K-8 School had the chance to meet for the first time their pen pals at St. Joseph Hospital who had been writing to them during the school year.
Sister Diane Tress, director of mission integration at St. Joseph Health Center, said the 50 students in Lisa Mesaros and Tina Noble's fourth grade classes had a tour of the hospital and presented cards to the patients and staff and also met the employees who were their pen pals for the past school year.
Jefferson is St. Joseph's adopted school. Humility of Mary Health Partners facilities and 50 students in the two fourth-grade classes have paired up to share letters.
"I don't know who is more excited about the visit, the children or the employees. Last week, the employees kept asking me when the children would be coming to the hospital,'' Tress said.
Tress said the theme of the program was ''butterflies,'' since many children are very shy and quiet like in a cocoon but soon begin fluttering like colorful butterflies.
"After several months of writing back and forth, getting to know each other and, hopefully, learning some valuable lessons, these children are about to emerge from their cocoons into beautiful young people who have learned not only to receive, but also to give," Tress said.
Fourth graders Alexavier Broadus and Jade Chin said they enjoyed seeing the Akron Children's Hospital "Air Bear" helicopter which arrived when the students toured the hospital.
Chin, who lost her best friend, Miracle, in a July 2011 house fire, said she has learned about hope through her visit.
Tress said she has seen Chin change from a sad child to a happy child.
In her letters to the pen pals, Chin talked about her dog and learned that her pen pal is a nurse who helps people.
Fourth grader Emily Rhine said she liked meeting the pen pals and said after seeing the hospital and the people who work there, it ''is no longer a scary place.''
Tress said this is the fourth year for the program, with 50 employees participating. She said last year's fourth graders were depressed because they didn't come back to the hospital. Cakes were taken by this year's fourth grade back to the school for them.
"We are taking a little bit of love to them," Tress said.
Fourth grader Nathan Phillipp said he was excited to meet his pen pal, Patty Rush, who handles public relations for Humility of Mary.
He asked in his letter about what job she did at the hospital. Rush said she learned in the letters Phillipp wants to be scientist and likes to build things.
Mesaros and Noble said the students were excited to meet their pen pals. The school-year-long activity included sending letters back and forth for several months, which led to the the field trip where children made get-well cards for patients and took tours to the SimLab, where medical technology was demonstrated.
Dr. Frank Beck, director of the general dental resident program, discussed dental hygiene and had children visit the Smile Station dental van to learn about dental care.
Tress said the mission committee and hospital staff sponsor other activities throughout the school year such as a gift bags with bath products such as towels and shampoo, a collection of school supplies and a food drive. Throughout the year, personnel from the hospital make presentations to students on various heath topics.
The event was sponsored by the St. Joseph Mission Committee.