In 2011, Dawn Killough woke at 3am and in her heart felt the Lord say, “I want you to go give birthday parties to people in senior homes.”
Shortly after they were married, Dawn and her husband Rod began ministering to seniors when they started a kids club at their church. The seniors from their church would get together to make crafts that the kids would then give to seniors who lived in residences. Dawn was also very involved in a number of choirs who regularly visited senior residences to perform. Both Dawn and Rod have always enjoyed spending time with senior folks and listening to their stories.
Dawn and Rod attend FM Centennial Church in Kamloops, BC. Centennial had a Sunday church service in a seniors residence and when the pastor went on vacation, Dawn and Rod filled in. Fast forward seven years and there are now Sunday services in four different residences once a month. Dawn and Rod have become pastors to these seniors. So when Dawn had a dream about birthday parties for seniors she thought, “We have been involved with seniors throughout our lives so I can see why God chose us.”
Dawn and Rod recruited a team of “birthday party volunteers” including a clown and piano player. They host a birthday party in each of the four residences once a month. The parties have varying themes based on the time of year and activities vary based on the needs and mobility of the residents. The parties include music, skits, games, poetry and gift bags that Dawn puts together herself.
Many of the seniors they visit have dementia. And as Dawn explains, “Music defies dementia. One gentleman would get agitated and become aggressive so I would go and sit beside him, hold his hand sing, “Jesus Loves Me.” By the end of the song he would be singing with me. Music seems to come in a different door. It helps them connect.”
Between the church services, hymn sing and birthday parties, Dawn and Rod have approximately 240 parishioners, “These residences are heaven’s waiting room. The harvest is full. There are residences asking for us. We could do twice as many birthdays but we need more volunteers. There is fear and reality working with seniors but there is also grace to walk through it.”
Dawn and Rod often come home from a birthday party tired but there is a wonderful sense of peace, “We are doing what God has asked us to do. It’s a big commitment and we know it. But we recently held a gentleman when he passed away and it was a privilege.”