Singer Goes To Great Lengths (And Heights!) To Perform For Isolated Seniors
Even the coronavirus couldn't stop her from entertaining those who are the loneliest during the pandemic.
Colette Hawley has always had a soft spot for senior citizens. Before the pandemic, the Chicago-based singer performed for Alzheimer's patients at nursing homes across the country. When the coronavirus happened, and visitors were no longer allowed inside the buildings, she wanted to find a way to keep entertaining the people who lived there.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Hawley rented a 30-foot cherry picker bucket truck from a local construction company to sing for the residents at Chicago Methodist Senior Services from a safe distance.
"I'm driving down there and I'm thinking, 'What am I doing? This is crazy,'" Hawley, 58, told The Washington Post.
Hawley asked her friends to pitch in for the cost to rent the cherry picker, and after just a few phone calls she found a company that would loan out the equipment for $550 a day.
Hawley received over $400 in donations, so she paid the $150 balance, and after a quick demo from the rental company, she was ready to go.
The singer, along with her portable, 28-inch speaker and wireless microphone, climbed aboard the machine and raised herself 30 feet in the air – the perfect height for residents on the fourth floor to get an up-close view of the performance.
Hawley (quickly) taught herself how to use a cherry picker truck to perform for seniors outside of Chicago Methodist Senior Services.Colette Hawley/Facebook
Hawley's Memorial Day concert consisted of her belting out American classics, like "Tutti Frutti" and "America the Beautiful."
Inside the building, the residents cheered and clapped along with the songs.
"Everybody was smiling and laughing," Jenn Ross, the art program coordinator at Chicago Methodist Senior Services, said. "There's a huge loss right now without having family members and friends and volunteers here to engage with folks. It really kind of boosted morale all around."
Hawley has been performing for seniors (often without being asked!) for years. Colette Hawley/Facebook
Video of the performance quickly spread on social media and was even re-tweeted by entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who went to college with Hawley.
"Colette has always had an amazing heart and a desire to entertain people," Cuban said. "Leave it to her to find a way when others don't know how."
Hawley is using her new internet fame to spread the word about her project and help raise funds to put together a state-wide road trip to visit as many senior facilities as possible. In the meantime, she'll continue to offer her free shows to "anyone, anywhere outside of a nursing home."
Here's Hawley doing a performance in a grocery store during seniors-only shopping hours...
Aside from providing entertainment, Hawley hopes that her performances will raise awareness about how seniors are viewed by society.
"We tend to make seniors disappear. We put them away and we shut them into these places and everyone's like, 'I don't want to go there. It's too depressing.' But that's the weirdest thing," she said. "Most people will be old, so that's going to be you. Wouldn't you want to be looking at the face of your future and find out a way to make it better?"
Hawley hopes to perform outside as many nursing homes as possible to keep seniors entertained during the pandemic. Colette Hawley/Facebook
Thanks to Hawley, we're sure a lot of seniors are feeling a little less lonely after seeing her perform. We can't wait to see where Coco's Songs for Seniors pops up next!