Originally published on May 26
SARTELL, Minn. (WCCO) - It's a time when kids could really benefit from a hug.
Elementary students in Sartell are getting support from Kevin McCarthy, also known as "Grandpa Kevin."
"It's kind of like being a big family, you know? After a while you get to know everybody," said McCarthy.
Thursday was his first day back at school after months of cancer treatments. He's been a foster grandparent at Pine Meadow Primary School for years.
When his wife died 6 years ago, McCarthy was feeling alone. So when he found out the school was looking for volunteers, he didn't hesitate.
Initially, he wasn't sure if he would like it.
"I thought it would be more of a chore," he said. "And it wasn't at all. Every day when you leave, you feel good."
Before cancer, McCarthy could get to 11 classrooms in a day- helping 1st grade teachers in all kinds of different ways.
"He's a fixture here and he's a big part of what we're doing here. The kids love everything he does," said 1st grade teacher Nick Percuoco.
"He's really nice and he's kind of funny," said Benelli, a 1st grade student.
"He's nice and I like playing games with him," said 1st grade student Hudson.
McCarthy has logged 8,000 volunteer hours since 2016. Over that time, he's provided countless math and reading lessons, as well as life lessons.
During a time like this, those might be the most valuable lessons of all.
"They don't miss much at all. People just kind of think they don't know what's going on and they know what's going on," said McCarthy.
So for these kids, he's more than just a volunteer. He's Grandpa Kevin.
"I probably get more out of it than the children do," said McCarthy.
The Foster Grandparent Program is sponsored by Catholic Charities in St. Cloud.
McCarthy is one of more than 200 foster grandparents in central Minnesota.
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