(CNN)When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, nursing homes across the United States scrambled to protect their vulnerable residents. They shut their doors and banned visitors, leaving seniors isolated from the outside world.
It was only March, but 16-year-old Hita Gupta suspected that life wouldn’t return to normal for a long time. To support lonely seniors and remind them of how much they’re loved, she began delivering care packages to nursing homes in her town of Paoli, Pennsylvania.”When I received a call from the nursing home I’ve been volunteering at telling me I couldn’t visit anymore because of the pandemic, I couldn’t stop thinking about these seniors and the loneliness and anxiety they felt being isolated,” Hita told CNN.”I knew I needed to remind them that they aren’t alone, and I did everything I could to make sure they knew that.”The teenager’s efforts are a part of her non-profit organization Brighten A Day, which she launched in 2018 to “spread joy to seniors, children in the hospital, and frontline workers.”Read MoreWith the help of her 10-year-old brother, Divit Gupta, she has sent out almost 100,000 handwritten cards and packages — complete with puzzles, coloring books, and colored pencils — to nursing homes in countries including Ireland, Australia, and Canada.A senior at a nursing home holding one of the cards from Hita and Divit.”The response has been so incredible,” Hita said. “A lot of the seniors cry when they open the packages and read our notes. It’s changing people’s lives at a time when they need it the most.”Many of the notes are written by Brighten A Day volunteers, who also make videos where they tell jokes, play music, read poetry, or sing. The pair and their volunteers call the seniors to make sure they have someone to talk to.Hita and her brother also have donated more than 200 tablets, phones, and laptops so residents of nursing homes can communicate with loved ones.Seniors videochatting with loved ones using a tablet donated by Brighten A Day.Some of the seniors receiving packages live at the Woodbury Senior Living in Minnesota, where Brighten A Day has sent Kindle E-readers, Amazon Fire tablets, cards, letters, drawings, video messages, and hand-sewn masks.”No one could imagine someone so young coming up with these ideas and delivering them to us across the country, but Hita found a way. Residents do not feel forgotten or alone. Instead, we see their expressions of joy and gratitude knowing that someone out there is caring for them,” Woodbury Senior Living campus director Kathy Dunleavy told CNN.”What could have been a long lonely time for many of our residents instead gave hope and reminders that there were people out there that truly cared about them and their wellbeing,” she said. “Brighten A Day really does brighten a day.”Hita is especially proud to be working with Divit. With her guidance, the fifth-grader is becoming increasingly involved in Brighten A Day. Along with making videos and cards, he reaches out to nursing homes, compiles volunteer information, responds to emails, and sorts letters.”I am very happy that I’m making people smile and am able to brighten a senior’s day by writing notes,” Divit told CNN.”My message to other kids my age is to be kind to others, help out in the community, and that you can make a difference, no matter how old you are.”