Written by Trudy Vrieze
Victory Chorus participants come together to practice singing on Sunday afternoons with the purpose of creating joy in music. Safety and support for the participants who have dementia is of utmost importance. Because of that the Victory Chorus is all about creating a sense of family, and so within the chorus family is a smaller unit called the “mini squad”.
Each mini squad is comprised of a participant and someone sitting on either side of them. The people sitting on each side of the participant are volunteer singers who might be the person’s caregiver, a friend, or perhaps even a complete stranger, so every squad is unique. Their role is to provide shared support and offer help as needed.
Kathy, Annie, and Michelle are in a mini squad with each other. Annie says she has always loved music. She used to sing with her church choir but now she gets to sing with her “buddies”, Kathy and Michelle, on Sunday afternoons. “I’m glad I get to sing again. Music has been such a joy to me.”
Michelle likes being in a mini squad. She said it’s been a very wonderful experience. “Sometimes we will flip each other’s pages or point to the spot where we’re at if someone has lost their place. I was fortunate to meet both of them. We were excited to share our stories together of how we all ended up being here in Duluth. That was really fun.”
Kathy agrees. She says that no-one needs to worry about doing anything wrong and that they’re there to support each other. “It’s not a workout session but much more joyous. We laugh a lot and help each other when someone gets lost in the music.” She is aware that Annie really looks forward to practice on Sundays so she is glad there are two people to help if one of them can’t make it. “We both have Annie’s needs in mind so we make sure she’s comfortable.”
According to Mimi Stender, Victory Chorus Program director, “The underlying thread that ties all of the mini squads together is their pursuit of support and love for the participants living with dementia.”