Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US, 15-year-old Hita Gupta received a disappointing phone call. The local nursing home where she regularly volunteered let her know that she wouldn’t be able to visit again anytime soon due to the high risk that the virus posed to their residents. Hita worried that the seniors would be lonely without visitors, so she decided to do something to make sure that they felt loved and cared for. What started out as a simple act of kindness turned into something much bigger than Hita ever dreamed.
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Growing up, Hita always had a close bond with her grandparents. The special connection she felt with them prompted her to look for more ways to connect with other seniors. She started out by writing cards and notes for retirement home residents and eventually began volunteering in person at a local nursing home.
“I would do things like help out with trivia and call bingo,” says Hita. “I started working with more residents who had dementia and Alzheimer’s. It was such an awesome experience to be able to interact with seniors who have so many stories to tell.”
Inspired to make an even bigger impact, Hita created her very own nonprofit organization called Brighten A Day when she was just 13 years old. Her organization’s mission is to lift the spirits of anyone who could use some cheer and give them a reason to smile. With her parents’ support, Hita used her own allowance money to send handwritten cards and small gifts to elderly folks and children in hospitals. From there, her organization expanded.
After two years of growing her nonprofit, the unimaginable happened: COVID-19 swept the globe, hitting nursing homes particularly hard. That’s when Hita learned that she would not only be unable to volunteer at the nursing home for the foreseeable future, but that its residents would no longer be allowed to see any visitors whatsoever—not even their loved ones.
Feeling a deep responsibility to ensure that the seniors did not feel forgotten amidst the chaos of the pandemic, Hita sprung into action and launched a GoFundMe campaign to help buy items for care packages that could give seniors solace.
“When the pandemic hit, I really wanted to do something to not only lift the spirits of the elderly, but to also keep them occupied and remind them that they’re not alone,” says Hita.
Hita’s care packages included puzzle books, coloring books, and boxes of colored pencils. She even recruited her little brother Divit, who enthusiastically wrote uplifting notes to include in each care package, reminding seniors that they are not alone. Hita has received an overwhelmingly positive response from nursing homes and their residents, who are all endlessly appreciative of her work.
“I heard back from the coordinator from this retirement home in Hawaii, and they said that the residents actually started crying when they received our cards and videos,” says Hita. “They were just so touched that someone was thinking about them right now when they weren’t allowing any visitors.”
Hita has also received messages from people all over the globe who have been inspired by her efforts. Many have started making cards, assembling care packages, and raising funds themselves to help their local seniors feel supported and loved during the pandemic. A few have even started their own chapters of Brighten a Day—something that Hita says is highly encouraging.
“Seeing the big impact this has made and how many seniors we’ve spread joy to… I’m definitely going to continue doing this,” Hita says. “We’re going to continue seeing loneliness, especially in the elderly and other people who are isolated. So it really does make a difference.”
Hita looks toward the future with hope and is committed to her mission of spreading joy and giving everyone a reason to smile. She also hopes that, by sharing her story, she can spread the message that anyone has the power to brighten someone’s day—all it takes is a simple act of kindness.
“It is so easy to bring a smile to someone’s face and spread joy,” Hita says. “It takes five minutes to make a card, 30 seconds to record an encouraging video message, and that message could make a difference for someone who’s going through a period of isolation or loneliness. So, you know, no matter what age you are, you can make a difference.”
Support Hita’s mission here.
Listen to Hita’s interview on the True Stories of Good People podcast.