By Samantha SLAYBACK
When imagining what an 11-year-old boy might do in his spare time, few would picture him gambling in a retirement home. However, that’s just what sixth grader Jack Bright looks forward to each week.
Jack began visiting Mountview retirement home in Montrose last August and fell in love. He initially started going there out of a need to earn community service hours. Because his father is of Hawaiian heritage, Jack is eligible to attend the prestigious Kamehameha School located in Hawaii. After attending a summer school program with Kamehameha last year, both Jack and his parents were hopeful he would be able to start his seventh grade year as a student there. But not everyone who applies is admitted into Kamehameha, so many volunteer hours are required to be considered.
“He started there by bringing the residents beverages, helping them with bingo and just visiting with them,” said Jack’s uncle Gary Gibson. “He looked forward to going after school every day.”
What started as a need for community service hours led to a fun weekly hobby when one of the residents asked Jack if he played poker. An avid poker player, Jack took interest in the card game when he was only 6.
“His dad taught him,” explained Jack’s mother April. “He loves the game and will never turn down an opportunity to play.”
Since then, he has become a part of the residents’ regular Friday poker game.
“Some of the ladies [who] sign up to play won’t play unless they know I am coming – that feels nice,” said Jack. “They are fun to be around – it’s like being with friends.”
Jack’s relationships with the Mountview residents have grown over the months and not only are they excited to see him, but he’s excited to see them as well.
“Most people think its scary being around older people,” said Jack. “I don’t mind – they have a lot of good things to say.”
Recently, Jack had an interview with the Kamehameha administration.
“When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said if he didn’t make it as a professional soccer player, he wanted to operate a retirement home,” shared Gibson. “I was told that it brought a tear to the eye of the woman conducting the interview.”
Besides his usual visiting days – Thursday for resident mingle and Friday for their poker game – Jack also spent his birthday with the residents at Mountview who celebrated with a Hawaiian luau. He also visited on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and St. Patrick’s Day.
“On Christmas Eve I read ‘The Night Before Christmas’ to the residents using a microphone,” Jack said. “Since they didn’t have a Santa suit for me to wear, they gave me a clown suit to wear instead [and] everyone had a great time.”
Aside from playing poker at the retirement home, Jack also enjoys playing guitar, drawing, spending time with his family and friends and, especially, playing soccer.
The Brights are planning their move to Hawaii and will find out later this month whether or not Jack will be attending Kamehameha in the future.
“I would like to keep volunteering,” Jack said. “Wherever I live I want to be able to help people.”