Students from St. Ignatius School visit a resident of Providence Child Center. (Courtesy St. Ignatius School)
Students from St. Ignatius School visit a resident of Providence Child Center. (Courtesy St. Ignatius School)
The bestselling young adult novel and movie “Wonder” has taken the country by storm. It’s ignited the “Choose Kind” movement and inspired students to reach out across differences. Seventh-grade students at St. Ignatius School in Southeast Portland are deepening their own compassion by being companions of medically fragile children in Providence’s Friend to Friend program.

Cayleigh Bain-Bradbury, Gabe Gonzales, Megan Snyder and Sam Kress came together recently to share their experiences with the outreach effort, a part of the service and justice program that is at the heart of the school.

“We go to the Providence Child Center once a month and we talk and hang out with the kids there,” Kress explained. “We offer them something that breaks up their routine, which is dull.”

Snyder added: “The kids are all ages, but we hang out with the 7- to 18-year-olds. We work in small groups or one-on-one.”

Asked what surprised them about being companions to the children there, Gonzales said, “I was surprised how easy it was to do things with the kids. You are kind of helping them do the games, but when you are in a group with the kids, you are just being kids with them.”

Bain-Bradbury added, “Some of the fun stuff is bubbles and buckets of games and toys. There are also books. I was surprised by the Rock-n-Rolls. We push them in their wheelchairs — kind of a dance party.”

Comparing their experiences to “Wonder,” they agreed that the main character, August, looked different but he didn’t have other difficulties. Gonzales said, “The kids at Providence have big challenges and often can’t respond even though they can think. To connect, you have to fill in the blanks ­— we help them.” Kress agreed: “You have to keep the conversation going. And then you see them smiling — and that’s enough sometimes.”