Geneva senior Maddie Jones was surprised to see her mother, Elizabeth, recording one of her badminton matches on video Monday afternoon.
Turns out, she had good reason to be suspicious.
Jones’ breath soon was taken away when four residents of Marklund made a dramatic entrance to Geneva’s gymnasium, to root on Jones.
“I almost started tearing up, I was so excited to see them,” Jones said. “They had little signs and little pom-poms, and they were cheering me on. It was an amazing feeling, and I had no clue that was going to happen.”
Consider it payback for the many hours Jones has logged as one of the biggest fans of Marklund’s clients.
Jones has volunteered for almost two years at Marklund Mill Creek Home 3, where residents with a range of extensive disabilities reside. They are all essentially nonverbal, with the exception of two that can answer “Yes” or “No” to various questions.
Jones attends outings with the Marklund residents almost every Monday, though that routine is disturbed during badminton season in the spring because of conflicts with practices and matches.
Susan Paustian, Jones’ aunt and a nurse at Marklund, said one of her Marklund colleagues hatched the idea for some of the clients to visit Jones at a Vikings badminton match since both Jones and the residents miss each other this time of year.
The Marklund visitors – two men, two women – saw Jones play a doubles match alongside partner Tatum Drury as well as a singles match against Larkin, and she was victorious in both.
Jones, a four-year badminton player for Geneva, said many of her fellow Vikings seemed to be moved by the gesture.
“Some of my teammates came over and talked to them and hung out by them and cheered by them,” Jones said. “It really was awesome to see two things I love so much coming together.”
Not only is Paustian Jones’ aunt, she’s also her next-door neighbor. Paustian’s daughter, Haley Stoffregen, also volunteers at Marklund and, like Jones, is a Geneva senior.
“It was so nice for our clients to finally be able to give back to the community because the community does so much for us,” Paustian said.
Much of Jones’ volunteering involves accompanying Marklund clients on outings.
“It’s one of the highlights of my week,” said Jones, who has an older brother with a disability, though much less severe than the clients she has befriended at Marklund. “The clients there that I work with are amazing. They have amazing personalities. I get upset when I have to miss an outing. We’ve taken them bowling, we’ve taken them shopping, sometimes we take them to the movies. It’s so much fun.”
Jones said her time volunteering at Marklund has solidified her interest in pursuing special education. She plans to start at Waubonsee Community College next year, then move on to Northern Illinois University.
As much as Jones relishes her time with those at Marklund, the outings are seldom easy on her emotions. She recalls a Christmas-time gathering that was especially poignant.
“It was amazing,” Jones said. “Some of these stories just gripped my heart. [Some of their] parents will come in, some of them don’t have family that close, so we were there helping open their presents. … Some of their stories, they get to me every single time. They’re amazing people, what they go through. They’re incredibly strong.”
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.