Young Jacob Vuletic knew how to bring a smile to his friend Val Allworth’s face, organising a visit from her favourite footy player for her 99th birthday.
The Year 6 student at St Andrew’s Primary School, Malabar, has a special gift for friendship and struck up a conversation about South Sydney Rabbitoh’s halfback Adam Reynolds almost the moment he met Val Allworth this year at the Dorothy Boyt nursing home where she lives.
“She’s funny and really likes the Bunnies,” Jacob said. “She said her favourite was the kicker. When Adam walked in she didn’t know who it was at first because she can’t see very well, so he had to come really close. Then she saw him and asked him why he always drops the ball.”
Val said the surprise visit came as “a great shock” which left her speechless.
“I didn’t know what to say,” she said. “It was very pleasant, and Adam was a thorough gentleman.”
Val, a sports lover who has played a lot of tennis and outdoor lawn bowls in her time and only slowed down after two broken hips, said her unlikely friendship with young Jacob and weekly visits from him and his classmates are always a pleasure.
“He is a lovely boy, in fact they are all lovely, always well-dressed and very well-mannered. They are a credit to their school and the Catholic church,” she said.
Val’s obvious surprise and delight warmed the heart of Jacob’s dad Steven just as much as his pride for his son at the thoughtful gesture.
“I went to school with Willie Peters, the Rabbitoh’s assistant coach, and when Jacob mentioned it I said I’d try,” said Steven. “It took me a couple of goes because they’re busy at this time of year, and when they said they’d meet at the nursing home at 9 o’clock in the morning we didn’t even know if it would actually work out. But they turned up and it was unbelievable.”
The whole Vuletic family came along and got their own surprise when a staff member informed them that the day that had best suited the rugby league star to meet Val also happened to be the fan’s actual birthday.
“It just made her day and just made my day. It was just a good job Jacob did and basically all his own initiative,” said Steven.
Brenda Smith, the Family Educator at St Andrew’s, has been taking groups of the Year Six’s to Dorothy Boyt House every week and says both the residents and the students get a kick out of the visits.
“The kids are all really keen, they give up their lunchtime to do it,” she said. “They enjoy having the captive audience, they sing, dance, sometimes play games, play the piano, most often they will just read to the residents.
“For some people it’s their only visit all week and sometimes when we’re on school holidays they really miss us going down.
“It’s interesting to see how some children make really meaningful connections with individual residents, like Jacob and Val. Jacob is certainly a credit to himself, his family and his school.”