Jack Robinson Early Education Center preschoolers were paid a visit from the Grinch and his side kick Max. (Libby O’Neill)
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LYNN — The Jack Robinson Child Care Center had a big surprise for its children on Wednesday. The Head Start program welcomed two special visitors: the Grinch and his dog Max, courtesy of the Russell Center Chiropractic & Sports Medicine of Beverly.
Taylor Russell played the Grinch, wearing green furry skin and a Santa suit. Taylor didn’t have the best childhood growing up. He was diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning disorder that makes reading difficult. He joined the Leading through Empowering Opportunities (LEO) Head Start when he was around six years old, and said he benefited greatly from the experience.
He remembered the people that helped him, and said this is the reason he plays the Grinch for children. “When people would help me, I would just like to give back to people that I know would want the same.”
As the Grinch, Taylor read Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” to the children sitting around him.
Taylor lives with his aunt, Dr. Sheri Russell, who was one of the organizers of this event. Dr. Sheri is the owner of Russell Center Chiropractic & Sports Medicine — and Max, whose real name is Dave. Dave is a therapy dog for Sheri’s wife, Julie Latino, who also attended the event.
Dave is a one-year-old French herd dog. Ever since Latino was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, he’s been around. “Dave helps out Julie,” Sheri said. “If something drops on the floor, he picks it up for her.”
She described Dave as calm and attentive. “You saw all those children grabbing on him. He’s perfectly fine. It’s a nice temperament dog to do this,” said Sheri.
For the event, Dave wore Max’s iconic deer outfit. The children chased him, pet him, and talked to him. Sheri hopes Dave brought them joy and happiness, and showed off a nicer side of dogs to any children who may be afraid of them.
Dave is still a puppy — a perfectly sized deer for children ages 3 to 5. About 40 children met Dave on Wednesday, according to Lisa McFadden, Director of Development and Communication of LEO.
The Jack Robinson Child Care Center is just one LEO location. Altogether, there are 13 classrooms for 3-to-5-year-old children — 232 children in total. LEO also offers programs for infants and toddlers. Additionally, LEO teachers visit 70 families in their homes to work with the children.
According to McFadden, Head Start seeks to prepare children for kindergarten and lifelong learning. It focuses on emerging literacy, language learning, STEM areas and arts.
McFadden said cases at LEO are managed by behavioral health professionals, nutritionists and medical health professionals who identify children with learning challenges and developmental delays at a very early age.
“A lot of times they’ve [the challenges] been addressed early enough that they don’t become a burden,” said McFadden.
As Taylor finished reading and closed the book, the kids shouted their thanks.
Taylor said, “It brings a lot to my heart because I love seeing the little kids, and I like to see how they’re in a good environment and getting the help they need.”