One of Jennifer O'Malley's favorite holiday traditions is Christmas Caroling at Tilden Village.
"We've been doing it since either 2001 or 2002, we can't quite remember with year, it's been a long time," said O'Malley who helped form the group while she and some of her classmates were students at Medfield High School.
"It was started by Kate Melchior (Medfield '05) and myself (Medfield '04), and we roped a bunch of friends into coming with us from the high school choir, as well as Kate's younger sister, Karen Melchior (Medfield '08)," said O'Malley, noting there were about 10 people at the start.
They now have a group of about 20 carolers made up mostly of Medfield graduates and some current MHS students.
"Our group has also expanded with college friends and significant others," she said. "I believe my husband is our first official "married-in" [member] but he's been singing with us for the past seven years."
Michelle Jaques and Nicole Jaques (both Medfield '07) joined the group in 2003, and they -- along with sister, Gabrielle Jaques (Medfield '12) who has been recruiting MHS students to join the group every year -- have been instrumental in keeping the whole thing going, said O'Malley.
"Michelle and Nicole took over organizing once Kate and I graduated, and Gabrielle took over after that," she said.
The carolers say most of the residents at Tilden Village seem to enjoy the music, and even offer them refreshments, something they weren't expecting that first year.
"One thing we didn't know going in was that, traditionally, carolers are given food or money for singing," said O'Malley. "We spent a lot of time the first year explaining that we didn't want anything, and in subsequent years, we just started accepting the candy they gave us."
O'Malley said the group continues to gather each year because they enjoy it as much as the seniors do.
"I think it would be hard to keep going this long if we didn't have such a huge outpouring of love from them every year. Singing for them is easily the best thing I do all year," she said, plus the carolers have formed friendships with the residents over the years, including the woman featured in the attached photo.
And there's a story that goes with the photo.
"My second year out of high school, one of our favorite seniors had moved to an apartment further into the complex but, of course we didn't know this. We left the building and made it about one more door before one of the girls in the group said, 'What if she died?' then broke out into tears in the parking lot," said O'Malley, recalling they somehow pulled themselves together and continued singing.
"Of course, the next building we went to happened to be her new building; she had heard us caroling outside, then heard us stop, and thought she had missed us. So she opened the door and said, "You found me!" and this girl just shouted out, "You're ALIVE!" and told the woman the whole story of how everyone had spent the last 10 minutes out in the parking lot mourning her."
Special friendships and memories like that are what keep the group coming back (and expanding) year after year.