A bipartisan federal government effort to direct money into national parks, COVID-19-sniffing dogs and hugs for senior citizens were but a few of the half dozen or more topics touched on during a public Zoom meeting called “Reasons to Smile.”

Westlake Senior and Community Services has hosted the heartfelt sessions twice monthly since the onset of the pandemic. Activity planner Jodi Rodriguez hosts the events.

Rodriguez began spreading her reasons to smile with a presentation called “The Good Earth.” The U.S. Senate in a 73-25 vote on June 17 passed the Great American Outdoors Act. Passage was a bipartisan effort, Rodriguez said. The act could divert up to $20 billion into cleaning up a backlog of neglected projects in America’s national parks and the National Wildlife Refuge System. Potential work could affect parks and monuments ranging from the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty, Rodriguez said.

The act next heads to the House of Representatives for a vote.

America’s national park system is something to treasure and smile about, Rodriguez said.

“We are so lucky to have beautiful national parks,” she said.

A brief Reason to Smile presentation called “The Nose Knows?” detailed a Finnish study trying to find out if dogs can sniff out coronavirus. Researchers collect and use armpit sweat from people infected with COVID-19. They put the sweat in jars and try to determine whether eight dogs being tested can pick out the infected sweat. The tests eventually could lead to what Rodriguez described as a quick, simple, cheap and reliable way of testing people for coronavirus.

In Rio de Janeiro, family members and friends wishing to greet loved ones quarantined inside nursing homes came up with a unique solution. An arched plastic tunnel is set up at the doorways of residential care facilities. The sides of the tunnel contain plastic sleeves through which visitors can reach in and hug seniors inside the tunnels. The practice is catching on and spreading throughout Brazil, Rodriguez said.

Residents taking part in the Zoom meeting gave several reasons they had to smile. “A ray of hope” is how a woman identified only as Sondra described a simple visit to a doctor’s office after having been stuck in quarantine for several months. Another woman spoke of a special relationship between her pets: one cat and one dog. Yet another participant widely smiled while speaking of attending her grandson’s Little League games. One notable difference in the games this year was a lack of high-fives. The grandmother said she was touched by the sight of the two teams tipping their hats to each other at the end of the game.

The next “Smile” event is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday, said Lydia Gadd, senior and city services director. Attendees should register at www.cityofwestlake.org.

Contact this reporter at tcorrigan@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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