Ross Smith and his grandma have a big social media following. Their fun-filled YouTube channel has more than 20 million views, and they have 4.8 million followers on Facebook as Ross and Granny play pranks, give relationship advice or just have fun. But Smith decided he wanted to do something more than make people laugh.
"I thought it was time for us to give back, but I didn’t know what to do at first," Smith tells MNN. He thought about the sheer number of messages he gets from people who have lost a grandparent or have a grandparent with dementia and decided to find a way to help seniors dealing with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
He partnered with several local nursing homes and memory care facilities near his home in Columbus, Ohio, and borrowed a handful of puppies from a local pet store. Then he and 92-year-old Granny showed up, cameras rolling. The result is the sweet video above.
The seniors' eyes light up as they snuggle the little pups, often watching them fall asleep in their arms.
"It’s been my favorite thing to do," Smith says. "I can make funny videos all day. But to see the people come together and bring awareness to what’s going on with these folks and this disease is really important, and it's using my platform in a good way."
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We brought puppies to people affected by Alzheimers❤️ Never in my life have I seen so much joy and happiness! 1/3 seniors is affected by some form of Alzheimers or Dementia. Lets all come together and spread our love to these incredible people, and show them they will never be alone or forgotten. (Special thanks to the: Village at Westerville Retirement Center, and @Petland Lewis Center for your support)
Smith and his grandma did a similar video (shown above) in June and he felt so bad taking the puppies away after only 30 minutes that he came up with a new plan for this time around. When they left, they gave the seniors replica pillow versions of the dogs. He partnered with Custom Pillow Shop, a company that provided the pillows and will donate a pillow to seniors with dementia for every custom pillow purchased.
Since the video has become so widely circulated and well-received, Smith has decided to visit more senior homes around the country with his grandmother — and more puppies — in tow. He's also heard from at least one person who was inspired to visit a local retirement center with puppies.
"I can only show so much with the camera. I can't tell you how much more intense it is in person," Smith says. "The smiles just light up your day. It was huge smiles and super moving. It’s why grandma and I do the videos. Spreading positivity is what keeps us going."