VISTA — The special education department of Vista Unified School District will team up with the Vista Elks today for the 47th annual Elks Lodge holiday performances.
The performances, featuring students from eight schools, will take place between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Dec. 15 at the Vista Elks Lodge, 1947 E. Vista Way. VUSD families will enjoy student performances and a meet-and-greet with Santa. Nearly 350 preschool and elementary students from the district are expected to participate.
“This holiday performance is a pretty special event,” said Rachel Schmidt, special education supervisor for Vista Unified and principal of California Avenue School. “Some children enrolled in specialized special education do not often have an opportunity to perform or to be on stage; it is a treasured time for the families to watch their kids do something like this.”
Each class will sing one to two holiday songs. Families of students are invited to attend. Student performers will be gifted a toy from Santa and every student is welcome to enjoy a light meal thanks to the generosity of the Vista Elks, a statement from the organization reads.
Schmidt grew up going to the holiday showcase at the Vista Elks Lodge with her father, a former Vista Unified administrator.
“I have fond memories of attending as a child,” she said. “It warms my heart to give our families a nice pre-holiday experience. Students have the chance to travel on the bus and perform at the Elks Lodge with their parents, families, and teachers in the audience and to meet Santa in a smaller, personal setting.”
Schools participating include California Avenue, Empresa Elementary, Mission Meadows Elementary, Hannalei Elementary, T.H.E. Leadership Academy, Lake Elementary, Foothill Oak Elementary and Alamosa Park Elementary. Performances will begin with elementary-age students, followed by preschoolers.
Long-time attendee Eve Lorentzen’s daughter Andrea performed with Vista Unified for the Elks Lodge holiday showcase ever since she was a preschool student through fifth grade.
“It is a great experience; the Vista Elks are so kind with their space and the presents for the kids,” she said. “The annual holiday showcase gave Andrea the confidence to perform outside of her elementary school.”
Andrea is now a freshman at Rancho Buena Vista High School, where she joined the girls’ wrestling team.
“My daughter has become very independent,” Lorentzen said. “It all starts at California Avenue with the opportunity to do the Elks Lodge holiday performances. They give our kids a moment to shine and to be themselves without the expectation to be exactly like their peers.”
California Avenue School serves students with special needs with a range of services, including adapted physical education, speech-language therapy, nursing services, occupational therapy, physical therapy and hearing and vision services.