Skip To Main Content

Vista Elks Lodge Hosts 47th Annual Special Ed Holiday Show with Vista Unified

On Friday, December 15th, the Special Education Department of Vista Unified School District (VUSD) put on its 47th annual holiday talent show in cooperation with the Vista Elks at the Elks Lodge. Students from eight different VUSD schools performed holiday songs for a packed house of families, fellow students, and members of the Elks Lodge. 

In addition to the performances, students enjoyed a meet-and-greet with Santa where each student was presented a gift supplied by the Vista Elks. Nearly 350 preschool and elementary students from the Vista Unified School District participated in the event. 

“This holiday performance is a special event,” said Rachel Schmidt, Special Ed 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, so it is a treasured time for the families to watch their kids do something like this.” Schmidt was the lead event coordinator for the event alongside Wayne and Joyce Ford, Chairs for the Vista Elks Lodge.


A Longstanding Community Partnership

Schmidt herself grew up going to the holiday showcase at the Vista Elks Lodge with her father, a former Vista Unified administrator. She shares, “I have fond memories of attending as a child. 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.” 

Vista Unified School District schools that participated were Alamosa Park Elementary, California Avenue, Empresa Elementary, Foothill Oak Elementary, Hannalei Elementary, Lake Elementary, Mission Meadows Elementary, and T.H.E. Leadership Academy.


Students Build Confidence & Capacity 
Long-time attendee Eve Lorentzen was looking forward to the Friday event. Her daughter Andrea performed with Vista Unified for the Elks Lodge holiday showcase from the time she was a preschool student at Cal Ave through fifth-grade with Hannalei. “It is a great experience. The Vista Elks are so kind with their space and the presents for the kids. The annual holiday showcase gave Andrea the confidence to perform outside of her elementary school,” shared Eve, a former preschool teacher and Vista Unified volunteer.

Andrea is now a freshman at Rancho Buena Vista High School, where she joined the girls wrestling team. “My daughter has become very independent. It all starts at California Avenue with the opportunity to do the Elks Lodge holiday performances. They really 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.

A Surprise Homecoming
One student participating in the event received an extra special surprise. US Army Private Yesi Lopez returned from her 3-month basic training to surprise her son who was performing as part of the event. Private Lopez’s son had no idea that his mother was going to be there and the reunion ensured that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.




Local Media Shines a Spotlight
The event not only drew hundred of students, family, and community members, but the attention of local media outlets wanting to share the story. Lindsey Peña, an anchor and reporter for ABC10 News, spent the bulk of the day covering the event and hosted the station’s 4PM news show from the Elks Lodge.

CBS8 San Diego and The Vista Press also covered the event, bringing this inspirational story to an even wider audience in San Diego County. To see coverage from these media sources, access the links below.

ABC10 News Coverage
CBS8 Coverage
The Vista Press Article