Seniors from The Salvation Army Modesto Red Shield share in the wonder of Disneyland

Seniors from The Salvation Army Modesto Red Shield share in the wonder of Disneyland

It’s often said Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, and for a group of 11 seniors from Modesto, California, the magic was a year in the making.

The seniors, from The Salvation Army Modesto Red Shield Center, traveled to the Anaheim theme park Nov. 1 in celebration of the anniversary of the Red Shield’s Senior Center, spending the night at The Salvation Army College for Officer Training at Crestmont (CFOT) in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, on both sides of their theme park outing.

Seniors from The Salvation Army Modesto Red Shield share in the wonder of Disneyland

“Everything was great from the start to the finish. We just had a really great time,” said participant Irene Rodriguez. “It was a long day, but between our walkers and our canes and our scooters and just walking without—we just all kept up really well and all who were taking care of us did a great job in watching over us.”

Led by Modesto Red Shield Senior Coordinator Anna Zamora and Modesto Corps Officer Major Courtney Stratton, the group spent the day walking, shopping and riding the rides.

“What a blessing to accompany the senior group to Disneyland—when we entered the park it was awesome to see them light up with such excitement,” said Stratton. “We had so much fun spending time with them and experiencing the park through their eyes.”

Rodriguez’s favorite memory? The light show.

“It was just awesome,” she said.

The idea for the outing was one of a number of suggestions for the group’s Friday field trips, Rodriguez said. The field trips, led by Zamora, help the group get out and about.

“A lot of them have never been out of Modesto,” Zamora said, noting she’s taken the group to a number of places, including the Ghirardelli Factory.

Research shows there’s more to the outings. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found older adults who left their homes on a daily basis were at the lowest risk of death compared to those who rarely left their homes.

“It’s just being able to get them out of their houses,” Zamora said. “It’s the biggest accomplishment just because maybe they don’t have the ride. Maybe they can’t really walk or they don’t have therapy to help them…So being able to have this is a really huge thing.”

To make the outing possible, Zamora said the group worked hard to fundraise, holding a yard sale, bazaar, snack bar and bake sales.

Seniors from The Salvation Army Modesto Red Shield share in the wonder of Disneyland

“It is so important to invest time and resources into seniors because they need it,” Stratton said. “Whether it is a meal, social outings or adventures at theme parks—every touch point is necessary and needed. By offering the senior program and these fellowship opportunities we are helping to reduce loneliness, isolation and hunger.”
Many of the group have low incomes and are Disney fans, Zamora said, adding for some it was their first time to Disneyland and for others it had been decades and they wanted to see what had changed.

The result? A day of fun, Rodriguez said.

“We all were so blessed…and just the journey that we had is going to be something that we are going to remember for a long time as a senior family together,” she said.

In Modesto, the group gathers for senior programs Monday through Friday, with breakfast and lunch provided.

“The Salvation Army Red Shield is a great place to go,” said Rodriguez. “It’s just great all the way around, from the young kids to the senior kids. We just have a blast there.”

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Hillary Jackson

Hillary Jackson is Managing Editor of Caring, where she keeps her finger on the pulse of The Salvation Army and her eyes on the day’s headlines—all in the name of creating smart, impactful content that prompts action. With an insatiable love of information and heart for the underdog, she believes stories to be one of the best ways to understand and empathize with others. Hillary has worked around the world covering the Olympic Games, and her words have appeared in outlets including Washington Post, The Week, The Muse and Architectural Digest. Hillary holds a master’s degree in journalism from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She was a finalist for a pair of National Arts and Entertainment Journalism (NAEJ) Awards as well as for the Religion Newswriters Association’s Chandler Student Award for “The PK Project,” a multimedia experience chronicling the stereotypes facing preacher’s kids versus reality. When she’s not word slinging, you’ll find her walking her West Highland Terrier, Nessie.