How Wrightwood Elementary's 'Golden Raccoon' outreach program is connecting generations

The program allows students and their families to "adopt" their elderly neighbors and spend some quality time.

Rob McMillan Image
Friday, January 19, 2024
Generations connect through special outreach program in Wrightwood
The "Golden Raccoon" title is a play on the school's mascot, and the program allows the students to "adopt" their elderly neighbors and spend some quality time.

WRIGHTWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- If Chester Coccia is in search of peace and quiet, he was not finding it on this particular day. However, since he lives alone, regular visits from the Castillo family are perfect.

He takes part in a program at Wrightwood Elementary School, which encourages students and their parents to "adopt" senior citizen neighbors as their "Golden Raccoons."

"Well, it does get a little bit boring, and obviously, they spice things up a bit," laughed Coccia.

The "Golden Raccoon" title is a play on the school's mascot. Lesley Castillo's family takes part in the intergenerational program and sees the value for her children.

"They get to see the importance of community, and being there for your neighbors," she said.

In all, there are close to 40 Golden Raccoons who have been adopted by these students in Wrightwood, including Liz Wolf-Spada, who is now part of the Wendling family.

Although, 3rd grader Amaya Wendling says at first, she found the idea a little odd.

"I thought it was kind of funny, because usually people who adopt the kids, but now the kids were adopting the adults," she said.

Wrightwood Elementary Principal John Garner came up with the idea for this program during last winter's blizzard when so many seniors were stuck at home for more than a week.

"We keep them company, have games with them, but also in the time of a crisis, we're able to check in, make sure they have what they need, they can get out of their house, they have food, we shovel snow for them," said Garner.

"It's really important that we have connections and people check on us," said Wolf-Spada.

Besides the Golden Raccoons - and the kids who've adopted them - there are benefits for the parents too.

"It gives me someone to hang out with who's not four or six," laughed Castillo.