By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
After months of financial hardship and legal issues, Wednesday's carnival for the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging Active Living Center participants was a big step toward normalcy.
"We've been through some hard times, but we've fought back," said SAAA staff member and operations associate at the Warren Active Living Center Mary Ann Gardner. "We're not going anywhere."
Gardner, who has worked with the agency for nine years, felt the event was a good way to let area seniors know that SAAA is "moving forward."
Her center hosted the carnival with the theme "Never Too Old to Play." The event was in conjunction with May being Older Americans Month, and it was open to Active Living Center participants from the Warren, Shenandoah, Frederick, Page and Clarke counties, as well as the city of Winchester and Fort Valley.
Gardner said the event brought out around 230 senior citizens, many of whom said it was the first carnival-type event they'd been to in years.
"So many folks kept saying 'thank you, thank you,'" she said.
Those senior citizens that came had the chance to play penny games, get their face painted and enjoy live musical entertainment, among other things.
The penny games included a can bean bag toss, a dart-balloon throw, a lollipop tree and a duck pond.
Gardner said she was surprised to see so many of the seniors intermingling with each other, as they often form cliques with folks from the same Active Living Center.
"Everyone was up moving around and enjoying themselves," she said. "We had to remind them that games were ending, or else they wouldn't have stopped playing."
The morning carnival ended with a cookout-style lunch, and many participants went home with prizes and even cakes from the cake walk.
"So many of them asked that we do it again," Gardner said.
Joyce Harmon has volunteered as the activities coordinator since 2007, after her husband, John, had a surgery and became involved at the center.
"This was an event that gave folks a chance to feel at home," she said. "The feedback was pretty much all positive."
"If we didn't do things like this, a lot of them would be in isolation," Harmon's daughter, Robin Gaile, said. Gaile also volunteers with the center "as often as I'm needed."
"It's always a good time when everyone comes together," she said.