Healing power of music amid a wildfire

By Debi Moraza, Red Cross volunteer 

The Bobcat Fire started quickly and grew rapidly. While it initially stayed in the mountain pass, one turn of the wind brought the threat closer to families and homes forcing an evacuation order 

The evacuation orders for the Arcadia foothills were stressful – families were forced to leave the comfort and security of their homes and head into the unknown 

In addition to providing the basics, such as food, water and shelter, the Red Cross understand the importance of providing mental health services for those affected by that added stress  

I knew this was a component, and then I witnessed them going above and beyond to help an evacuee. 

As residents checked-in to the hotel, each person was contacted by Disaster Mental Health workers. The simple questions of ‘How are you doing?’ can easily lead to in-depth conversation. On this night, the Arcadia Red Cross office was contacted for a unique requestA resident, Juanita Aldana, who had evacuated early Sunday morning, was having some issues.

After getting set up in a local hotel, she found her anxiety growing and reached for her favorite instrument, her ukulele. It’s nimble, dainty sound eases her stress, and she quickly realized she had left it at home. As stress grew, the inability to play music to soothe her anxiety grew, too. 

Erica Frausto-Aguado, executive director of the Red Cross San Gabriel and Pomona Valley, reached out to City of Arcadia and asked for some assistance. The evacuation orders did not allow for anyone to go back to their home, so that wasn’t an option. However, the city staff had another idea and reached out to a local music store for help. 

John at Arcadia Music immediately stepped up and donated a ukulele for Juanita. Erica picked up the instrument and drove over to the hotel to hand deliver it. Music is now being played, anxieties have been suppressed, and gratitude was expressed to all those involved in helping someone in need. 

Sometimes it’s the little sounds that make all the difference. 

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