It's sometimes difficult for Juris East, 86, to remember day-to-day occurrences because he suffers from advanced dementia.

But a recent trip to Tigue Moore Field at Russo Park, home of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball team, transported him to a different time. Wearing a jersey, eye black and a contagious smile, East threw a baseball on the field to fellow residents and staff at Magnolia Estates.

"He was just in awe when we got there, especially because the park has been redone and it's so beautiful now," said Kori LeCompte, who works as director of marketing for the nursing home's parent company, CCI. "He looked like a 14-year-old out there, just going around and throwing the ball. It was like he didn't have a worry in the world, and he could just be in that moment."

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Juris East, 86, and other Magnolia Estates residents recently took a trip to Russo Park, where they got to wear Ragin' Cajuns baseball jerseys and play on the field.

Trips like these are becoming more common for residents at Magnolia Estates and other nursing homes and assisted living facilities managed by CCI, according to LeCompte. Upcoming activities include a drive-in movie, lunch at a diner, a car show and an all-American burger cook-off between residents at facilities across the state.

"It's such a big deal for them," LeCompte said. "It's such a big deal for these residents to be made a big deal of, to make it known they're not just a number in a facility. It's such a big deal for them to feel recognized and like they're part of something."

Experiences like these are almost as important for the families as they are for the residents.

Kobe East was overwhelmed with emotion when he saw pictures of his father at Russo Park. It transported him back to his teenage years when his dad cheered him on as he played American Legion Baseball at the same ballpark. It brought him back to a time before his father's stroke.

"My father was the one who introduced us to UL athletics," Kobe East said. "We went to ball games as kids. That's why this is so important to us."

Kobe East posted photos from the trip to his Facebook page in the hopes of finding a Ragin' Cajuns baseball jersey for his dad. LeCompte tried to find a jersey for him but had no luck at local sports shops or the university bookstore.

The daughter of Tony Robichaux, head coach of the Ragin' Cajuns baseball team, saw the pictures on Facebook and reached out to her father.

Robichaux was touched and immediately on board. He asked his team to sign one of his jerseys for Juris East along with a baseball, cap and photo.

"It's one of those unique things that might not be a big deal to you," Robichaux said. "But it means a lot to someone else."

That's an understatement.

Kobe East cried when he learned what Robichaux was doing for his dad. He  made a shadow box with the jersey, ball, cap and photo to hang in his father's room at Magnolia Estates and presented it to his dad over the weekend.

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Juris East, 86, with his son, Billy East, left, and daughter-in-law Cindy Maturin, right, is presented with a shadowbox containing a Ragin' Cajuns baseball jersey signed by team members on Saturday, April 27, 2019, at Magnolia Estates in Lafayette.

Robichaux said he sees value in what's happening at places like Magnolia Estates because his own parents have spent time in assisted living facilities.

"To be able to take them out and just get the sun on their face — it's important," Robichaux said. "To know that they wanted to come to Russo Park and that they're Cajuns fans was just an honor to hear."

Juris East talked Saturday about his love for baseball and Coach Robichaux's dedication to the Ragin' Cajuns over his favorite meal of rice and gravy at Magnolia Estates.

"I'm surprised that I'm having all this attention, and I appreciate it," Juris East said. "I know a lot of people are going out of their way to make me feel good, you know, and show me attention. And I don't think I'm worth it."

His family, the staff of Magnolia Estates and the Ragin' Cajuns baseball coach certainly disagree. 

"The residents are why we do what we do," LeCompte said. "Everything we do revolves around them and making sure they're happy and cared for."


Follow Megan Wyatt on Twitter, @MeganWyattACA.