Wishes for the Elderly: Nonprofits Make Dreams Come True

Others want to meet their favorite celebrities. Last year, 94-year-old Percy Swanson got to meet the woman he'd had a crush on since 1982 -- "Wheel of Fortune's" Vanna White.

A faithful "Wheel" watcher, Swanson got some facetime with the show's most famous personality during a taping of the show in nearby Chicago.

Twilight has fulfilled 1,175 wishes since 2004. It requires that the recipient be older than 68 with an income of less than 200 percent of poverty level.

Beville said the wishes not only brighten the days of the recipients but also change public perception about the contributions he elderly make to the community.

Years ago, Beville remembered, a Memphis man in his late 80s who said his wish was to have red beans and a beer in a local jazz cafe. As the volunteers pushed his wheelchair closer to the stage, the man was met with some grumbles from other audience members who had to move to the side.

But after watching the man struggle to stand in order to accept the band's invitation to sing a song with them, the audience quickly moved aside as the man made his way out of the bar, clapping and patting him on the back.

Follmer, who has bladder cancer, said he's one of several residents at Laurel Lake Retirement Community in Hudson, Ohio, to have his wish fulfilled. He remembered the thrilling plane rides the neighborhood children would get when a pilot would land his plane in the farm fields in his hometown of Pontiac, Ill.

Follmer said he finally got to go when he was 10 years old.

"I always wanted to fly from then on," he said.

Wish-Makers Feeling Pinch of Recession

Follmer's dream lay dormant until about 40 years ago, when he bought his own plane and began flying lessons. But after a violent windstorm destroyed his plane when he was just one lesson away from his license, Follmer gave up his dream again, this time for four decades.

The relaxed feeling Follmer remembered from the days of his flying lessons came right back, he said.

"It was great," he said, adding that while he was a little put off by the technological advancements of the plane's instruments, there was one key lesson he never forgot. "I knew one thing was to keep it level, so that's what I did."

Not all wishes, however, involve trips or celebrities. Some of the elderly wishmakers simply want food, clothes or hearing aids.

"It's a difficult year," said Forkin, who has done away with her salary as has Twilight's second full-time employee.

Beville said her company has been similarly stretched and relies heavily on in-kind and monetary donations to make wishes come true.

But that doesn't mean the women don't have big dreams to fulfill. Up next for Twilight -- getting a 70-year California woman a karaoke machine for nursing home performances, having books published, and putting an 80-year-old New York comedian on Jay Leno's stage.

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