June 9, 2011

USA: They're making dreams come true for Las Vegas Valley senior citizens

LAS VEGAS, Nevada / Las Vegas Review-Journal / Views News / June 9, 2011

Nonprofit group makes dreams come true for
Las Vegas Valley senior citizens

From left, North Las Vegas Care Center Director Marisela Lopez
and maintenance director Tim Andersen talk with resident Lance Walri
about two 55-inch, flat-screen TVs that were donated to the center
by RC Willey as part of the nonprofit program Second Wind Dreams. 
Craig L. Moran/View

By Jan Hogan, View Staff Writer

Second Wind Dreams grants "dreams" such as riding camels and taking hot air balloon rides for those senior citizens living in assisted care facilities. Dreams can be as simple as a cupholder for a wheelchair or as endearing as getting back in touch with family.

Whatever the dream, Second Wind Dreams is to senior citizens in assisted care facilities what the Make-A-Wish Foundation is to children who are seriously ill. The nonprofit organization is based in Marietta, Ga.

"A lot of times, they'll say they don't want to do anything, that they've done everything already," said Donna Streeter, community relations coordinator for Second Wind Dreams. "So you (start them) talking and read between the lines."

Sometimes dreams are for all the residents. On May 11, RC Willey presented two 55-inch , flat-screen TVs to the North Las Vegas Care Center.

In Las Vegas, one woman, Betty Williams at Silver Ridge Healthcare Center, asked to meet Marie Osmond. The woman was given free tickets to the "Donny and Marie" show at the Flamingo and went backstage to meet the stars after the show. Marie Osmond presented her with a doll from her signature line.

Sandie Durgin's mother, Geri, 86, always enjoyed painting. After high school she was part of a live window display at Macy's in New York City. She would paint the ties and shirts as people stopped to watch. The items could be purchased inside.

Geri Durgin became an at-home mother but spent her leisure time involved in the hobby, at which she excelled. Second Wind Dreams arranged for her wish ---- to have art on display. An exhibit was held April 29, 2009, at the Rio.

Painter Geri Durgin sits in her wheelchair powered by her daughter, Sandie, as they take a surprise trip to the Rio on April 29, 2009. Unbeknownst to Durgin, Second Wind Dreams, a nonprofit organization that has a goal of granting the dreams of the elderly, set up an exhibit of her paintings at the casino. Special To View

How did it feel when she learned about the display?

"It was like somebody handing me a million dollars," Geri Durgin said.

Buzz , who lives at Silver Sky Assisted Living, has expressed the desire to go fishing.

"Buzz's best buddy at Silver Sky, with whom he did everything, passed away earlier this year, and he has been a bit reclusive since then," explained the Second Wind Dreams website, secondwind.org. "This would get him out into the fresh air and perhaps he could catch one for his buddy Jack."

Another senior, a 94-year-old woman, is still awaiting her dream. She wants to dance on stage.

"She's a crack up, a female Milton Berle, queen of the one lines," Streeter said.

LynnAnn Homnick, administrator and executive director at Silver Sky Assisted Living, said interviewers ferret out what the senior always wanted to do, "then these people in the background go to work. It's like the mice in 'Cinderella,' how they did everything to get her ready for the ball."

Dreams are listed online at secondwind.org.

The Las Vegas branch began with only a few facilities. All were sponsored by Caesars Entertainment Corp .

Dreams are investigated to ensure that they're appropriate. One man wanted to sky dive. His doctor, however, nixed the idea for health reasons. A woman asked to meet a famous rap artist but, when questioned, had never heard his name before.

It seems the woman's caregiver was the rapper's fan.

The organization began in 1997 and is 90 percent volunteer-driven.

"I've never seen an organization like this," Homnick said. "They do all this and ask for nothing in return."

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