Wishful Thinking

Making dreams come true in the golden years

Back Article Feb 1, 2012 By Dixie Reid

Doris Hobbs threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Sacramento River Cats game. Harriet Antonides at last became a Girl Scout at age 100. And Mino Ohye, who hadn’t seen his beloved brother in 60 years, in January would fly to Japan for a reunion.

About 50 Sacramento-area senior citizens have seen dreams come true with the help of the nonprofit Eskaton and its Thrill of a Lifetime program.

“It’s all about generating conversations with our residents and trying to figure out who they were in the past and who do they want to be and … the things they’ve always wanted to do,” says Susanne Strassburg, a spokeswoman for Eskaton, a Carmichael-based nonprofit offering community living and home-based support to older individuals.

“Or maybe,” she adds, “it’s something they haven’t done since they were a kid, something that has been on their mind that would kind of complete their life.”

For 80-year-old Dorothy Palmer, a retired bookkeeper, the wish was simple: “I had never received flowers in my whole entire life,” she says.

One day, she was presented with a bouquet of pink and white roses, all with a bow.
“It was beautiful,” Palmer says. “It meant the whole world to me. It was a thrill of a lifetime.”

Eskaton launched Thrill of a Lifetime two years ago. The agency has no operational budget to grant the wishes and relies on donations from local businesses. When a resident said she’d only seen San Francisco on TV, a limousine company provided transportation for her and an Eskaton staff member to visit Fisherman’s Wharf and other city sites.

“Thrill of a Lifetime empowers them,” says Kathy Smith, activities director for the Eskaton community on Manzanita Avenue in Carmichael. “It lets them know that, no matter how old or young you are, dreams can come true, and there is plenty of time to enjoy the quality of life.”

One of the first Thrills was granted to Harriet Antonides. She had been just 2 years old when the Girl Scouts of America formed in Savannah, Ga., but she grew up poor and could never join.

“Harriet was a resident at our community in Roseville and was turning 100,” Strassburg says. “She said, ‘I know it sounds so silly and that it will never happen, but I want to do it.’

“We told her, ‘It absolutely will happen.’”

The Eskaton staff worked with Sacramento-based Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, which made Antonides a full-fledged member in 2010.

“There is such a spectrum of things people ask for,” Strassburg says. “Our residents can come forward at any time and express their wishes. Most people have never been asked, ‘If you could do anything or be anything, what would it be?’”

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