91-year-old tours California vineyards thanks to nonprofit
The wineries that James Wood has visited stretch from California to the French countryside. A lover of fine wines, Wood remembers those trips from decades past as some of his most memorable with his wife and friends.
At 91, he never thought he’d get to go back.
This past May, he did.
Wood is among the hundreds of recipients nationwide recently granted a “wish” from Wish of a Lifetime, an organization that fulfills the lifelong dreams of seniors.
These wishes — granted free of charge — range from Wood’s visit to a favorite winery to flying in a plane from World War II, from reunions with family members to setting off in a hot air balloon.
Wish of a Lifetime was founded in 2008 by former NFL player Jeremy Bloom, who wanted to foster a greater respect for seniors in American culture. The nonprofit organization, which has a nearly $1 million annual budget, is funded both by private donors and corporate sponsors.
Wood lives in Denton at Sterling House on the Parkway, an assisted living home run by Brookdale Senior Living, Wish of a Lifetime’s largest corporate sponsor.
Wood’s daughter, Roberta Petric, is a therapy manager at her father’s home. She corresponded with Wish of a Lifetime to apply for the trip and later organize the itinerary — a wine-tasting trip to Sonoma County, California.
The organization scheduled a private tasting at Jordan Vineyard and Winery, as well as another at Chateau St. Jean, birthplace of Wood’s favorite chardonnay.
“It’s fun to watch how they test [the wine] and age it,” Wood said. “We were in the family’s private dining room.”
Wish of a Lifetime covered all travel expenses for Wood, who travels with a portable oxygen machine, and Jordan Readicker, 23, Wood’s home health care companion from Sterling House. Petric, 63, came along as well.
Wood’s wine tasting also included samples of the wineries’ homemade cheeses, olive oils and chocolates. The trio finished off their day with a stop at the 80-year-old Costeaux French Bakery and dinner at one of Sonoma’s most highly-rated restaurants, the Girl and the Fig. Wood also made sure to take a piece of California home with him by shipping a few bottles of wine back to Denton.
“The wineries bring back happy times with my mother and their friends,” Roberta Petric said. “This is going to be his last trip.”
For Gloria Johnson of Arlington, having a wish fulfilled didn’t even mean leaving home. Instead, Johnson, 83, asked that some close family come to her — including her 7-month-old great-grandson, whom she had yet to meet.
“Just having him here was wonderful,” Johnson said. “I thought about going to see him in Boston, but it’s hard with oxygen. I had no idea I’d win [a wish].”
Wish of a Lifetime arranged for Johnson’s granddaughter, Sara Rosenthal, 26, and her husband, Steve, 26, to come from Boston with their new baby, Jacob, in April. Jacob is Johnson’s first and only great-grandchild, and Johnson wasn’t sure when or if she would be able to hold him.
“He was darling and never cried or anything,” Johnson said. “We just ‘oodled’ at him and watched him fall asleep. He woke up and didn’t recognize where he was, but he just started laughing.”
Like Wood, Johnson lives in a Brookdale residence, Horizon Bay Arlington, which has a partnership with Wish of a Lifetime. Each year, Brookdale activity directors submit forms on behalf of seniors they think would benefit from a specific wish.
“Just because you’re 91 doesn’t mean you’ve stopped living,” Petric said. “We want seniors to enjoy life.”
For more information, visit www.seniorwish.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-954-9144.