Imagine soaring miles above your hometown in a hot-air balloon, or being a movie star for a day. Dreams are more than wishes at Wesleyan Village, a continuing-care community in Elyria. Over the past four years, 60 residents have had their fantasies come to life via the Second Wind Dreams program the community participates in. Headquartered in Georgia, Second Wind Dreams is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching seniors’ lives. It’s a mission, explains Dawn Prokop, Wesleyan’s residential services life-enrichment coordinator, which her community is proud to be an advocate of.
“We believe seniors should be able to age with dignity and grace,” she says. “Second Wind Dreams gives people something to be hopeful about, look forward to and remember with fondness.”
Staff and residents keep their ears open for requests and pass them along to Prokop. She helps turn them into reality. The most challenging assignment to date came from an 80-year-old resident who had spent the last 30 years working as an extra on movie sets, and wanted to experience that thrill one more time. Prokop was initially stumped about how to make that happen. When word spread that “Spider-Man 3” would be filmed in Cleveland, Prokop contacted the publicist and the resident became part of a street scene.
“She got to the set, and went right into movie mode,” Prokop recalls. “And although the scene didn’t make the final cut, that was alright with her. She told me it was the experience that counted.”
Other wishes granted at Wesleyan Village include those of a retired semi-truck driver who got the chance to put pedal to the metal one more time at Norwalk Raceway, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle fan who took her first ride decked out in a leather jacket and Elvis cap.
In September, Marion Malone, 83, fulfilled her 40-year-old dream. She and three-friends took a hot-air balloon ride over the skies of Lorain County.
“When I was a young girl, I’d see these balloons up in the sky and wonder what it would be like to be on one,” she says. “My husband and I attended a science fair in Washington, D.C., some years back, and they had a simulated ride. From that day on, I hoped to someday go up in the real thing.”
Malone describes her journey as the experience of a lifetime.
“Nothing compares to it,” she says. “Nothing. I never thought I’d ever have the opportunity to do it. Second Wind Dreams is wonderful.”
Prokop echoes that sentiment.
“This is such a rewarding program,” she says. “It means so much to look at the smiles you bring to people’s faces and get to share their feelings of being so awed by whatever they get to be a part of. It’s just amazing.”
Prokop’s participation in the program has also given her pause for reflection.
“It’s made me realize how much we take for granted,” she says. “And how important it is to live life to the fullest.”