“Live Your Dreams” is a program sponsored by the Maine Health Care Association, a statewide non-profit organization of long-term care providers, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Nadine Grosso, vice president and director of communications at MHCA, said, “The program is based on the idea that it is never too late to reach for our goals and realize our hopes and dreams.”

Still in its infancy, MHCA has already helped two long-term residents realize their wishes. One wish realized was that of Gene McBriearty, a resident of a Maine Veterans Home in Caribou, who wished to spend a day ice fishing, an activity he dearly missed. Another realized wish was that of a woman who had spent time in Peru and wished to once again see and touch some alpacas. “In both these instances, we publicized our requests and the community response was great. It was truly amazing,” said Grosso.

More recently, responses to a letter sent to its 250 long-term care providers, produced two wishes that MHCA felt could be realized. “Our members asked their residents, ‘What is something you’ve never done, but have always wanted to do?’ and received the same response from two residents: “Go up in a hot air balloon.'”

After learning that several residents were interested in hot air balloon rides, staff at MHCA reached out to the board of directors of the Great Falls Balloon Festival, specifically Mell Hamlyn. Corporate sponsorships were solicited for four tickets and Hamlyn reports that tickets have been sponsored by Marden’s/Englander Mattress, Blais Florist, Lawnguard Lawn Services, Debbie Bodwell of Residential Mortgage Services, and an anonymous donor. MHCA covers the costs of transportation and staff as needed, if not covered by donations.

The next two “Live Your Dreams” recipients – the two residents with dreams of going up in a hot air balloon – are Patrice Lewis, 57, a woman who once lived in the Lewiston-Auburn area and who is now a resident of Island Nursing Home, a Deer Isle long-term care facility, and John McDonald, a resident of Seventy-Five State Street in Portland, an assisted living facility.

Through tears of joy, Lewis hugged everyone around her, exclaiming over and over, “Oh my God, oh my God, I’m going … I’m actually going,” as she learned the news that she had been chosen to go live her life long dream of taking a ride in a hot air balloon.

McDonald thinks of himself as a multiple winner. He said, “I guess I should consider myself fortunate because this is my second dream come true. My first was when I was in high school and I purchased a 65-cent raffle ticket and won a new Chevy! I am really looking forward to the balloon ride.” 

Lewis said, “For many summers, I would stand outside in my hometown of Lewiston, and hear the swoosh of the hot air balloons as they sailed overhead. I would look up at the bright, beautiful colors and wonder to myself what it would be like to be up there, looking down at the city and all my friends. And now I’m going to go. It’s unbelievable. I am so happy!”

For more information about the LYD program, please contact MHCA at 623-1146.

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