When Bernice Fallik talks about the organization Wish of a Lifetime, she can’t use enough superlatives.
“It was just wonderful. They are just wonderful, more than wonderful, so giving and caring. I just can’t say enough about them,” the 91-year-old Denver woman said.
Last year, the philanthropic organization founded by Jeremy Bloom, two-time Olympian and U.S. Hall of Fame skier, granted Fallik her wish. She was flown to Virginia to spend about a week with her granddaughter and great-grandson.
Fallik’s granddaughter lived with her in New York and in Denver, but she hadn’t seen her for a few years. She couldn’t afford to travel across the country and neither could her granddaughter. Thanks to Wish of a Lifetime, she spent several days with her and two other grandchildren.
“I have wonderful memories of the time I spent in Virginia,” Fallik said.
And she has fond memories of the people at Wish of a Lifetime who arranged the travel. Staff member Shannon Hollis took her to the airport, helped her navigate check-in, stayed with her until boarding time and picked her up when she returned, Fallik said.
Since starting Wish of a Lifetime in 2008, Bloom has heard many stories and has shared in the reunions or once-in-a-lifetime experiences made possible by his organization. The Loveland native, former University of Colorado football standout and NFL player said one of his goals in starting the nonprofit, which grants wishes to older people, was to “disrupt aging.”
“We have this mission to disrupt aging, disrupt the perception of aging, of what’s possible in the later stages of life,” Bloom said. “We have all these amazing people living out their lifelong dreams 80, 90 years into life.
“It was important to share those stories in hopes of inspiring others to see what’s possible in the later stages of life, but also to appreciate the many contributions that this generation has given to the world and certainly to us,” Bloom added.
To reach even more older Americans across the country, the organization teamed up with AARP in August to form Wish of a Lifetime from AARP. The organization’s headquarters will stay in Denver.
As a charitable affiliate of AARP, Wish will be able to leverage the resources of the 38-million-member organization, Bloom said. Wish of a Lifetime is hiring and working with AARP on its five-year strategic plan.
The partnership took shape after Scott Frisch, AARP executive vice president and chief operating officer, spent time talking to Bloom and Wish staff members. AARP, which focuses on issues affecting people over 50, was exploring ways to address social isolation and other issues older people face.
“Wish of a Lifetime came on our radar screen,” Frisch said. “Bringing Wish into the AARP family, we believe we’re going to be able to reach more people, both those who want to give help and the Wish applicants as well.”
The program is an avenue to combat the effects of social isolation, strengthen social ties and make intergenerational connections, Frisch said.
The nonprofit has granted more than 2,000 wishes since its founding. Bloom is looking forward to reaching more people across the country.
“It starts with impacting as many people as we can. We can do that through the vehicle of granting wishes, of course, but it’s also about telling those stories and inspiring others to change the way that we view not only this generation but what we can do as we age,” Bloom said.
Bloom said his maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather were the inspirations for starting Wish of a Lifetime. His grandmother, Donna Wheeler, lived for several years with the Bloom family and helped raise her grandchildren.
Bloom has shared connections with many of the Wish of a Lifetime recipients, including a man with emphysema who always wanted to travel but didn’t have the chance. Thomas Burgett of Alabama wanted people to send him postcards from different cities and include a little about the places.
“Before we knew it, he had 4,000 postcards sent to his house. I went out to visit him three weeks into the wish,” Bloom said. “People from all over the world wrote to him. It meant so much for him.”
Another wish involved arranging the return in 2012 of four members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen to Moton Field, where they trained and where the men from Dallas had not been since the end of World War II.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way Wish carries out its work for now. Bloom said the staff is trying to connect people in the digital world and is sending care packages to people.
“The world’s going to get back to whatever new normal exists, and we’ll be able to get back to granting in-person wishes.”
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