Former University of Colorado football standout Jeremy Bloom's Wish of a Lifetime foundation grants wishes for senior citizens -- some of them as simple as a new back yard or a date. But for the most recent wish, the sky was the limit: These seniors wanted to fly again.
Helene Dax, a resident at Parkplace, a Brookdale Senior Living location, and her friend, Emily Warner, took to the sky on Tuesday with the help of Bloom's foundation. A coordinator at Brookdale had submitted Dax's request to Wish of a Lifetime, and it caught the organization's eye.
"We go through wish by wish and this one stuck out because Helene was a pioneer in aviation for women," says Patrick Kelly, wish coordinator (great title). "It had a lot of meaning in it, and we knew she would get a lot of fulfillment from it."
Dax, 87, began her aviation career as a teenager, when she was an air-traffic controller. She then guided planes on the runway in Chicago during World War II before earning her pilot's license at the age of 26. She and her husband owned several planes and traveled the country together.
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Warner made history as the first female commercial airline pilot and first female to achieve captain status. She was a pilot for Frontier Airlines. Local members of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots, were on hand to witness the women take flight again.
A Cessna carrying one pilot, Dax and Warner took off from McAir Aviation in Broomfield and flew for about forty minutes over Boulder and the Front Range; Dax even got to take the controls for a couple seconds. "She was quiet going up, but when she got back on the ground she was enthusiastic and happy," says George Bogdewiecz, CEO for Wish of a Lifetime. "You could tell it was an enriching experience for her and she was happy. That keeps us wanting to expand our operation throughout the United States."
The foundation started in Colorado in 2008 and now operates nationwide, granting about 120 wishes a year, Bogdeweicz adds. It was created as a living honor to Donna Wheeler, Bloom's grandmother and an ongoing inspiration.
"We give wishes out a lot and every one has a special meaning to the person getting the wish," says Bogdeweicz. "When the people receive the wish, and we see the look in their eyes and smile on their face, that's when we know it was successful."