Twice a week, Sunrise at West Essex, NJ, holds a Live With Anticipation club, where residents discuss their goals and hopes. Some wishes are simple, such as learning a fun new exercise. Others, however, are more unique.

One resident, Dottie, expressed a particularly remarkable desire this year: to go on her first ever flight in an aircraft. Dottie’s husband was a recently passed-away veteran of the Air Force, and he had wished for her to remain safe on the ground.

Albana, the community’s activities and volunteer coordinator, had always heard Dottie comment whenever they drove past the local airport on community outings. And now, she finally recognized the reason. 

“I knew this was going to be a difficult task,” said Albana. “However, I wanted to make Dottie’s dream come true.”

Over the course of several weeks, Albana got in touch with Tom Gomez, an event coordinator at Essex County Airport. After hearing Dottie’s story, Tom decided to ask around to see if anybody would be willing to donate a flight.

Weeks later, Albana got a call from the airport. A generous pilot, Jim Miller, had volunteered to take Dottie on a flight on his private helicopter—free of charge, using fuel donated by Air Bound Aviation.

On May 9, Tom and Jim greeted Dottie at the airport, took her on a tour, and led her to the helicopter pad. Then, Dottie lifted off on her first-ever flight, soaring high above the city to view the beautiful New York City skyline.

It was the experience of a lifetime.    

“I never thought I would get a ride on a plane, let alone going up in a helicopter,” said Dottie. “To be up by the clouds on a clear day was so amazing and magical. A dream came true for me.”

“I felt so near to God and my husband. I was so happy to be close to them that day,” Dottie continued. “Thank you dear Lord for the gift; it makes me so blessed to have done it. Gifts are great to get, but this one was a special one from above.”

The experience was nearly equally special for Albana, whose hard work paid off in a life-changing experience for a beloved resident.

“We often talk about how special Sunrise is and what sets us apart,” says Albana. “THIS is what Sunrise is all about—nurturing the spirit of our residents and celebrating their individuality.”

Live With Purpose at Sunrise

Each day, Sunrise team members work to engage residents in personalized activities and outings to enrich the mind, body, and spirit. Check out our eight signature Live With Purpose programs to learn more!



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