Nursing home residents set to take balloon ride
By Rob Dowdy
Posted Tuesday, July 05, 2005
MORRISTOWN - Making a wish come true is not something most people aspire to
everyday. But Bob Haverstick of the Never Too Late Foundation has made more than
750 wishes come true, and he isn't done yet.
Never Too Late is closing in on completing a wish at the Morristown Manor nursing home by providing 12 wheelchair-bound participants the opportunity to fly in a hot-air balloon.
The balloon will be tethered to the ground, but will allow those inside the gondola to be 100 feet above the ground. Originally, the balloon rides were planned to be given on June 24, but due to the extreme heat and windy conditions that day, the rides have been rescheduled for July 15, with a backup date planned for July 22.
The rides cannot be given if winds exceed 5 miles per hour or if the heat warrants an ozone-layer warning. But if all conditions are met, the rides will begin at 6 p.m. and continue until 8 p.m.
Each ride will be 10 minutes in length so that all 24 people who signed up for the event will be able to ride in the two-hour allotment of time.
The cost of the rides is $550, which has been provided by the Fishers Rotary Club, located in Hamilton County.
"It's unique that a community club like that will step outside of its own boundaries," Haverstick said.
Something else that makes the rides offered to Morristown Manor special is the special gondola, which allows wheelchair-bound people to enjoy the thrills of a hot-air balloon ride.
The gondola, created by Ralph Braun, founder of the Braun Corporation, has a ramp that folds down to allow for wheelchairs. Once a wheelchair is in the gondola, it is tightly secured to avoid sudden, jarring movements. The gondola also contains room for a person to accompany the wheelchair-bound resident of the nursing home, in addition to the pilot.
Haverstick notes that this will be the very last tethered hot air balloon ride sponsored by Never Too Late. He admits that scheduling has become a costly guessing game, due to weather conditions that can't be predicted until just days before the event occurs. He also says that constant delays make the event "anticlimactic."
Haverstick began his foundation when he was inspired by a play called "Touching Lives," presented by college students. The play is about sophomores in college talking about all the money they are going to make after school.
Going around the room, each taking a turn to speak, one student mentions that he's been volunteering at a nursing home. Everyone questions him about giving of his time and not being paid for his efforts. He explains the worth of
volunteering and how he touches the lives of the residents in a profound way. After that, his friends decide to begin volunteering, as well.
"They realized: Focus on success, make your million, but do something significant along the way," Haverstick said.
After the play, Haverstick decided to start helping the elderly. He started fulfilling about a wish a month, but grew restless with how few wishes he was granting, and he almost gave up. He got a call from a nursing home asking him to help make a resident's one last wish come true, and everything turned around from that point on.
The wish involved taking an elderly gentleman back to the farm where he grew up. The man, who was suffering from Alzheimer's, was able to ride a tractor nearly identical to the one he rode when he was a child.
"It was like he stepped back in time," Haverstick said.
That wish garnered some publicity for the fledgling foundation, and soon Haverstick would begin granting all the wishes he could handle.
"That sparkle in the eye, that's what we're looking for," he said.