A Desire for Change Makes One Woman's Wish Come True

Aging Today, September/October 2012 | Go to article overview

A Desire for Change Makes One Woman's Wish Come True


What happens when you reach a point in life where you have all the time in the world, but no money to do anything with it? This "lightning bolt" question struck Cass Forkin while she was on a vacation cruise, taking a break from her duties as chief financial officer of a healthcare company.

Before the cruise she had a related epiphany. While eating out at a diner, she spied a group of women in their late 70s struggling to pay for their $4.99-each meals. Forkin handed the waitress cash to cover the group's tab, requesting the donation be kept anonymous. But the women wanted to thank her, and when they stopped by her table, Forkin was amazed at the depth of their gratitude. "They didn't know people like us still existed, they said, or that anyone cared about them anymore."

Between the realization that elders often were struggling to get by and felt forgotten, and that she had, at age 39, "checked off all the boxes" in her life, came Forkin's impetus to start the Twilight Wish Foundation- the first national nonprofit organization to grant wishes to elders. Forkin had an M.B.A., a more than six-figure salary and a daughter about to start college. She had "done everything according to the M.B.A. plan." But she found that in spite of all she had achieved, "it wasn't enough."

"We're all going to be seniors. Why aren't we taking care of our seniors?" Forkin wondered when she found no groups helping elders to feel appreciated. So she went to work, alone in her house, figuring out how to make wishgranting a reality.

Wish-Granting on a Shoestring

Twilight still works on a shoestring, but now has an office with "credentialed, caring people," says Forkin. The organization also relies on countless volunteers in branches from Pennsylvania to California. Forkin is trying to replicate the program's success in Philadelphia, across Pennsylvania and nationally to the seven other states with existing Foundation chapters.

The group has granted 1,700 wishes, and is funded through a combination of direct donations to wishes posted on the website, corporate sponsorships and grants, which are increasingly hard to come by in the current economy.

Wishes come in three varieties: simple needs, such as orthopedic shoes, lift chairs and other necessities that can be financially out of reach for many elders; "one more time" wishes, like that granted to Bob Carey, a Vietnam veteran who was dying and wished to see his family one more time; and "shining moment" or living life to the fullest wishes.

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