Cedarbrook staffers blinked back tears Tuesday evening as one of the nursing home's residents, 88-year-old Lillian Catherine Shade, took flight at Queen City Airport in a small plane.
Here was Shade, wearing headphones and sitting along flight instructor pilot Spencer Howard, heading out on a 30-minute flight toward Alburtis and back. The plan was to fly over a park and Shade's old home in Alburtis, maybe even have Shade take a turn at the controls if she wanted.
The sun was bright, and warm breezes blew. Five fellow residents came to see Shade fulfill her dream of flight as part of Cedarbrook-Allentown's new Dream a Little Dream program, which grants dreams to residents who live at the South Whitehall facility. The onlookers - a sizeable group of staff and friends, clapped. Some of them, children included, chanted, "Go Lilly Go."
Fittingly, Tuesday would have marked American icon Amelia Earhart's 115th birthday.
"It was a pretty big dream, but it's happening," said Andrea Elwood, Cedarbrook's social services director, as the plane took off.
It was the third "dream" that Cedarbrook officials have been able to grant since launching the program this year. One resident, an avid baseball fan, went to an IronPigs game. Another had a Las Vegas experience at the Sands casino.
Shade, who Cedarbrook officials said may have been in the Air Force during World War II and stationed in Texas, wanted to fly. They said she always dreamed of becoming a pilot but was unable to because of a health issue. She eventually became a teacher.
"She has an adventuresome spirit," said Elwood.
The dream was about two months in the making. Therapeutic Recreation Assistant Mel Fejes had asked residents whether there was something they always wanted to do and hadn't, or had not done recently. Shade said she would like to fly a plane.
Allentown Health Director Vicky Kistler, who helps with the program, connected with David and Kathy Van Allen, who are both paramedics. David Van Allen, also a pilot, said, "Let's just make this happen," and with his wife, facilitated the the plane ride.
After a half hour, at about 7:45 p.m., the plane landed back at Queen City Airport. Again, applause erupted. And again, people fought tears and waved as the plane taxied back to the main building.
Shade was all smiles as her Cedarbrook aide helped her out of the small plane.
"I did it," Shade said triumphantly.
A party followed, with cake.
"My dream came true," said Shade. The pilot said she even got to briefly take the controls.
"Where you scared at all?" someone asked. "No," Shade replied.
David Van Allen was beaming too. "We're so happy we were able to do this," he had said.
Cedarbrook-Allentown's program is a chapter of Second Wind Dreams, a nationwide organization focused on granting dreams for those living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other elder care communities. Cedarbrook-Fountain Hill's dream-granting chapter is called Cedarbrook Dream Catchers, which began a year ago.
Those interested in helping fulfill a dream can contact Darlene Ely at Cedarbrook at 610-336-5681.