In 1970, I (Cass Forkin) knocked first on Donna’s door, then on Theresa’s door. Neither was home so I went for a bicycle ride by myself. That is the last thing I remember on that Fall Friday until I was in the most incredible Light which filled every cell of my body and changed the way I look at the world forevermore. I knew I am here to do good. I knew I am here to help others. I knew love is enough. I knew I promised to make this world a better place, and I knew that is why I am here. There was work to be done. I woke strapped to a stretcher in the back of an ambulance arriving at Nazareth Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. They said it was a hit and run.
In 2000, I went to Ocean City, New Jersey, and stood with my feet in the sand looking at the ocean, and I asked…what is it you want me to do? This was exactly 30 years after my near death experience at the age of 9. It took me thirty years to accomplish everything I thought I was supposed to do, my undergrad degree with a 4.0 GPA in accounting, my MBA in healthcare administration, both from LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA, raising my daughter, succeeding in the behavioral healthcare industry…and then I realized I had left something undone. Something I had promised. So I prayed and I asked. When my mom died at the age of 40, I was 16 years old. Mom’s passing left me realizing how short life is and I had to do the best I could as fast as I could because I don’t know when my last day is here on Earth. It must have been on my mind that Mom died at 40, and I was now 39.
Soon afterward, over the course of the next few years, I began to start noticing things that were pointing me towards taking care of seniors.
First, in 2001, one of my client’s work had me visit about two dozen eldercare facilities. Every time I walked into a nursing home, I felt something was missing. Finally, one day, as I sat in an empty lobby, I realized what was missing…it was hope. 60% of seniors were not even getting visitors, let alone having their hopes honored or wishes granted and dreams coming true. Now that they finally have the time, they don’t have the ability to make anything happen for themselves. How could I change that?
Then, one day, I witnessed a group of three senior ladies paying for an inexpensive brunch at a Bucks County diner by counting their dollars and cents. I decided I would treat them anonymously. I gave the waitress a $20 bill. When they asked, the waitress pointed to me. They came over and asked me to stand. I got a great big hug and one senior said, “we didn’t know there were people like you anymore.” That comment hit me in a big way. I know lots of folks like me. Why didn’t seniors know younger people cared?
Finally, in 2002, I found myself on the last day of my first ever cruise, getting my first ever head massage, when my “type A” personality was as relaxed as it would ever be…and all the pieces fell into place. I realized there was no mechanism in our country to make wishes come true for seniors, to make them feel thanked and remembered. I thought about seniors getting massages and going on cruises and that we needed a type of sunshine fund for them…and at that very moment, I heard “write it down.” And so, I wrote it down and took that paper home with me…and it sat on my desk for a year as I began the process to found what would become the first national organization to grant wishes to seniors in our country – the Twilight Wish Foundation. Now, seniors in nursing homes and living on their own would have a way to be honored and thanked and remembered for their contributions as the younger generations made their wishes come true and they would know we care.
There is so much to the miracles and the stories. It has been an amazing journey. I filed the paperwork on July 1, 2003, to start the foundation. One year later, we had granted over 100 wishes at Langhorne Gardens for Christmas in July (2004). I am on video saying with emotion, “this should be everywhere!” Then 3 months later, we were featured in a two-page article in Family Circle, and Twilight Wish Foundation went out to millions and millions of folks in our world, and I heard from 700 people in all 50 states and 4 other countries that wanted to start chapters.
What We Do
Since our founding in 2003, our goal has been to make the world a nicer place to age, one Twilight Wish at a time. A Twilight Wish granted recognizes seniors for all that they have done throughout their lives and shows them they are appreciated and of value to society. Wishes can connect a senior to many things: a lost passion such as getting their book published; people they haven’t seen in years such as siblings separated for over ten years being reunited in their 90s; and rediscovering their purpose in life such as returning to the classroom to read to students one more time. Every wish we grant is helping to build a culture that values and respects our senior population.
Why We Do It
A Population In Need
Senior citizens are the fastest growing population in the world. The number of Americans 65 and older is projected to more than double to over 98 million by 2060. In the U.S. today, one in three seniors older than 65 live alone and the number of seniors living alone only increases with age. Many of these seniors experience social isolation which puts them at risk of developing medical conditions such as high blood pressure and dementia. Granting a Twilight Wish can help change that.
Changing Lives, One Twilight Wish At A Time
Our Twilight Wish recipients report overwhelmingly that having their wish granted impacted their life for the better. Their mental and physical health often improves, positively changing their outlook on life. Simple Needs Wishes, such as hearing aids, dentures, and lift chairs often have the biggest impact on improving the quality of life for low-income seniors. Items such as these reduce isolation, increase self-esteem and allow many seniors to continue living on their own.
The wishes we grant are changing the way our society views aging as it witnesses seniors living life to the fullest by skydiving, riding a Harley one more time or publishing their first novel. By sharing our recipients’ stories, we are inspiring both older and younger generations and helping to bring about a cultural shift in how aging is perceived in our society. Through our annual “Week of Wishes” or “WOW,” we encourage others to grant wishes for seniors in their communities and help us make the world a nicer place to age, one Twilight Wish at a time.
Why They Do It
Since our founding in 2003, we have expanded throughout the U.S. and currently have 15 chapters. The majority of our chapter directors and chapter volunteers have full-time jobs, but volunteer their time because they believe so much in the impact Twilight Wish has on our senior population. Read on to see what some of these volunteers have to say about why they do what they do.
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“Being the only child of a single mother who devoted her career to the long-term care industry, I pretty much grew up in nursing homes where I became so fond of the elderly. I didn’t quite follow in her footsteps but did work in long-term care later in my career and I felt right at home. It was during that phase of my life when I was asked/volunteered to be the Chapter Director of the Westmoreland County Chapter of the Twilight Wish Foundation. I have since moved on in my career, however, I continue my role as the Chapter Director because I want to have a connection to the elderly no matter what I am doing in my professional life. Being a part of granting a wish, whether it is doing an activity behind the scenes, coordinating the wish, or being there for the actual wish granting, it is a feeling like no other. Just knowing that you had something to do with making someone smile who may not smile every day is a fantastic day in my book!”
“There are several reasons why I am part of Twilight Wish. The main reason is I love the elderly and truly believe that if we take the time to listen to them they can teach us so much. Nothing beats seeing someone’s face light up and Twilight Wish makes this happen. We have had the pleasure of helping make several wishes come true. They are all different, but all so rewarding. Something as simple as a birthday lunch at Eat’n Park or as exciting as a hot air balloon ride. I was blessed to ride in the hot air balloon with a Sister of Charity, and the smile on her face was priceless. I look forward to working with the Westmoreland chapter and to continue making wishes come true.”
“I volunteer for Twilight because I want to give back to all the older adults that have been part of my life. My career as a physical therapist is focused primarily on the older adult and I feel this is a small way to honor a group who has taught me so much. I involve my Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students because they need to see that the concept of ageism should not exist. My favorite wish was Evie and the therapy dog. She wished for two jars of this locally made spaghetti sauce and some time with a therapy dog as she could no longer care for her own dog. It was such a simple wish but so powerful for all involved.”