Jeremy Bloom’s Colorado nonprofit grants wish to 90-year-old in Breckenridge
February 24, 2017
As the snow kicked up underneath the team of huskies pulling a sled in the frosty outskirts of Breckenridge last Wednesday, 90-year-old Harriet McGehee smiled underneath her hood and goggles. McGehee was driving the sled, something she has never done in her life.
McGehee is one of 250 annual recipients of the Denver-based Wish of a Lifetime program. The nonprofit grants wishes to seniors all over the country, and has recently expanded into Canada. A resident of Petal, Mississippi, McGehee doesn't have many opportunities for winter sports.
"We don't have snow boots where we live," said Jane Yawn, McGehee's daughter who joined on the trip. "She's wanted to do this for a long time."
McGehee attempted to make a dog-sledding trip in Alaska seven years ago, but inclement weather prevented the helicopter from taking off.
Char Bloom, board member at Wish of a Lifetime, is a part-time Summit County resident. The organization was able to reach out to local connections to make McGehee's wish a reality. Good Times Adventures out of Breckenridge donated the sled ride, and Keystone Resort donated her hotel stay.
"It was an example of the community coming together to honor Harriet," said Tom Wagenlander, the executive director of Wish of a Lifetime.
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Bloom drove the sled for the first round, while McGehee rode as a passenger. Before long, McGehee was standing at the back of the sled, driving the team forward.
"That's one of the more unique wishes we've been able to grant," Wagenlander said.
Wish of a Lifetime was founded by Bloom's son, Jeremy, in 2008. He started the organization as a tribute to his grandmother, who lives in Summit. When the organization first started, Char Bloom said that things were busy and that Jeremy asked her to come in and help while he was between his professional football career and U.S. Ski Team training.
"Typical Jeremy style, you don't plan ahead you just dream," Char said.
The organization started by granting wishes to just five seniors a year. The organization now works with 250 seniors across the United States and was able to expand into Canada last year.
Wish recipients are nominated before being selected by the nonprofit. Sally Webster, the director of community outreach, said that the program's overall goal is to change the way people "view and value" the elderly. As the population ages, more people are facing isolation, sickness and financial woes. Wagenlander said that highlighting seniors with inspiring stories helps Wish of a Lifetime to support them.
"I think wishes are a great opportunity to bring these issues to light because they allow us to put a personal face and story on these issues that seniors are facing," he said. "It's amazing. We come across seniors, 80, 90 even 100-plus years old doing things you would never imagine."
Nominees are selected by the organization after an extensive process, Wagenlander said. He hopes that the stories of seniors being able to follow their dreams inspires people to be engaged with that community.
McGehee said that she had been most excited to see the dogs run, but joked that she had been hoping to go fast.
"I wanted to enjoy the faster part of it," she said.
Yawn said that this was pretty typical of her mother, who is a great-great-grandmother with a sense of adventure.
"She's our daredevil," Yawn said.