Man gets his wish: A balloon ride |

Man gets his wish: A balloon ride

Staff reports

Walt Wolff has cancer and is facing his life-limiting diagnosis with the help of VistaCare hospice. One day recently, in a casual conversation with a hospice nurse, he mentioned the Great Reno Balloon Race. He recalled that ever since he watched the movie “Around the World in 80 Days,” he had dreamed of going up in a hot air balloon.

Upon return to the VistaCare Reno office, the nurse talked with other members of the hospice care team and they all agreed that something should be done to help make his dream come true.

They called the Vista Hospice Care Foundation, a national not-for-profit organization whose mission includes helping terminally ill patients fulfill their last wishes. The foundation gave immediate approval to go ahead and arrange for such a flight – they would help pay for it.

The next step was to find a balloon and pilot. Knowing of no better place to start, one of the VistaCare staff picked up a phone book and found a listing for “Dream Weavers,” a Gardnerville firm that specializes in providing hot air balloon rides for weddings, promotions and other events. When the hospice staff told M.J. Nystrom, the owner of the firm, what they had in mind, she was so touched by the request that she offered to donate their time and balloon for the cause of fulfilling Wolff’s dream. Not being certain of weather conditions or the balloon’s availability, the nurse didn’t tell Wolff what they had planned until the night before.

Near dawn one Friday morning at Lampe Park in Gardnerville, the Dream Weavers crew began filling the balloon. By 7:15 a.m., they were airborne. The “Sweet Dreams” balloon was piloted by Jerry Gray, who also donated his time and had driven over an hour from his Sparks home to be there. Wolff was also accompanied by Janet Forrester, one of his hospice nurses, and Janet Walford, another member of the VistaCare Reno team.

For more than an hour, they floated above the Carson Valley, taking in a panoramic view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At the end of the ride, Wolff was presented with a Certificate of Ascendancy, which Vista Care is having framed.

Wolff’s nurse reports that he has been busy telling everyone he knows about this great adventure. He says that every time he thinks of his ride, he feels better.

“What we do in hospice does not change the end result of a patient’s diagnosis. But there is so much that can be done to add joy and fulfillment to the time they have left,” says Janet Walford, VistaCare’s Professional Relations Liaison. “The VistaCare hospice team is dedicated to not only taking care of a patient’s needs – but to surprise and delight them with more concern and support than they ever expected. We do whatever is needed to assure our patients can truly live all the days of their life.”

For further information, contact Walford at (702) 825-5008.

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