87-year old Salvatore, affectionately known as “Sal,” is the quintessential New Yorker: he loves New York, the Yankees, and a real good story. For his Wish of a Lifetime, Sal wanted to return to The Big Apple once again.
This charismatic Bronx native was brought up to believe that it was his duty to protect and serve others, and that he did. Sal served in the U.S. army for two years before returning to serve as a police officer for five years. Shortly thereafter, Sal joined the New York Fire Department, which became his second home for 21 years. He loved the adrenaline, his brothers and the sense of purpose he found on the job. “Everybody was a character,” Sal said, chuckling, “I miss it everyday.”
Sal has not been back to New York City since 1998 when his father passed away. Sal said that it seemed just like yesterday his father took him to his first Yankees baseball game in 1936. He longed to visit once more to revel in the buzz of the stadium air and the enigmatic energy of New York City.
Though New York will always have a special piece of Sal, his wife of 65 years – Rosie – has his heart, and he moved to Florida with her after he retired. Together, they raised two beautiful children, one of whom followed in Sal’s footsteps and became a firefighter and a paramedic.
Tragically, Sal and his wife lost their eldest son five years ago in a car accident and have struggled to fully enjoy a sense of happiness again. Reconnecting with the people and places that were so important to him would be “the greatest gift I could ever imagine,” Sal said.
Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale Senior Living Community were thrilled to honor Sal’s incredible service and resilient spirit. Thanks to Wish of a Lifetime’s partnership with the New York Yankees, Sal flew to New York City with his son, Nick and grandson, Nick Jr., on a bright, crisp morning in June.
On June 14, Sal truly experienced a day of a lifetime. First, Sal returned to Firehouse 130, where several New York Yankees greeted him for a hero’s welcome for the Yankees’ HOPE week. Next, Sal rolled up to the Yankees game in style, where he got the chance to hang out with the players during batting practice. Finally, Sal was honored at the game, where he threw the first pitch. The Yankees celebrated Sal’s service to the NYFD, and Sal and his family watched the Yankees bring home a win.
For once, this charismatic old soul seemed at a loss for words. “This experience was more than I ever dreamed of,” Sal said.
Special thanks to the Yankees staff and players who went above and beyond to make this wish incredibly special for the Reale family. Wish of a Lifetime would like to express our appreciation for the Yankees’ generous $10,000 donation to our organization.