Facebook pixel
Senior Helen smiles while singing solo during big debut on stage

Helen Makes Her Big Debut

Helen, age 82, is a woman who has faced many challenges head-on. But one thing has eluded her—sharing the song that’s been in her heart for as long as she can remember.

Although Helen has loved singing and dancing since she was a child, she has always been too shy to perform in front of others. But that did not dampen Helen’s love of music and theater. She fueled her passion by taking music classes, learning to play the piano, and producing plays with a local theater.

That’s just a taste of Helen’s determination. After retiring from a 37-year career at a federal government agency, Helen poured her energy into helping others. She started programs at her church to provide food, clothing, and shelter to those experiencing homelessness in Washington, D.C. She also did mission work in Kenya and the Dominican Republic and provided resources and emergency aid during the 2010 earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

Now, she continues to challenge herself by taking classes at Senior Planet to improve her computer skills.

Helen shows the same level of dedication to her family. Helen would tell you that when she met her husband, Rev. McKinley, she was excited to have someone she trusted to sing for. And for over 30 years of marriage, their family home has been filled with songs and laughter.

Along the way, Helen and Rev. McKinley have stood by each other through significant obstacles. Helen is a breast cancer survivor and recalls the challenging winter she underwent chemotherapy treatments five times a week for three months. Her husband supported her in every way, like shoveling her car out of the driveway many mornings so she could make it to her appointments.

And now, they are facing a new challenge together as he undergoes health issues. Helen devotes her time to caring for her husband and supporting him emotionally every step of the way.

Helen learned about Wish of a Lifetime at a Senior Planet event. We were honored to help when she told the Wish team that she was finally ready to take to the stage after many years behind the scenes.

Helen’s wish was to overcome her life-long stage fright by performing a song in front of her community. We connected her to a local theater group known for their annual Christmas show—the perfect way for her to make her big debut.

After many rehearsals, the day of Helen’s big performance finally arrived. Helen stepped out on stage with her husband, family, and friends in the crowd. She later admitted that she felt so scared at that moment. But as she sang with the chorus, everyone around her could see her light up from within.

Then, it was time for Helen’s big moment. She surprised the crowd with a solo performance!

“Because of you, there’s a song in my heart,” she sang, beautifully serenading the audience with her favorite song by Tony Bennett.

The audience loved it! Helen received a well-deserved standing ovation and was given flowers by her fans.

Reflecting on her experience, Helen said that sharing her passion in front of her community has made her feel stronger—almost like a new person.

I’m still floating; it was just beyond my imagination…I never expected I could do a solo,” she said. “Surrounded by wonderful people and seeing everybody’s smiles as I was singing kept boosting me up.”

Helen has formed friendships with her fellow performers and plans to join them on stage again. She hopes her wish story will inspire others to push themselves and try new things—at any age!

“Just do it scared,” she said. “That’s my mission right now – to try and encourage older people. Don’t let fear stop you!”

Want to see more stories like Helen’s?

Sign up for our email list and continue to be inspired by the stories of older adults fulfilling their dreams.

Wish of a Lifetime from AARP is changing how we age, one inspirational wish at a time.

Submit a life-changing wish in your community, and share your favorite wish story on Facebook and Instagram to inspire your network!