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History Comes to Life for Carolyn in Washington, D.C.

When Carolyn does something, she puts her whole heart into it.

Since the moment she became a mother, Carolyn has given her all to take care of her family and community. In addition to raising her three daughters, she also cared for her two nieces for six years while her brother faced a challenging time. When her oldest daughter faced health issues, Carolyn became the legal guardian of her six grandchildren to save the siblings from being separated in the foster care system.

Through necessity, Carolyn cultivated many hobbies and skills, such as playing the piano, gardening, sewing, and canning. While these often helped her feed her family, nothing fed her soul like her passion for history.

As an African American woman, Carolyn knows the importance of her roots and has dedicated herself to learning everything she can about her heritage and history. Because it’s not just history; it’s her life.

In 1963, Carolyn tucked her newborn daughter under her arm and marched alongside over 125,000 people at the Detroit Walk to Freedom. She listened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give the precursor to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which happened just weeks later in Washington, D.C.

Since then, Carolyn’s passion for history has continued to grow, and at age 79, it has not faded one bit. In fact, Carolyn takes every opportunity to encourage others to explore history and learn from the past. In recent years, she has volunteered for her local African American culture board and gives presentations on the Civil Rights Movement and the history of desegregation in America.

But so much of Carolyn’s learning has happened through books. For decades, Carolyn has dreamed of visiting Washington, D.C., in person.

After hearing Carolyn’s story, we jumped at the opportunity to help her experience our nation’s capital firsthand.

For her wish experience, Carolyn joined Wish of a Lifetime staff and a group of older adults all eager to experience Washington D.C. together.

The memorable trip began with a bus tour of the places Carolyn had only dreamed of seeing—the Capitol Building, the White House, the Jefferson Memorial, the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, Women in Military Service for America Memorial, the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial.

“How I enjoyed meeting everybody,” Carolyn said, smiling. “My favorite part was traveling around with everyone and seeing the monuments.”

The day concluded with a sunlit stroll along the iconic National Mall, where they walked around the World War II Memorial and took in the stunning view of the Washington Monument rising above in the distance.

Carolyn was full of emotion knowing she was walking the same steps as many of the Civil Rights leaders who changed the course of history.

The highlight of Carolyn’s trip to Washington, D.C. came the next day. Finally, she had the chance to explore the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The museum was designed to encourage people to learn about themselves, their histories, and their common cultures—a vision that deeply resonated with Carolyn. Experiencing the interactive exhibits and thousands of artifacts took hours and over a mile of walking, and Carolyn left feeling both emotional and fulfilled.

Carolyn had so much new knowledge to process and think about. For the lifelong historian, it was the trip of a lifetime.

“It added so much to my life and expanded my perspective,” Carolyn shared. “This was a rewarding and fulfilling experience that took me outside my work, family, and community to a much more expanded view of how connected we all are.”

She has also taken every opportunity to share her story and encourage others to go after their own wishes. “I haven’t stopped talking about this experience! I’m telling everybody about it,” she said.

“I found it very emotionally uplifting,” Carolyn said of her experience with the Wish of a Lifetime team. “It was a joy to learn that there are people in our world who reach beyond themselves to ensure that others can reach their goals and dreams.”

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