Wish Stories

Ken Faces Two Fears with a Flight to the Ocean

We all have fears in our lives, and at certain times, most of us would admit that they’ve held us back from doing something we wanted.

But, when it comes to fear, there’s also a silver lining: the feeling of overcoming it and moving forward. And from that day forward, that personal victory—that sense of accomplishment— is something we can turn to whenever we need some extra courage.

Ken, age 70, is no stranger to adversity and fear. And in this season of his life, he’s been reflecting on his fears and is no longer content letting them hold him back.

One fear has been with him since he was young. Ken’s family lived close to an airport while he was growing up. Standing in his backyard, he would look up and marvel at the airplanes coming and going all day long. He wondered what it would be like to be inside one of these planes, looking out the window and floating through the clouds. But paired with his curiosity, a sense of fear was also growing inside him.

This fear of heights and flying has followed Ken into adulthood. Adulthood came early for Ken, as he’s been working hard to provide for himself and his family for as long as he can remember. In fact, Ken was already working at age 12.

Ken had a job in a state park close to his home. One day, while Ken was helping remove debris in the park, a falling tree knocked him into the water. Ken was stuck, and he remained submerged until he was rescued.

It was a terrifying moment that has stayed with him since that day, resulting in a deep fear of water.

Wish recipient Ken and wife Elizabeth hold hands walking on beach
Ken and Elizabeth smiling broadly as they see ocean first time
Ken and Elizabeth stand happily in front of ocean

It’s true that Ken has faced many obstacles and heartbreak throughout his life. But he’s never allowed that to stop him from working hard, especially when it comes to providing for others. Ken is proud to have raised a family, including adopting two children with his wife, Elizabeth. He shared that this has made him the proudest and happiest he’s ever been.

Those who know Ken well would tell you he’s the kind of person who shows he cares through his actions. Like how he mowed his mother’s lawn for over a decade, caring for her until she passed away three years ago.

Ken was everyone’s favorite BINGO caller at his local church and would help them with maintenance and by fixing things whenever he could. The same goes for any neighbor or friend—all they had to do was ask, and Ken would be there.

Ken’s dedication and generosity have kept him continually working, and not having many opportunities to do something meaningful for himself. But, recently, Ken has expressed the urge to conquer his fears.

When Wish of a Lifetime heard Ken’s story, we were honored at the chance to help him take some time for himself—and to face his fears in the process by flying on a commercial flight for the first time.

When asked what this experience would mean to him, Ken said, “I’d be happy—I’d get to do something I never did and face my fear of going high.”

Ken looks at Elizabeth as she points on the beach
Elizabeth leans on wish recipient Kens shoulder on beach

But that’s not the only fear Ken would face during his wish of a lifetime!

Every flight must have a destination, and Ken’s was the ocean. Ken was thrilled to share this special trip with his wife Elizabeth. Together, they flew from Pennsylvania all the way to Florida, landing in Tampa.

Ken’s first time on an airplane was positive, and he said the flight felt “like riding in a Cadillac…it was so smooth.”

After they arrived at sunny Clearwater Beach, they could see the glittering, white sand welcoming them. Hand in hand, Ken and Elizabeth walked across the beach, taking in all the sights and smells of the ocean.

“I think he was amazed,” Elizabeth said, describing the moment when Ken saw the ocean for the first time in his life. With deep emotion breaking up her voice, she expressed how much the experience meant to them both.

“Thank you guys very much, I don’t know how to express the ‘thank you,’ I really enjoyed it,” she said.

As he stood with the tide tickling his feet, Ken felt the warmth of the sunshine on his back, but also the glow of pride from within him.

“I feel this would make me fulfilled that I overcame two lifelong fears,” he said.

Reflecting on his wish, Ken said he hoped his story could help others to do the same, at any age. And, to keep hope alive, even through challenging times:

“Keep your nose to the grindstone,” he said. “Someday, something good will happen.”

Want to see more stories like Ken’s?

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Colleen and her daughter laugh as they walk together along the ocean

One incredible story at a time, Wish of a Lifetime is changing the perception of aging—not just how we view our oldest citizens but also how we see and value ourselves as we age.

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