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Wish recipient Roland smiling sits inside Helicopter before take off

Roland’s Fascination Takes Flight

When he looks back at his childhood, one of Roland’s most cherished memories is playing with gliders made of balsa wood. He could daydream all day long about aircraft and often imagined what it would be like to fly through the sky in those incredible machines. His fascination has never faded—even today, at age 69!

Roland has worked many jobs throughout his life, bringing his positive energy and bright smile to every role. He’s been a cowboy, chef, foreman, truck driver, ordained minister, carpenter, and amateur radio host—just to name a few!

But his proudest achievement is becoming a master electrician. When his colleagues doubted him, he did not give up until he accomplished his goal.

“Others thought that wouldn’t be a possibility for me, but I studied hard,” he said. “The first time I took the test, I failed, but I went back and studied really, really hard, and I passed!”

That’s just the start of Roland’s determination and perseverance.

While he’s been able to live a life full of experiences through his different roles, it has not always been easy. Roland had to undergo a knee and shoulder replacement and spent a month rehabilitating. Finding employment after his surgeries was challenging. But that didn’t stop Roland. As he continues to heal, Roland pours his energy into helping others.

For several years, Roland has volunteered with the Red Cross. During this time, he has watched with fascination as helicopters aided in disaster relief, and medical transports have become literal lifelines in the direst of situations.

To this day, every time Roland encounters a chopper, he is mesmerized by the anatomy and velocity of the aircraft. He is mesmerized by the internal workings of helicopters and can describe the finer points of their anatomy and the impact on velocity and lift.

Advancements in aircraft and aeronautics have afforded him a life-long learning opportunity and provided a sense of purpose throughout his life. However, as he has aged and faced difficult life circumstances, connecting with this passion has been made even more challenging.

When Oak Street Health introduced us to Roland and we heard his story, we were thrilled to celebrate his passion for aeronautics and make his lifelong dream come true. We put the wheels in motion to get Roland soaring high on a helicopter!

Roland’s wish took place on a bright autumn day in New Mexico. Accompanied by his son-in-law, Roland visited Vertical Limit Aviation, where he eagerly learned about helicopters and got first-hand experience operating one with the flight simulator.

Full of anticipation, Roland and his son-in-law walked across the tarmac and climbed into the helicopter. And then, it was time to fly! The helicopter lifted with ease, and they quickly disappeared into the bright blue sky above.

Looking out of the enormous windows, Roland was enthralled with the natural beauty of the terrain below him.

“It was fantastic and gave me a new perspective on the world,” he said. “I’m still telling my friends about it!”

During his flight, Roland felt a rush of adrenaline like he had not felt in years.

“The last time I had that much excitement was when my daughter was born in 1974,” he exclaimed.

When the helicopter landed, Roland was brimming with joy, expressing his thanks to Wish of a Lifetime, Oak Street Health, and his new friends at Vertical Limit Aviation.

“The people that made this wish possible—I will give them a thank you or a big hug,” he said.

And Roland’s enthusiasm has not faded since his wish was granted. In fact, he wants others to feel the same joy and has been on a mission to encourage people to submit their wishes.

“I have been telling everybody about Wish of a Lifetime,” he said. “And that if they have a secret desire, they should at least give it a shot! They do everything in their power to fulfill your wish.”

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Wish of a Lifetime sponsor Oak Street Health logo

We thank Oak Street Health for supporting Wish of a Lifetime from AARP. To learn more about sponsorship, please get in touch with Dana Rinderknecht.

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