The terminally ill former longshoreman became NorthBay Hospice’s first recipient of “Dream of a Lifetime” earlier this year. The program is one of only a handful of wish-granting projects in the nation that have no age restrictions. It is designed to offer the patient joy, contentment and a sense of completion near the end of their lives.
Picked up by limousine and whisked to the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Bill started the day in style. It was no easy feat. He has a disease called Multiple Systems Atrophy (MSA), which robs the body of muscle control, while leaving the mind intact. But Bill’s sturdy son, son-in-law and grandson cheerfully loaded him into and out of the limo. Later they helped him don his helmet and strap into the car that would take Bill on a roaring, rollicking spin for several laps.
Fairfield’s Jim Inglebright, a NASCAR veteran of the Infineon road race circuit, was Bill’s pilot. Making pit stops to drop off and pick up backseat participants, Bill happily stayed in his shotgun position for the duration, grinning to his waving crowd of supporters, including daughter Tracy Brooks.
When asked what he thought of his ride of a lifetime, he gave a deadpan answer to a laughing crowd: “Too slow.”
“Dad had such a blast,” says Tracy. “After his experience, he had a small sip of champagne in the limousine and we got him into bed, but the next day he was still thrilled by it all. And he was very moved that many of his caregivers from NorthBay Hospice came out to see him ride.”
“We’re so pleased to offer this once-in-a-lifetime experience and our dream is to provide it at least annually,” says Chris Root, director of NorthBay Health at Home & Hospice. “Seeing Bill out on the Infineon race track thrilled us all. The hardest thing about that day was trying to find someone without a big smile.”
Brooks said her father was profoundly different after his Dream of a Lifetime experience. “When I came to see him the next day, he kept holding my hand and even wheeled over to the door when I was leaving,” she says. “He’s never been someone who demonstrated a lot of affection. I am sure it was all the love and support he felt, and it’s wonderful.”
Root says the patient isn’t the only beneficiary. “We want to create a lasting, positive memory for the loved ones,” she explaines. “Hearing how much fun Bill’s grandson had and seeing his son and daughter and their spouses so happy makes our efforts so worthwhile.”
Dream of a Lifetime is sponsored by donations. Those who want more information on how to become a “dream maker” can contact the NorthBay Healthcare Foundation at (707) 646-3132. It’s not just money, but donation of time, talent and connections.
“Some wishes will be quite modest, like a ride on a motorcycle through the wine country, or a fishing trip or something very simple,” says Brett Johnson, president of NorthBay Healthcare Foundation, the organization overseeing the Dream of a Lifetime program. “Yes, we need monetary help, but we also need a cadre of ‘dream makers’ who just want to organize events like Mr.
Bill’s day, or connect with those who can donate services.” Bill’s day at the track included the generous time and talents donated by a host of “dream makers,” topped by Jim and Valerie Inglebright, who own and operate American Auto Body Specialists and Roadrunner Towing in Fairfield. Also making the dream come true were Diana Brennan from Infineon Raceway, Jelly Belly Candy Co., Bob Dias of North Bay Truck Body and a NorthBay Healthcare Foundation board member, plus Randy and Dana Lemo of Platinum Limousine of Fairfield.
NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement remains the only nonprofit, locally based hospice program that serves all residents of Solano County. NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement gives support to patients and families dealing with end-of-life and quality-of-life issues, with specialized care and comfort for the terminally ill. With a network that provides knowledge and resources for loved ones at home, Hospice offers an array of services that combine physical, emotional and spiritual care.