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At 75, McKeesport man's ready to jump out of a plane again

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 12:07 p.m.
Peter Crnkovic, 75, of McKeesport was a recent recipient of a wish through the Twilight Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to seniors. Crnkovic went skydiving for the first time in 20 years in September. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Peter Crnkovic, 75, of McKeesport went skydiving in September thanks to The Western Pennsylvania Chapter of Twilight Wish Foundation. Submitted

Peter Crnkovic loves the rush of jumping out of a plane.

An avid skydiver as a younger man, he took the leap more than 20 times with friends. Now 75, he hadn't experienced that feeling in two decades.

This fall, an organization dedicated to granting wishes to seniors changed that. The Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the Twilight Wish Foundation organized and paid for Crnkovic to take another jump.

“I flew like a bird,” said Crnkovic of McKeesport. “It was really something else.”

The Western Pennsylvania chapter of the national organization covers Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington and Butler counties. It has granted 28 wishes since 2006.

The national headquarters is in Doylestown, with active chapters also in Erie, Georgia, Arizona, California, Washington, Idaho, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Virginia and Illinois. Since the foundation's inception in 2003, chapters have granted more than 1,680 wishes.

Wishes are granted for seniors older than 68 with an income of less than 200 percent of the national poverty level, among other requirements.

Some wishes are simple, such as people who need new, appliances, dentures or hearing aids. Some seniors want to visit their hometown or hold a family reunion. Some want to publish a book or meet a celebrity.

Bonnie Caripolti, coordinator for the local group, has watched many people receive their wishes.

“Regardless of the type or size of the wish, it's a great feeling knowing that you have helped to brighten the life of a local senior,” she said.

All wishes are funded through donations. The local organization received two large gifts this year — $5,000 from members of the Susan Yadamec Dance Company from Greensburg, who donated all proceeds from their spring dance recital; and $500 from Gallagher Home Health Services of Carnegie. To date, the local chapter has spent about $8,000 on wishes.

Crnkovic, a retired mill worker, said he wasn't sure he'd be able to jump again until he was up in the plane. While he used to jump solo, this time he'd go tandem, to avoid injuries.

Once he looked out over the edge, he knew he could do it.

“Where else do you get a feeling like that?” he said.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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