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Twilight Wish makes senior citizens' dreams come true

Jeff Himler
| Sunday, May 20, 2018, 11:00 p.m.
Patty Hovanec (left), board-certified hearing instrument specialist at the Miracle-Ear Hearing Aid Center in Hempfield, explains the result of her May 11, 2018, hearing test to Carol Knopsnider of Saltlick Township, Fayette County.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Patty Hovanec (left), board-certified hearing instrument specialist at the Miracle-Ear Hearing Aid Center in Hempfield, explains the result of her May 11, 2018, hearing test to Carol Knopsnider of Saltlick Township, Fayette County.
Carol Knopsnider (left) of Saltlick Township, Fayette County, receives instruction in the use and care of her new hearing aids from Patty Hovanec, board-certified hearing instrument specialist, on May 11, 2018, at the Miracle-Ear Hearing Aid Center in Hempfield. Knopsnider received the hearing aids through a partnership of the Twilight Wish Foundation and the Miracle-Ear Foundation.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Carol Knopsnider (left) of Saltlick Township, Fayette County, receives instruction in the use and care of her new hearing aids from Patty Hovanec, board-certified hearing instrument specialist, on May 11, 2018, at the Miracle-Ear Hearing Aid Center in Hempfield. Knopsnider received the hearing aids through a partnership of the Twilight Wish Foundation and the Miracle-Ear Foundation.
Sister Patricia Mary Wilson (center) prepares to lift off on a hot-air-balloon ride Aug. 16, 2017, in East Palestine, Ohio.
Jane Strittmatter | Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill
Sister Patricia Mary Wilson (center) prepares to lift off on a hot-air-balloon ride Aug. 16, 2017, in East Palestine, Ohio.
Sister Patricia Mary Wilson, of Greensburg's Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, gazes over the lanscape of eastern Ohio during a hot air balloon ride Aug. 16, 2017, that was her wish granted by the Twilight Wish Foundation.
Michelle VanHorn | Twilight Wish Foundation
Sister Patricia Mary Wilson, of Greensburg's Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, gazes over the lanscape of eastern Ohio during a hot air balloon ride Aug. 16, 2017, that was her wish granted by the Twilight Wish Foundation.

Carol Knopsnider's cousin, Phyllis Wiltrout, came through loud and clear when she asked, “Can you hear me now?”

Knopsnider smiled and said, “I'm going to be able to hear all kinds of things.”

Knopsnider, of Saltlick Township, Fayette County, has had trouble hearing since she was 19. Now 73, she was stuck in a world of muffled voices and sounds after her hearing aid recently malfunctioned and she couldn't afford a replacement.

This month, she received a new, more powerful aid through the Twilight Wish Foundation and the Miracle-Ear Foundation.

“You'll be able to talk to people in the car,” Wiltrout told her cousin, whom she drove to the Miracle-Ear office in Hempfield to be fitted with a pair of molded, behind-the-ear hearing aids. “You'll be able to hear the telephone and when people knock at the door.”

Knopsnider is one of more than 2,700 seniors who have received wishes through the efforts of Twilight Wish, a Doylestown-based charitable nonprofit with 15 chapters across the United States.

The charity began in 2003 in Bucks County, after Cass Forkin picked up the diner bill for a group of older women who were scraping together change to pay for lunch. Their gratitude inspired Forkin to start the nonprofit.

The foundation grants a variety of wishes to those over 65 who have an income of less than 200 percent of the poverty level or who are otherwise unable to make their wish come true.

“If they meet our criteria, we will approve them and work to grant them,” said Mary Farrell, the organization's director of community relations.

Nominations for wishes often come from nursing home staff or social workers, but anyone can submit a request. Knopsnider's hearing aids were requested by cousin Stephanie Knopsnider. That request was fulfilled by Twilight Wish's Westmoreland County chapter, which connected with Miracle-Ear through its partnership with Senior Helpers, an organization that provides in-home assistance and other services to seniors.

“It's just a way to give back,” said Nicole Zavatsky, director of client services at Senior Helpers.

“This organization brings people together for a greater good,” said Jamie Bostard, director of the Westmoreland Twilight Wish chapter and CEO of Express Mobile Diagnostic Services in Penn Township. “The folks who are involved in the chapter are in all aspects of health care within the county. It's really establishing a lot of partnerships in the community to make sure that we can continue granting these wishes.”

Lift chairs and stair lifts are frequent wish requests. “We do a lot of health care accessibility, allowing seniors to remain in their homes and helping them out of their seats,” Farrell said.

Regardless of age, the foundation also grants wishes for long-term residents of skilled nursing homes. Last year, it helped Michael Moore, a man in his 20s and a resident at Murrysville Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, attend a Penguins game .

Other area wishes have included transforming the activity room at Westmoreland Manor into a mini-casino for 89-year-old resident Della Lewis and helping Hempfield octogenarian Patricia Glasser revisit her lifelong passion — riding a horse.

The average cost for a wish is $1,800, Bostard said. But, she noted, “It depends on what the wish is for and what we can get donated or discounted.”

The sky's the limit, literally, when it comes to granting some special requests — as long as the recipient is physically capable of participating.

Twilight Wish has taken a Vietnam veteran up for a ride in a fighter jet and a Greensburg nun on a hot air balloon trip.

Sister Patricia Mary Wilson, 84, of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, enjoyed the 40-minute balloon ride last August, rising from a farm field in East Palestine, Ohio, and landing in another near Columbiana, Ohio.

Wilson has volunteered with United Way's Faith in Action, now known as Open Your Heart to a Senior, which helps seniors live independently. She was nominated for her wish by Lori Sendro, former program director of Greater Greensburg Faith in Action.

“It was a surreal experience. It was very peaceful. I hated for it to end. It was truly a highlight of my life,” Wilson said. “I had no trepidation except when we came down, and the younger people jumped out of the basket. I thought, ‘How do I get out?' They just kind of lifted me out.”

The foundation relies on donations and proceeds from local events such as the Westmoreland chapter's third annual golf outing, set for Sept. 15 at Manor Valley Golf Course.

“Any of the money raised in Westmoreland County stays in Westmoreland County,” said Bostard, who added: “We're always looking for more wishes.”

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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