It was almost imperceptible, but 101-year-old Alice Holben was definitely tapping a foot to Scott Eggert’s rendition of “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”
With four generations of her family members watching, Holben, a resident of Cedarbrook nursing home in Fountain Hill, was brought up to the piano so Eggert could serenade her with some of her favorite songs. When the professional singer and musician finished “You Are My Sunshine,” the quiet Holben was ready to propose. “I love him,” she said to Mary Hazzard, the facility’s administrator. “I would have taken him for myself.”
Score one for Cedarbrook Dream Catchers, a project that grants wishes to residents of Lehigh County’s nursing home in Fountain Hill. Holben’s wish had been to have a man sing to her, and volunteer Zulma Alvarez recruited Eggert for the task.
“It’s definitely an honor for a musician to be appointed to make someone’s dream come true,” said Eggert, who plays in a wedding band, in addition to being music director at church in Emmaus and instrumental teacher at , also in Emmaus.
One of the benefits of Holben’s wish was that the rest of the residents got to share in it as they listened to Eggert play and sing old favorites like “Strangers in the Night,” “Body and Soul,” and “Blue Moon.”
Right after the concert, Pro Football Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik surprised the residents with an appearance in which he took questions and signed autographs before adding his signature to a mural there featuring him and two other sports icons from the Lehigh Valley -- boxer Larry Holmes and race car driver Mario Andretti. A native of Bethlehem, Bednarik who now lives in Coopersburg, joked with residents and staff, even rattling off comments in his parents’ native Slovak. He briefly put the nursing home administrator, Mary Hazzard, in a headlock -- much to her amusement.
A former Philadelphia Eagle, Bednarik joked that today’s players “are pussycats.”
“I’m the last of the 60-minute men who stayed on the field the whole time,” he said.
Bednarik and Eggert both gave their time free of charge to the project, as have others such as Mario Andretti, who fulfilled a resident’s dream to meet with him. In April, resident and car racing fan, Dave McQuillen, sat with Andretti and showed him a photo collection that McQuillen’s father had passed down to him which included photos from the 1960s of Andretti at races.
Not all the dreams would be everyone’s cup of tea. Resident Annie Diehl’s dream was to have someone fix her sweetbreads, which are calf’s organs including the pancreas. Dream Catchers brought in chef Javan Small to cook up the delicacy for Diehl. “She absolutely loved it,” said Alvarez. Small, who provided the whole meal for free, charmed the residents and staff, Alvarez said.
Another resident wished for collard greens and one of the therapeutic recreation staff members, Ros Otto, cooked them for her.
Most of the dreams to date have been inexpensive but one resident has asked for Dream Catchers to pay the costs to have a family member from out of state come visit and another would like to see Niagara Falls.
To raise money to fulfill some of the more expensive dreams, Cedarbrook Dream Catchers is planning a 3K walk on Saturday, Oct. 15, starting at Looper’s Grille at 313 E. Third Street in Bethlehem. Those interested in taking part can register at www.cedarbrookdreamcatchers.org
In January, Cedarbrook Fountain Hill learned an anonymous donor had given it a permanent membership to an organization called “Second Wind Dreams,” a non-profit based in Georgia which works toward fulfilling dreams of nursing home residents. Alvarez, whose mother lives at Cedarbrook, worked with Hazzard to set up the nursing home’s Dream Catchers program which started fulfilling dreams in the spring.
“There is a perception in the community that everybody [in nursing homes] is bored and everybody is in despair,” Hazzard said. “The goal is to change the perception of aging. It gets the community more involved.”
Hazzard’s own office belies the nursing home stereotype of a sterile institution. The nursing home cat, Rocky, has his food dishes in her office so residents come visit him there. “That’s why he’s so heavy,” Hazzard said. “Residents purchase their treats [for him].
Each Dream Catchers event adds to the buzz in the home, Alvarez said. “What we’re noticing is a change in the environment,” she said. “Everybody’s going to be talking about it. It changes the energy.”