Rudy Moise was a 20-year-old pre-med student in Chicago at the University of Illinois when he decided to help an elder.
“I was working in a nursing home and every day I saw this gentleman sitting in the corner,” Moise said. “He was very quiet and I found out that he was turning 80 so I approached him. I asked him, ‘What would you like to have? What would put a smile on your face?’”
The gentleman asked if he could buy him a pint of Old Grand Dad whiskey at the corner store. Moise did.
“Later, he started to sing and be happy and the nurses saw he had a big smile,” Moise said. “I almost got fired. However I felt so good that I could do this for him.”
Moise, who was born in Port-au-Prince, went on to become an osteopathic family physician as well as an attorney with an MBA degree. And he is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel.
Remembering his early act of kindness led him to create Golden Wishes in a partnership with United Way of Miami-Dade.
He started his service project after participating in the Landmark Self Expression and Leadership program. And he put in the first $5,000 “to get things going.” Moise is a board member of United Way and the new chair of Jackson Health Foundation.
The first 16 wishes were given at a lunch for recipients and the volunteers who helped make them happen.
Manuel Torres, 72, didn’t ask for a wish for himself. He asked for swimming lessons for his granddaughter, which she will get next spring.
Delia Diaz, 74, got a round trip flight to North Carolina to see her very ill grandson. She has been helping with medical costs, but no longer had the money to visit him.
Lynette Boodhoo, 73, wanted to find an old friend she had lost after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. United Way volunteer Jillian Snyder did the research and now the friends are reconnected.
Dorothy Thomas, 78, Gypsie Jean Louis, 89, and Olga Pastrana, 80, will see the musical “Dirty Dancing” at the Arsht Center in downtown Miami thanks to a donation from Bank of America.
Thomas has never been to a musical before. She is going with her daughter and grandchildren.
“God has been good to me,” Thomas said. “I really enjoyed the lunch they gave us. I felt so blessed to be there. I got tears in my eyes listening to the wishes. It’s so beautiful.”
Volunteer Maria Alonso, who has been active in United Way for over 10 years, said it was really fulfilling to be part of the Golden Wishes experience.
“Just to see their expressions was wonderful. I was really touched,” Alonso said. “When Dr. Moise brought us the idea I told him I would like to be involved.”
Moise and Alonso were part of the committee that sifted through more than 100 applications to find wish requests that captured their hearts. Applicants could request three.
United Way’s Linda Schotthoefer said the team of volunteers and support staff was looking for “something about the wish applicant, or something about the wish.”
“We still have a few on the back-burner for the second round,” she said. Golden Wishes, she said, is one of numerous programs United Way has developed to help older adults.
“We have a long footprint with serving. Rudy knew that we work with older adults and this became a perfect partnership. It benefits the volunteers, too,” she said. “They were super excited when they saw the reactions of the recipients.”
Patricia Aldridge, 73, needed that final installment on a cruise she had been planning. She said the lady who sponsored her sent a picture of the new Carnival Vista that she will take around the Caribbean for six days.
“I cut the ship out and put it on the wall next to where I eat and I just look at it and think about what a grand time I’m going to have,” Aldridge said. She’s never been on a long cruise before and she’s planning to get souvenirs for the family. “Little things, you know, to represent the islands.”
Other Golden Wishes include a trip to New Jersey for Eduardo Reigosa, 73, to meet his granddaughters for the first time and to reunite four generations. Jean Marie Marthone, 87, will get to see his 24-year-old son in Haiti after 10 years.
And Teresa Fernandez Aragon, 78, and Zoira Perez, 71, both animal lovers, had wishes to swim with dolphins. Perez has been dreaming about it for 20 years. Through a Miami Seaquarium donation, both will get their Golden Wishes.
Moise, the doctor who had the vision back when he was a student in Chicago, will be there at the dolphin swim. He wants to make sure everything goes OK.
“Seeing the faces of these seniors getting something they never dreamed of from their bucket list. That did it for me,” he said.
He’s hoping new people will volunteer and donate. And he’s looking forward to seeing all the pictures from “after they’ve had their wishes.”
Golden Wishes at United Way of Miami-Dade fulfills the special wishes for adults over 70. To donate or volunteer contact United Way at 305-646-7081 or email email@example.com