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GODFREY, Ill. (AP) – Rolling down the red carpet to an exuberant reception on April 10, 95-year-old Juanita Beck gave a royal wave.
Beck, who lives at Blu Fountain Manor in Godfrey, perfected the wave usually given only by royalty for her Queen For a Day event organized by Hospice Dreams, which grants wishes to hospice patients.
Beck’s hospice aide of two years, Yadira Richardson, with Passages Hospice and a certified nursing assistant, and Blu Fountain’s admissions coordinator, Lisa Reynolds, nominated Beck to the nonprofit wish-granting organization for adult hospice patients.
Beck, a petite, spry woman with cheerful, bright blue eyes laughed and kicked up her feet as she sat in her wheelchair with a purple feather boa around her neck and a tiara on her head.
Beck received a donated photo shoot from photographer Deej Gausling of PBC Studios in Bethalto. Then, Hospice Dreams’ public relations coordinator, Darla Watkins, announced Beck’s entrance to the common room, where several Blu Manor residents gathered for a happy hour given in Beck’s honor.
“We have a very special guest who Hospice Dreams is making someone’s dream come true your very own Juanita Beck,” Watkins said to boisterous cheers and applause.
Beck’s smile said it all. The attention and primping made her dream day come true.
“Oh, Juanita, you’re too much,” registered nurse Susan Kokos said.
“Thank you,” Beck replied to more clapping, laughing and cheering.
Watkins recalled that when she pulled the purple boa out of a bag, Beck exclaimed she always had wanted a boa. Watkins also noted that Beck’s granddaughter told her Beck’s favorite quote.
“She told me that she would say, `My memory might not be the best anymore, but I always know when I look good,”’ Watkins recounted.
All the residents at the reception enjoyed a Hawaiian Punch and fresh strawberries drink called “Berry Diva” at the happy hour.
When asked what she thought about all the attention, Beck remembered her family.
“Don’t forget my son,” she said about Emery Beck, who was not at the reception Tuesday.
Beck’s diagnosis upon becoming a Passages Hospice patient was “failure to thrive,” but thrive she did as Queen For a Day. She moved to Blu Fountain three years ago, where she quickly became a favorite of residents and staff.
Hospice Dreams, which is independent of Passages Hospice but which started with Passages, is dedicated to fulfilling unmet wishes, decreasing stress and improving quality of life for adult hospice patients.
“I have the best job in the world,” Watkins said. “How many other people get to get up in the morning and make someone’s dream come true?”
Other Hospice Dreams have included a Skype call from Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler to a huge fan and a backstage visit after a Darius Rucker concert by a fan.
Watkins explained that Passages started Hospice Dreams because it had so many families who wanted to make donations to Passages after a good experience, and at the same time, a Passages patient who wanted to have family flown in to see them.
“The company began thinking they would like to do this for other families,” Watkins said.
Hospice Dreams serves any adult patient currently receiving hospice care in the Midwest, with a primary focus in the state of Illinois, where it is based in Bradley. Over the past three years, it has fulfilled more than 140 Hospice Dreams in both major metropolitan areas and rural communities.