As he approached the community room in his wheelchair last Tuesday, Edwin Snider did not suspect that he, quite literally, was about to enter a dream come true.
But when he heard the voice of Chris Denem channeling Neil Diamond, and greeting him with a soulful rendition of “Hello Again,” Snider began to beam.
The 73-year-old resident of the Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center since June 2011, was a surprised recipient of a Twilight Wish, having been nominated by Melissa Debernardi, a former social worker for the Jewish Association on Aging.
The Twilight Wish Foundation — similar in mission to Make-a-Wish America for children — is a nonprofit organization that honors deserving senior citizens by granting wishes.
When Debernardi first heard about the Twilight Wish Foundation several months ago, the first person she thought of was Snider.
“Ed was there when I first started [in October 2011],” she said. “At that time, we didn’t know that Charles Morris would be his forever home. I’m sure this is not how he envisioned the rest of his life would be. But he handled it with such grace. He’s just that kind of guy, the kind you can just sit and chat with and then walk away feeling really good. He’s just such a nice guy.”
Debernardi got in touch with Snider’s son, Marc Snider, and told him that she wanted to nominate his dad for a wish, but that she wasn’t sure what that wish should be.
Marc, also known as the radio DJ “Bubba” on 100.7 FM, told Debernardi that his dad was a big Neil Diamond fan, and would probably love to attend a concert.
Only one problem: Diamond was not touring.
So Twilight Wish did the next best thing, and hired Denem, a Diamond impersonator since the late 1970s, to come to Charles Morris and do a concert there.
Denem did an hour show, singing the hits of Diamond, including “Sweet Caroline,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Song Sung Blue, and “Forever in Blue Jeans,” accompanied by a synthesizer and guitar.
With a wide smile, Snider sang along with some of the songs, keeping time to the music by tapping his hand in his lap.
“He’s great,” Snider said of Denem. “He sounds just like Neil Diamond.”
The concert marked the first time that a Twilight Wish was granted at Charles Morris, according to Carol Danhires, director of activities at the facility. But after the show, she and her staff began brainstorming other wishes that could be granted for other residents.
“There are some people here who have had extraordinary lives,” Danhires said. “It’s amazing what they’ve accomplished.”
The volunteer-driven Twilight Wish was founded in 2003 in Bucks County. Since then, it has granted almost 2,000 wishes.
The first Twilight Wish came in 2004 to an 81-year-old nursing facility resident named Margaret. She wished to have a tombstone for her deceased son who had been buried in an unmarked grave.
This past Halloween, Twilight Wish sent a 75-year-old woman from Pitcairn to Florida to visit a friend with throat cancer who can no longer speak.
To be eligible for a Twilight Wish, a senior has to be age 68 or older, and earn less than 200 percent of poverty level annually, or live in a nursing facility.
Twilight Wish is a 501(c)(3) charity and can accept tax-deductible contributions. The organization now has chapters throughout the country.
The Neil Diamond event was a real party, complete with a cake provided by the JAA. Several of Snider’s family members were in attendance, as were many other residents of the facility, all enjoying the lively Neil Diamond tunes.
“This guy is great,” said Snider. “I love this music.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)