Vicky Lingquist, 83, returns to Medford after fulfilling her life long dream swimming with dolphins at 6 flags discovery kingdom in Vallejo Wednesday. - Mail Tribine Photo / Jamie Lusch

Manor program fills residents' dreams

Sliding down the wing of the small plane and into the waiting arms of her attendants, Rogue Valley Manor resident Vickey Lindquist was eased into her wheelchair and onto a new oxygen bottle.

"Home sweet home," she said, grinning amid the cheers.

The spunky 83-year-old was exhausted, but also joyful. She'd just spent the day fulfilling a lifelong dream to swim with dolphins.

"It was all I could hope for," Lindquist said, blue eyes sparkling. "I'd give it a nine-and-a-half at least."

Lindquist is the first of the Manor's health center residents to participate in a new "Dreamcatcher" program, said the center's administrator, Beth Nolan.

Nolan threw the wish-granting concept out at a board meeting a while ago. Lindquist, a board member, was asked what dream she still hadn't fulfilled.

"She said 'I want to swim with dolphins,' and just started crying. So we knew how important it was to her," said Nolan.

Lindquist, a self-confessed water sprite who spent her life "doing this and that," grew up spending summers at an aunt's hotel in Rockport, Mass.

"I was in the water when I was two, and I learned to swim when I was five or so," she said.

But Lindquist had never seen a dolphin until she attended the "water shows" on the West Coast.

"I'd go to the petting pools," said Lindquist. "But never close enough to really touch one."

Wednesday she kissed a dolphin, said her nursing attendant Alley Fleetwood.

"Yes, I did," said Lindquist.

Nolan was initially skeptical she could bring Lindquist's dream to fruition. But the folks at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, Calif., jumped onboard as soon as they were asked, said Nolan.

Rogue Valley pilot Roger Williams donated his red, white and blue single-engine Piper Comanche, and his flying skills, to facilitate Lindquist's dream.

"It was an absolute privilege to do this," said Williams.

Williams flew Lindquist and Fleetwood on a test flight last week to monitor Lindquist's ability to handle flight. The short test flight went well, so the trio made the two-hour flight to Napa early Wednesday. But the weather was hot in Medford and in California — and there was a 30-minute delay on the runway coming home.

"It was hot in the cockpit," said Williams. "But after we took off I took us up to 10,500 feet where the air was cooler and smoother."

Lindquist was a trouper throughout the long day, Williams said.

"She's been tossed around, loaded and unloaded from cars and planes and wrassled into a wetsuit," he said.

Lindquist said she was tuckered, but grateful.

"Bless you, Roger," she said, as the pilot leaned down to give her a big hug. "Thank you. I had a wonderful time, but it's good to be back."

Nolan said following dreams is important at any age.

"A lot of people have a misconception of the elderly — that they've lived their life and are just content to be sitting around," she said. "But they're capable of doing so much. Just ask the question, 'What is your dream?' "

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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