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Program Makes Dreams Come True

S.C. nonprofit grants man's wish to see final space shuttle launch

John Messer, a Bible-loving Army veteran from Inman, S.C., once considered the idea of space flight utterly absurd. He still remembers a high school classmate from the late 1940s who loved to talk about people going to the moon one day.

See also: When dreams take flight.

John Messer was granted a lifelong wish by The Bucket List Dreams program

John Messer. — Courtesy of John Messer

"We called him Moon Man," says the 79-year-old Messer. "My friend was way ahead of his time. Later on he became a science teacher and before he died last year he went down to Cape Canaveral, Fla., twice to view shuttle launches." Ever since he heard about the launches, Messer says, he's wanted to see one live for himself.

Now, thanks to the Bucket List Dreams program, he soon will. The Senior Centers of Spartanburg County, a South Carolina nonprofit that provides services for older people, recently introduced the program to grant older adults one of their lifelong wishes before they kick the proverbial bucket.

Messer was chosen from among 30 applicants as the first recipient. "I'm looking forward to this," he says. "I always thought about attending a space launch but I never thought it would be possible because I understand it's a gigantic event. People come from all over the world."

The Atlantis liftoff scheduled for July 8, which Messer and his wife, Blanche, will witness, is in fact the final launch for NASA's space shuttle program. About 700,000 people are expected to converge on Cape Canaveral, where they will line the rivers, beaches and roadways to watch the historic event. The Messers will be among the crowd setting up a couple of lawn chairs at KARS Park, a nearby campground owned by NASA. "I hear it's an excellent site to watch the launch," he says. The program will cover the $1,300 trip, including roundtrip flight, hotel and tickets to visit the Kennedy Space Center.

Dreams of all sorts

The Bucket List Dreams program is the brainchild of Sandra K. Owensby, president of Senior Centers for Spartanburg County. She says she first came up with the idea after watching the 2007 comedy The Bucket List, in which Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play a couple of terminal cancer patients who decide to do everything they always wanted to do in life before their time expires.

"The movie really inspired me, and I thought, we need a program like this for seniors," says Owensby, 64, who has since crossed a few items off her own list, including remarrying after nearly 20 years.

Next: Goal is to grant one or two dreams a year. >>

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