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Program Makes Dreams Come True

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

John Messer with Sandra Owensby, founder of The Bucket List Dreams program that grants lifelong wishes to seniors

Sandra Owensby presents lifelong space enthusiast John Messer a Bucket List Dreams award enabling him to view a NASA space shuttle launch. — Courtesy of Senior Centers of Spartanburg County

Owensby says she is still soliciting sponsors for the program, which she hopes will grant one or two dreams a year. To enter, Spartanburg County applicants must complete a form and write an essay detailing their dream. So far, these have ranged from driving a NASCAR race car to going on a Walmart shopping spree. An advisory committee chooses the winner.

Messer was a good first choice, Owensby says. He retired in 1992 from his job at a textile mill and is very active in the local community. He's a contributing writer at a weekly newspaper, serves as a Red Cross volunteer and, with his wife, delivers mobile meals for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. He also volunteers at a health center and is a registered substitute teacher.

The shuttle launch should be unforgettable. "The actual launch is supposed to be ground-shaking," says Messer, whose only other bucket list item is visiting the Grand Canyon.

"I've been to stock car races where they have 40 800-horsepower cars at the starting line and I've sat in the grandstand and it would actually shake from the force generated by those 40 automobiles," he recalls. "But they say that's child's play compared to when a space shuttle takes off. You can't imagine [what that feels like]. I think it would be real exciting."

And he adds, " However much longer I got, I could say, 'Well, I was there for the very last one.' "

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Craigh Barboza is the editor of

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