You might not have heard of the Twilight Wish Foundation, but Cherie Dixon is working hard to change that.
Dixon is director of the Washington County chapter of Twilight Wish, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization that fulfills wishes for senior citizens.
Twilight Wish’s mission: to make the world a nicer place to age, one wish at a time.
“It’s a passion of mine,” said Dixon, 55, of Canonsburg, who first volunteered with Twilight Wish in early 2016 and was named director in October of that year. “There are so many seniors, particularly in this county, who are so deserving of having wishes fulfilled, and in many cases they’re not asking for extravagant things.”
In fact, plenty of wish requests are for simple items, including hearing aids, wheelchairs, walkers and medical equipment not covered by insurance and appliances.
Twilight Wish also works to help seniors complete bucket list wishes, like riding a motorcycle, meeting a celebrity, publishing a book, skydiving or attending a sporting event.
“I can’t wait until we get to do wishes like that,” said Dixon.
Last year, Dixon and the Twilight Wish volunteers fulfilled a wish for Rose Przybyz, 65, a resident of Transitions Healthcare in Washington who wanted to go camping and roast marshmallows. Przybyz has no family outside of the caregivers at Transitions. Dixon and the Twilight Wish volunteers rented a cabin at Goddard Park Vacationland Campground in Sandy Lake, and spent the weekend with Przybyz singing campfire songs, making s’mores and watching ducks.
“She had a great weekend, and we had a good time spending time with her. She’s still talking about it,” said Dixon.
Twilight Wish treated another nursing home resident who wished for lunch at Red Lobster and a new outfit to a “spa day,” which included doing her hair and makeup, treating her to lunch at the seafood restaurant, and taking her on a shopping spree at Kohl’s, where she purchased several clothing items and a new bed spread.
Twilight Wish’s Washington chapter has been in existence for several years, but Dixon has “breathed new life into it” since she took the reins, said Kim Guthrie, a Twilight Wish volunteer.
“It had fallen on hard times, but a small group of us decided to try and make something out of it. We kind of threw Cherie to the wolves and made her director, but she is the best thing that could have happened to this organization,” said Guthrie. “She’s really turned it around. She’s incredibly kind and compassionate, and cares about the aging population. She does an incredible job of fulfilling wishes for recipients.”
Under Dixon’s leadership, Twilight Wish has nearly tripled its number of volunteers – it now has 14 – and grants about one wish every other month.
She also has organized fundraising events and has partnered with local businesses to help needy seniors in the county.
Said Dennis McNamara, executive vice president of investment for the McNamara Investment Group of Janney Montgomery Scott, which recently became a Twilight Wish corporate sponsor, “I wish I had (Dixon’s) energy. We want to be involved with charities that are meaningful and impactful to us and to the community, and when we heard about Twilight Wish, it was a no-brainer for us to get involved.”
Dixon said one of her goals is “to get our name out there and increase our visibility,” so Twilight Wish has attended trade shows, festivals and other events to meet and network with individuals and companies.
“And we’re grateful for, and rely on, the generosity of businesses and organizations that are willing to help us make wishes come true,” said Dixon. “People are incredibly nice once they know that our goal is to help deserving seniors.”
Dixon, a graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, previously worked with dementia patients and in eldercare.
The mother of two grown children, Dixon owns a business, Truly Eventful with Cherie, and handles marketing for 1st-Choice Home Care.
Twilight Wish, which was founded in 2003 in Bucks County and has 16 chapters nationwide, requires recipients to be older than 65 or a resident of a nursing home with an income of less than 200 percent of poverty level.
Dixon said one of the biggest barriers to providing wishes is, surprisingly, finding wish recipients.
“It’s a generational thing. Often, when we find someone who’s eligible, they see it as a handout, and they don’t want to accept help,” said Dixon. “These seniors aren’t used to asking for help. They’re used to helping others. They’ve grown up raising their own families, helping in their churches, being productive. So it’s a stumbling block.”
For Dixon, the hours she spends online tracking down the best price for a motorized scooter, or coordinating an outing for a wish recipient, or dropping by Harry’s Pizza for the monthly volunteer meetings are worth it.
“This is a great organization, and the volunteers are loving and creative people who go above and beyond, whenever they can, to fulfill wishes for seniors. We fall in love with so many of the seniors we meet,” said Dixon. “I’m happy to be a part of this.”
As part of the ExtraORdinary People award, Cherie Dixon will be given $500, underwritten by the Observer-Reporter and Range Resources, to donate to the charity of her choice. She has chosen the Twilight Wish Foundation.