Through a collaboration between the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and the Dream Foundation, a terminally ill 83-year-old woman was granted her lifelong dream of visiting Martha’s Vineyard with her family on Friday, Sept. 30.
Accompanied by her son, James, his wife Deborah, and their two daughters, Beverly Anderson arrived at Oak Bluffs terminal Friday morning after disembarking from her first ever ride on a Steamship ferry.
Beverly, who describes herself as “a typical New Englander,” grew up in Worcester, and often spent time with her father watching ferries depart and arrive from Cape Cod harbors, some of her fondest memories of childhood.
Never before having the opportunity to visit and explore the Island due to a lack of financial means in her youth, Beverly hoped to one day make the 45-minute trip across Vineyard Sound, ideally with loved ones.
Prior to Friday’s visit, Deborah Anderson, who is particularly close to her mother-in-law, said the family had been looking forward to sharing the experience with Beverly.
The tight-knit family of five — not including the handful of “fur babies,” which Beverly is the favorite of — is a goofy bunch, Deborah said, with laughter and love being a vital part of the Anderson clan’s essence.
On top of being the preferred human of the family’s two dogs and three cats, Beverly is an avid animal lover of all types, Deborah told The Times. And in addition to being the resident “orchid whisperer,” in her neighborhood — “people bring her their orchids to revive” — Beverly is a master chef, a real “foodie.”
As a child, Beverly and her family would rent a small cottage in Eastham for a week over the summer months, digging up quahogs and crabbing with the parents, memories which to this day are recalled easily and lovingly.
During a call with The Times, Beverly said during those years, she had some knowledge of the Vineyard, but had always imagined it to be a place solely for the rich and famous. She said as a teenager, she became increasingly enamored by the stories and rumors, and her curiosity of the Vineyard continued to grow, “especially after the Teddy Kennedy incident,” where in 1969, the Massachusetts senator drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick, resulting in the death of his 28-year-old passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne.
During her adulthood in Massachusetts, Beverly worked as a nurse in varying capacities, at a skilled nursing facility, a psychiatric hospital, and in operating rooms. Her favorite job, she said, was working as a school bus driver in upstate New York for a period of time, bringing her youngest son James along for the rides when he was just a toddler.
Later, after the loss of two of her three adult children, Beverly moved to Virginia to be closer to James, who currently serves in the U.S. Navy, Deborah, and their children. Beverly’s son John, who worked as the mooring manager at New Bedford Harbor, died following a tragic automobile accident in 2012, less than a decade after Beverly lost her only daughter, Karen, to breast cancer when she was just 41 years old.
During her life, Karen had visited the Vineyard, Beverly said, and had relayed the beauty of the Island to her mother, hoping to one day take the trip together, making Friday’s adventure that much more meaningful.
Beverly said that after her diagnosis — aggressive colon cancer that ultimately spread throughout her body — she looked into potential accommodations on the Island, with the hopes of creating lasting memories shared among her living family, but the trip was not financially feasible.
Her final wish to finally be able to ride the ferry over, and experience the Vineyard for an entire day with her family, was subsequently granted by the Dream Foundation, allowing the Andersons the opportunity to make meaningful, lasting memories.
Dream Foundation fulfills dreams for terminally ill adults, and relies solely on individual and corporate donations, foundation public relations consultant Dani Cordaro told The Times. With nearly 1,500 volunteers who collectively donate 13,000 hours of their time to the organization’s goal each year, the Dream Foundation has granted more than 33,000 Dreams since 1994.
The foundation’s mission is simple — terminally ill adults’ “final days should be filled with inspiration, comfort, and closure.”
Typically catering to those who are believed to be in the last 12 months of their life, Dream Foundation receives a wide variety of wishes, Cordaro said, from connecting with a personal hero to asking for a new air conditioner to make the last days more comfortable.
Cordaro said regardless of one’s financial situation, most recipients and their families are overcome with lofty medical bills, often making it more difficult to spend money on nonessentials. This includes one last trip with loved ones. For a lot of families, “it’s just out of the question,” she said.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, requests for iPads and smartphones increased, as Dream recipients just wanted to stay connected — even if just virtually — to all of their loved ones.
“Every dream is different,” Cordaro said; “every dream recipient is unique.” But what remains fairly constant, she explained, is that a lot of terminally ill adults, especially those who are older, choose a dream that incorporates their children and grandchildren.
“They want to do one last thing so that when they do go,” Cordaro said, “their children can remember that great trip to Disneyland … or visiting their favorite beach.”
It becomes “less about themselves,” Cordaro said of those who are fighting life’s clock, “but about their families … They want to make final memories.”
On Friday, after being welcomed at the Oak Bluffs SSA terminal by reps from Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association (MVCMA), Beverly and her family were given a tour of the town’s gingerbread cottages and Campground by a MVCMA docent, before heading to Flying Horses Carousel for a ride, courtesy of Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust.
“Bev was on the verge of tears several times today,” Deborah told The Times on Friday evening, “by the acts of kindness everyone did for her.”
“Words can’t express how grateful we are for all of the amazing people who made today so special,” the family told The Times after the visit. “Roberta and Terry at the Camp houses, Lee at the Flying Horses, Guin and Amanda from the Chamber of Commerce. … How beautiful it is to know there are still people like you all. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”
Updated after her actual visit to the Island.