Spring 2011 Edition NJDMAVA Veterans

About NJ Veteran Journal:
The New Jersey Veteran Journal is an official publication of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and is intended to serve New Jersey's veterans, their families, friends and concerned individuals and groups. All correspondence should be sent to:

Veteran Journal Editor, NJDMAVA/PA, PO Box 340,
Trenton, NJ 08625-0340

Making dreams come true
By Kryn P. Westhoven, DMAVA Public Affairs, Photos by Mark C. Olsen, DMAVA Public Affairs
For more than 18 years Rick Toler had the same dream. A dream to see and hug his child he could only remember as an infant.

"I didn't think it was ever going to happen after so long," said Toler a wheelchair bound Desert Storm/Desert Shield veteran at the Vineland Veterans Memorial Home.

The multi-purpose room was filled with residents on October 28th with anticipation of another large wave of wishes being arranged as part of the Second Wind Dreams program. It was only in its third month of granting small wishes but the program was a big success in the building.

Brianna Trent, left, meets her father, Vineland Veterans Memorial Home resident and Desert Storm/Desert Shield veteran Rick Toler, for the first time on Oct. 28, 2010.

Little did the 56-year-old veteran know he was going to have this wish fulfilled.

Toler was called to the front of the stage to talk about his dream, his daughter. Just a few feet away behind the curtain a nervous Brianna eagerly awaited her cue.

Even a day of travel by bus from Minnesota couldn't slow her down as she rushed to her father's arms for the first time. In a room bursting with emotion, the tears flowed for Rick and Brianna.

"To see the residents happy makes all the staff happy," said Lisa Williams, Vineland Home Activities Director, who leads her staff in making sure that these dreams come true. As of March, 402 dreams were given out, at least one for every resident of the home and more than any other organization in the country.

The road to successful dream weaving started in October 2009 as the Vineland Home applied for a National Scholarship to Second Wind Dreams, a non-profit organization whose mission is to change the perception of aging.

It was announced in May 2010 that Vineland Veterans Home was one of five nursing homes in the country to be selected. That is when the dreaming really began.

Dreams fall into six categories; lifelong dreams, needbased dreams, relationship based dreams, relive past experiences, dreams for fun, and quality of life dreams.

Some of the dream requests were simple like an Air Force pilot's jacket, while other dreams were over a lifetime.

Edward Hunter dreamed of being a police officer, but World War II started before that career could begin. The Atlantic City Police made that dream a reality when the 84-year

Rick Toler, seated front, and Brianna Trent, third from right, pose with members of Rolling Thunder, left to right, Ron Parmov, Nick Santana, Colleen McIntyre-Berenotto, Jeff Nelson, Paul Berenotto (behind Rick), Roy Wilson and Dave Walters. Rolling Thunder assisted with Toler's dream by helping to cover Trent's expenses during her visit.
old Hunter got to wear a bullet proof vest and speed off in a police cruiser with the lights flashing and siren screaming.

Entertainers like Toby Keith have given a veteran a chance to meet the country singer and be backstage. Star percussionist, Tito Puente Jr., came to the facility to give a private steel drum lesson to a resident.

Besides the lifetime grant and training from the Second Wind Dreams organization the Harrah's Foundation is backing the program, which means the granting of dreams will go on for a long time.

"We have only just begun," added Williams.

Editor's note: Rick Toler passed away on March 5, 2011.