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‘It was wonderful:’ 102-year-old WWII veteran fulfills final wish to fly in a hot air balloon

Russell Hendersen

PITTSBURGH — When Russell Hendersen, a World War II veteran, met with an organization that fulfills wishes for hospice patients like himself, he had a simple request. He wanted to fly in a hot air balloon.

That’s how the 102-year-old veteran found out that it’s never too late to make a wish — and have it come true.

Hendersen, a hospice patient at Three Rivers Hospice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, made a “dream” end-of-life request with the Western Pennsylvania-based organization Don’t Stop Dreamin.’ The organization works with those in nursing homes, and patients in hospice, in partnership with Quality Life Services, which includes Three Rivers Hospice.

After receiving his application, officials with the organization told CNN they went to work, locating a handicap-accessible balloon basket to accommodate Hendersen’s wheelchair. They located a basket through the United States Hot Air Balloon Team, and shortly after, they were ready for Hendersen’s big moment.

On Thursday, Sept. 5, Hendersen was loaded into the balloon and took off into the sky for a 60-minute ride. His journey was captured on video and shared on the organization’s Facebook page.

After the ride, Hendersen told the organization: “Even at 102, I can still do big things. I knew I could do it, and it was wonderful.”

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