I loved this article from the Orange County Register, so I thought I would share the story with you. What a testimony of a quality teenager! Enjoy!
I’m sitting in the Laguna Beach home of Helen Kronberg on a Sunday evening.
Helen is under the covers, in bed with lung cancer at the age of 89. And nearby, serving her a gourmet Chinese meal is thoughtful, pleasant, well-spoken Caitlin Crommett, who just turned 16.
“Here’s your first course,” she tells Helen, smiling politely as she hands her a bowl. “I have soup for you.”
“It’s marvelous,” says Helen, propped up on pillows.
“You hear about all the bad things kids are doing and never the good things.”
Caitlin got the idea last year, after watching the movie “Patch Adams.” In it, Robin Williams plays a doctor who is all about making his patients happy. After thinking about the movie for a few weeks, Caitlin told her parents she wanted to try and grant the wishes of elderly people in hospice care.
Twice a year Hospice Care of the West puts on a memorial service for the families of their patients in south Orange County who have died. Caitlin has been attending those services since middle school, singing a Vanessa Carlton song with the lyrics “I’d walk a thousand miles just to see you tonight” (reducing everyone in the room to tears).
But singing doesn’t cost anything. Granting wishes does.
Turns out Caitlin’s parents had socked away enough money to send her to a Catholic high school. The cost is about $12,000 a year. But Caitlin wanted to go to Tesoro High, where her friends were going.
Didn’t that mean there was an extra $48,000 lying around?
Her parents agreed to give her some of that money to grant wishes until she raises some funds on her own. Caitlin came up with a name: Dream Catchers. And then she came up with a make-a-wish-style form that she began handing out this summer to Hospice Care nurses, asking that they pass them on to patients and their families.
The first form she got back was from the wife of a man named Bernie Klein. He was in a wheelchair and could no longer speak, but he was aware of everything around him. Bernie had sailed his whole life, and his wife wrote that it would be so great to see him out sailing on the ocean one last time.
Caitlin chartered a schooner for $600. Bernie’s family insisted she come along. She made ham sandwiches for everyone and served them herself.
“Well, the tea and the salad are ready,” Caitlin says, bringing Helen her second course (on her mother’s wedding china, which she brought along for the occasion).
“Goodness gracious, I won’t eat for a week,” Helen tells her.
Helen used to own a restaurant called The Village James. It was named after her husband, who died sometime back, and they sold it years ago. Now Helen has a lung cancer that can’t be cured.
It was her granddaughter who filled out a Dream Catchers form, saying Helen would love a gourmet meal. Caitlin called Helen and learned she was especially fond of Chinese.
She ordered the meal from Wan Fu, borrowing a tea pot from the restaurant and some of their paper lanterns to decorate Helen’s bedroom. She arrived at Helen’s wearing a traditional red kimono she got at a costume shop, her hair held in a bun by chopsticks.
“Is there anything else I can get for you?” she asks Helen between the second and third courses.
“No, thank you, sweetheart,” Helen says.
Caitlin sits in a chair near Helen’s bed. Helen talks about her restaurant. She talks about her paintings (always of the ocean). She talks about her kids. And she talks about how she passes the days.
“I get my driver’s license Wednesday,” Caitlin tells her. “I can even come visit you in my free time if you would like?”
After four courses, it was time for dessert. Caitlin brought out a pan of brownies she had baked herself.
Before going home, before gently pressing Helen’s hand to say goodbye, Caitlin presented her with a dream catcher. “So now you can hang it up and always have good dreams.”