Ruby Holt got an early birthday present just a few weeks shy of turning 101: For the first time in her life, she took a trip to the beach and dipped her foot into the warm, muddy water.
“It was something wonderful. I’ve always wanted to see it," she said of the ocean, which she'd never seen before. "Now I got to see it. It was big. Big and pretty like I thought it would be.”
Holt spoke to TODAY.com on Friday, the morning after returning from her big trip to Orange Beach, Alabama, a six-hour car ride from the Tennessee assisted living facility where she lives.
Her three-day, two-night trip came courtesy of the center, Brookdale Senior Living Solutions, and an organization that helps grant wishes to the elderly. The journey started several months ago, during a water gun fight at the senior center’s courtyard, said care associate Debbie Surgeon.
“We all got talking about the ocean and it just come up that she had never been,” Surgeon said.
Surgeon and a colleague found that amazing, so the two of them filled out an application for the “Wish of Lifetime” program and soon learned Holt's wish would be granted.
Holt said she never had the time or money to take a trip to the beach while living on a farm and raising four children, three of whom she has outlived.
“Finally, I got the opportunity and I went,” she said. And the ocean was exactly how she imagined.
“I had seen pictures of it,” she said. “My brother used to live near there and he showed me pictures.”
Holt traveled with Surgeon and two others from her senior center. The resort where the group stayed provided Holt with a special motorized wheelchair that could maneuver in the sand. Holt made her way down to the pier Wednesday morning and then headed to the beach shortly afterward.
“We just took off one shoe and sock and let her stick her foot in the water,” Surgeon said. “I thought she was going to holler that it was cold, but no, she got laughing. She laughed so hard. It just tickled her to death. She said she’s always wanted to do that.”
The entire group soon erupted in giggles.
“It brought tears to my eyes," Surgeon said. "It was hard to see it. I was just overwhelmed. It was so exciting.”
The first visit lasted about an hour. Holt returned shortly before sunset where she used a walker to get around the sand.
"I didn't know what to think," she recalled of her first impressions, "but I enjoyed it."