Home / Features / High School Students Help Hospice Patient Check Item Off Her Bucket List
Del Norte High School DreamCatcher Club members with Mary McDonald

High School Students Help Hospice Patient Check Item Off Her Bucket List

Oceanside CA— Last week, high school students in the DreamCatchers Chapter at Del Norte High School along with The Elizabeth Hospice helped make a wish come true for hospice patient and Oceanside resident, Mary McDonald. The two organizations teamed up with Waverider Helicopter Tours to give Mary a different perspective of her hometown from a 500 feet above.

DreamCatchers Foundation is an organization dedicated to fulfilling the end-of-life dreams of terminally ill hospice and palliative care patients, through chapters run by youth in high school or college. They have fulfilled over 200 dreams through more than 40 clubs in 16 states.

“We got to know the founder of DreamCatchers, Caitlin Crommett as she was reaching out to high schools and hospices in the area,” said Anna Schulz, the Volunteer Manager at The Elizabeth Hospice. “The great thing about these students is they have great follow through. Not all high school and even college student groups do. They have great intentions and other obligations get in the way but these students in the DreamCatcher Club have shown great commitment and I put a lot of trust in them. I feel really good about this team,” said Schulz.” As a 15-year-old Hospice volunteer, Caitlin Crommett founded DreamCatchers in Orange County.

The Del Norte students held fundraisers at the school to raise money for the flight.  A Pie in the Teachers Face’ was one fundraiser. “It went over pretty well and that’s how we raised money for this,” said Ethan Keirn, a senior at Del Norte. “It also helped that the Waverider owner gave us a discount.” Waverider Helicopter Tours is owned by Kurt Dawson who is also the Chief Pilot. Waverider has been flying charters out of Bob Maxwell Field at Oceanside Municipal Airport since 2016.

Ethan Keirn, Brianna Millican, Tiana Gants, Mary McDonald, Vanessa Juntuner and McKaila Smith

Keirn got involved with DreamCatchers after his grandfather had to go into hospice care several years ago. “He had kind of a tough time so I really wanted to help out and make that experience better for others,” said Keirn.

The students had various reasons for joining the DreamCatcher Club but they were unanimous in their desire to make life better for those whose time is running out. “I am interested in the medical field and helping others. I thought helping hospice patients would be one way to do that,” said Brianna Millican. “I wanted another way to be involved with the community, said McKaila Smith. “I thought it would be great to help fulfill final wishes for people,” said Vanessa Juntuner.

“The students worked so hard to make this happen. They are a terrific bunch,” said Mary McDonald. “They restore your faith in the young people.”

This wasn’t the first helicopter ride for Mary and she hopes it won’t be her last. “I want to go up everyday,” said Mary upon her return from her tour along the coastline. “It was wonderful. Seeing the panorama of the whole area, it’s just amazing. It’s fun to be up there. I missed a lot just driving around on the streets. It’s a whole different thing when you’re up there.” Mary said her favorite part of the flight was the ocean and the way the pilot, Kurt Dawson, pointed out everything along the way.

Mary hopes to check a few more things off her bucket list. “I’m game for whatever comes up until I can’t,” said Mary.