Last summer, 11-year-old Ruby Kate followed her mom to work helping out at nursing homes in the area. While there, Ruby Kate learned that many of the residents had little financial means. Many couldn’t even afford to feed or keep their beloved pets. She wanted to help, so she pulled out a notebook and went from room to room asking residents, “If you could have three wishes, what would they be?” Now, with her notebook full of hope, Ruby Kate is on a mission to help the elderly—one wish at a time.
In Ruby Kate and her mom Amanda’s words, the story of Three Wishes:
A: For the past 23 years, I’ve owned a business where I go and help people in nursing homes. I regularly go to five nursing homes. My job is really busy. And when she’s not in school, Ruby Kate goes to work with me. This summer, we were up there quite a bit, and the nurse in me tries to make that as useful and meaningful for her as possible, as well as for my other two kids. Ruby Kate has a big heart, and the residents there love her.
Often, the patients I help are low on family and low on funds. The government funds over half of our nursing home patients in the US. These patients are allotted $40 per month for anything not covered under room and board for “extras.” A haircut is “extra,” and so is taking care of your pet. If they don’t have family that can cover the gaps, they go without.
Last summer, Ruby Kate spent time with nursing home residents who receive just $40 per month for “extras.” She asked them, “If you could have three wishes, what would they be?”
RK: One Saturday while we were at the nursing home, I have to admit that I was kind of bored. But then I saw this woman named Pearl, and she was looking out the window. I was a little excited, like, “What’s going on?” But when I looked out, all I saw was someone walking a dog out to their car. I asked Pearl, “What’s so important?” She told me that it was her dog of 12 years, and she didn’t know the next time she would see it.
Pearl’s face was so sad. I thought that of all the things in this world Pearl could have, she would probably just ask for more visits with her dog. I know it costs about $12 for a pet sitter. I’m 11, and even I have enough money saved in my piggy bank to help Pearl get a few more visits with her dog.
A: I think that moment sparked this particular project for her. Ruby Kate started taking a notebook with her and asking the residents, “If you could have three wishes, what would they be?” We still have that notebook. She also brought some friends up there with her, and they helped fill it out.
Ruby Kate filled a notebook with the residents’ requests and set out to fulfill their Three Wishes.
It was a great experience for everyone. You expect people to tell you they want a million dollars or a new car, but they don’t. They want snacks or a pair of pants that fits. It brings home to you that these people just really need the basics. It’s really humbling, even as an adult.
I think when Ruby Kate and her friends look at their clothes now, they realize that not everyone has everything that they have. Having clothes that fit is not just a given. Not everyone has a private phone. I think for these kids, that was a real eye-opener. So many kids these days think that all of these extras in life are a given. Filling out that notebook let them know.
RK: I called my project Three Wishes. I talked to patients, wrote down their three wishes, and started raising money to help them get more “extras” than their $40 dollars can buy. Over the summer, I talked with around 50 people to fill my notebook up. It took a long time, but I was happy to hear their answers.
I remember that some people just wanted prayers or fast food. One man just wanted a pair of pants that fit, so much so that he didn’t even ask for his other two wishes. Another person simply asked to go to a water park to watch kids play. It was really heartwarming.
Many residents wished for simple things like pet food, favorite snacks, hearing devices, reading glasses, and clothes that fit. Others asked for experiences, like visiting the local waterpark to watch the children play.
A: I had done a GoFundMe a few years ago when a nursing friend’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia and she was unable to work. We raised quite a bit of money to allow her to stay home for a few months and stay home with her daughter. It was really successful, so I always had GoFundMe in the back of my mind.
When we finished the notebook up in August, I did some stuff locally to raise money, and we got a great response to that. We made an Amazon wishlist, too, and had a few local people mail us stuff. I had always planned to do the GoFundMe as well, but I wanted to do it right. We worked on the description and finally launched her GoFundMe around Thanksgiving.
To date, Ruby Kate’s GoFundMe has raised over $5,000 to help make the elderly residents’ wishes come true.
The response so far has been amazing. For a small town like this, there are a lot of fundraisers for everything, but not so much for the elderly. It’s been refreshing to see attention shine on this group. Any attention we get for the elderly is amazing because they tend to get so little. We’re just humbled and very thankful for the support.
The residents are so selfless, too. I think one of their biggest wish requests was for pet food, not something for themselves. You don’t think about how expensive it is to feed a pet until you only have $40 to spend per month. One of the things Ruby enjoys the most is bringing food up there to help all their animals. In November, we brought them outdoor bins filled with food so that they didn’t have to worry for the rest of the year.
Ruby Kate brings them pet food and supplies so that they can continue to care for their furry friends.
RK: With the money we’ve raised through the GoFundMe, we’ve been able to provide pet food, clothing, shoes, phones, corrective hearing devices, and a lot of other stuff that people asked for in their Three Wishes. My ultimate goal is just to make elderly people happy.
A: Helping others is Ruby Kate’s hobby, and she’s amazingly good at it. When she helps people, she feels great about herself. I think kindness is really powerful. I show my kids that every chance I get. It makes you feel good about yourself. It’s not just a present you give on Christmas—you can do something kind throughout the year to get an instant boost.
Ruby Kate continues to raise money through her GoFundMe to fulfill wishes for elderly residents in nursing homes.