Phoebe Richland Resident Fulfills Lifelong Dream of Hot Air Balloon Ride

Doris Fosbenner (center) pre-flight. From left, back: Madison Reiss, Phoebe Richland charge nurse, pilot Will Randall, Phoebe’s Donna Schudel.

The original article on Fosbenner, by Donna Schudel, was adapted with permission for this article. Photo credits: Randy Monceaux.

Doris Fosbenner, an 85-year-old resident of Phoebe Richland Health Care Center, took a hot air balloon ride Sept. 13, 2021, fulfilling her lifelong desire to float above her beloved Upper Bucks (Pa.) community. 

As the sun lowered in the beautiful September sky, Lehigh Valley Hot Air unfurled its colorful hot air balloon. Fosbenner and her Phoebe friends, family, and neighbors watched with excitement. As a young woman, Fosbenner had witnessed the flight of a hot air balloon near her hometown of Telford, Pa. This image was sealed in her mind until she was approached by the Phoebe Richland community life staff.

“During a discussion group, I asked if anyone had a forgotten dream they would like to fulfill. Doris shared her hot air balloon story,” said Jodi Pitta, retired community life assistant at Phoebe Richland. The Phoebe community life staff was committed to making it happen.

Fosbenner enjoys the ride.

“Finding a hot air balloon pilot willing to fulfill this vision was harder than I thought,” said AnnMarie Petitto-Thomas, community life lead for Phoebe Richland. Petitto-Thomas needed to find a pilot that was able to accommodate someone in a wheelchair.

Will Randell and Lehigh Valley Hot Air were thrilled to be a part of it. “We love making wishes come true,” said Randell, the hot air balloon pilot and owner/operator of the company. “Safety is our number one priority. Everything depends on the weather for hot air balloon rides. What feels like a light breeze on the ground may be too much for the balloon as it ascends.” 

Fosbenner watches as others enjoy a ride.

After several weather-related postponements, Fosbenner’s ride went off without a hitch. Donna Schudel, Phoebe Ministries’ community relations and grant specialist, had the honor of riding with Fosbenner. Prior to working in Phoebe’s marketing and community relations department, Schudel had been Phoebe Richland’s community life director, and Fosbenner asked that Schudel ride with her.

“Witnessing Doris’ excitement, up close, was truly a thrill for me,” said Schudel. “Her sense of adventure and courage is always an inspiration to me. I was honored to join her in the basket.”

After landing, Fosbenner was helped out of the basket by Phoebe staff amidst cheers and applause. “It was great!” Fosbenner said. “I could see all of you waving up at me.”

Back on solid ground and surrounded by her friends and family, she beamed with joy and watched as others enjoyed a ride.

UCC-related Phoebe Ministries specializes in healthcare, housing, and support services for older adults Founded in 1903, Phoebe Ministries offers a full continuum of care — from independent living to rehabilitation, personal care, and memory support — through four continuing care retirement communities.

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