SIX MILE, SC (FOX Carolina) It had been many years since Johnnie went to the beach, but he still remembered the sand between his toes and the sun shining on his face.
Johnnie Burns is a resident at Pruitt Health Pickens Nursing Home in Six Mile. A childhood illness left the 72-year-old mentally handicapped, though his spirit is anything but. Throughout his time at the nursing home, Johnnie has vividly remembered a long ago visit to the beach and longed to return just once more.
Each year, Pruitt Health, in association with Second Wind Dreams, chooses to make the dreams come true of a special resident.
This year, it was Johnnie's turn.
Staff at Pruitt Health asked him, "If you had a dream to go somewhere you have never been, or do something you have always wanted to do, what would it be?"
His answer was no surprise to them. "Go to the beach, play in the sand and build a sandcastle, and eat flounder," Johnnie replied.
That was it. Pruitt Health Pickens said they immediately put the wheels in motion to craft what would be the best vacation ever.
Due to the chilliness of beaches in the Carolinas and Georgia, the team said they looked further south to find the most optimal beach temperature for Johnnie. Fort Lauderdale won them over, and they booked their plane tickets.
Staff said Johnnie handled his first flight with grace, smiling the whole way and making friends with the flight attendants.
Thanks to donated tickets, the group visited the Lion Country Safari African Adventure and the Everglades Airboat tour at Sawgrass Recreation Park on their first two days in Florida.
The third day was the most important- beach day.
In lovely 85 degree weather, the staff said Johnnie lit up when he stepped onto the sand of Hollywood Beach. The Margaretville Hotel provided seating, and sandcastle building tools- it was heaven.
"Words cannot express the enjoyment he had splashing us with water and feeling the waves as they rushed up to him," the staff said. "His giggle warmed our hearts and touched many other hearts as well."
They said Johnnie was the king of the beach that day.
Though there were a few bumps in the road on their way back home, the staff says the trip was a success.
It was something he'll never forget- a vacation of a lifetime.
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Pruitt Health Pickens brought one of their special residents, Johnnie Burns, to Florida to fulfill his dream of going to the beach one last time- making it the vacation of a lifetime.