Eighty-six-year-old Betty Eisenocker finally got to drive at Indy. Well, not drive — actually, someone else did the driving. Eisenocker didn't really race in the Indianapolis 500, either. But she did get to do three laps at her beloved Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She hasn't missed a race in 60 years, but she had always wondered what it would be like to ride in a race car at Indy, and she got to find out, thanks to a non-profit group called Never Too Late.
The group is kind of like Make-A-Wish — for the older generation.
"I wanted the experience of feeling what it was to go around those curves so fast," she says. But when asked what she did to deserve the chance to get onto the track, she answers, "I don't understand it either."
Eisenocker is healthy and lives comfortably — just a regular senior citizen. But Bob Haverstick, the founder of Never Too Late, says most of his wishes go to people in nursing homes in the Indianapolis area, but that everyone over 65 is eligible.
"These folks need a wish just to get their juices going again — to feel like they matter," he says of the people he tries to help.
How does he pay for everything? It's not that hard. He recently got a thank-you note from someone simply for getting a typewriter fixed.
Haverstick says most of the wishes are wonderfully simple — like the woman who wanted to see what a tiger felt like … the lady who wanted to visit a TV weather set … or the gentleman from a nursing home who just wanted to get out and see some corn.
Haverstick usually hears about wishes through nurses and family members. That's how he found out about Eisenocker's yearning to hit the race track. The car owners donated the ride.
"I got into that car and I thought, 'I'm ready, let's go,'" she says.
And go she did — at 170 miles an hour.
Haverstick and his volunteers have granted more than 900 wishes since he founded Never Too Late six years ago. The wishes are all a little bit different … but the smiles are pretty much the same.