‘Chance of a lifetime’ flies resident to visit daughter, great-grandchild

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 26, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Maria Bezozski wasn’t home for the holidays.

The 90-year-old Poland native and her daughter, Teressa Donahue, started off their Christmas Day celebration in Donahue’s home on Milford Lane. But by the end of the day, thanks to a special program sponsored by Southwest Airlines, the two were in Tampa visiting with Bezozski’s other daughter, Emily Hayworth.

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Bezozski is one of 15 seniors selected to participate in Southwest Airlines’ Home for the Holidays program.

The program, which is administered nationwide through local service agencies, lets senior citizens over age 66 apply for free roundtrip airfare in order to be reunited with their relatives for the holiday. Participants are selected based on a number of factors, including need.

Were it not for Southwest’s program, Bezozski doesn’t know when she would have the opportunity to meet her new 2-month-old great-grandson.

Donahue, who attends St. Jude’s Church in Franklin, learned about the program after spotting a notice in her church bulletin with information about the program.

&uot;I thought about my mother and her desire to see the new addition to the family,&uot; Donahue said. &uot;When I arrived home from that service, I immediately filled out the proper information and mailed it off.

&uot;One week later, we received the news that my mother had been chosen to receive the free trip,&uot; said Dohahue.

This prompt action also paid off for Donahue because she received a free companion ticket to accompany her mother.

Bezozski is looking forward to the trip

&uot;I last saw my daughter and grandchildren two years ago and might not have ever gotten the chance to see them ever again,&uot; she said. &uot;I am 90 years old and will be 91 in June. I know that I don’t have much time left here on this earth so this is the chance of a lifetime.

&uot;I am very excited and can’t wait to see my great-grandchild,&uot; said Bezozski. &uot;We will leave on Christmas Day after having Christmas dinner with Teressa’s children and husband and return back home on Jan. 2. &uot;There is a Santa Claus after all.&uot;

At Chrysler Museum on Nov. 18, Southwest Airlines and The Center for Aging honored the 15 Hampton Roads senior citizens that were chosen to participate in the Home for the Holidays program.

Locally, the airline worked the Center for Aging – a partnership between Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia and the Norfolk Department of Human Services – to get applications.