The Pinellas Trail has always been slightly out of reach for 83-year-old Joan Thompson due to her mobility issues. Her home at Brookdale Pinecrest in Tampa, Florida, borders the trail and for years she has dreamed of making the trek to enjoy its beauty.
“I would sit and watch hundreds of people pass by,” said Joan. “I wanted to be out there with them, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.”
Joan has led a life of service with many challenges along the way. She is a Korean War veteran, breast cancer survivor, and advocate for those with mental and developmental disabilities. Her advocacy was motivated by the birth of her son who was diagnosed with Down syndrome. When the associates at Brookdale Pinecrest found out about her dream of making the trek down the Pinellas Trail, they sprang into action. They contacted Wish of a Lifetime who arranged for a special afternoon on the trail.
On April 11, Joan hopped in a golf cart with a park ranger at Brookdale Pinecrest and headed down the Pinellas Trail as residents and associates cheered her on. The trail ends at Honeymoon Island State Park where Joan arrived to family and friends who threw her a surprise picnic celebration. The Arc, an organization that advocates for the rights of those living with intellectual and developmental disabilities, also attended to honor Joan for the decades of work she has done for the organization.
“Age is just a number; it's not who we are. I don't feel old, and people who see me will know I am younger then the number says,” said Joan. “I hope this will cause fellow residents, family and friends to get out and enjoy life.”