It’s impressive enough that Dottie Schneider from Indiana has made it to age 95, but she’s anything but your average grandma.
She’s got an adventurous spirit, going parasailing at age 89. While she suffered a stroke four years ago, she learned to speak again — something the doctors weren’t sure would happen for her.
Schneider is also blessed to have a caring daughter, Kimberly Waterbury, who watches out for her mother and has been keeping a memory book. While Schneider is in hospice care, it was important for them to go on vacation together this year.
“She’s defied it all,” Waterbury told Al.com.
They made plans to visit Orange Beach, Alabama, with Waterbury’s friend Pamela Jones and Jones’ mother-in-law Linda Jones. Schneider had one wish: to feel the sand under her feet.
“We’ve been talking about this for months,” Waterbury said. “We were counting off the months, weeks and days. This was the first time she ever said she didn’t want to leave. She wanted to stay.”
And part of that desire to stay no doubt had to do with the kindness the family was shown by the local lifeguards.
The first day that Waterbury tried to take her mother out on the sand, she struggled with her bad wrist and trying to maneuver her mother’s wheelchair across the sand to the lounging area.
Lifeguard Shane Martin spotted them and raced to offer help. After speaking with the mother and daughter, he offered to drive Schneider to their spot on the beach in his ATV, and a friendship was born.
For the next couple of days, whenever “Ms. Dottie” arrived at the beach or was ready to return to the hotel, a lifeguard was always ready to escort her.
“Our guards have been instructed to try to help people out if they’re having a tough time,” Brett Lesinger, beach safety division chief for Orange Beach, explained.
“Any day she felt like coming down, we wanted to make sure she got there. We told her to holler if the sun was too much.”
Schneider soaked it all up, basking in the vacation vibes and napping on the beach. She got to put her feet in the water, feel the sand, smell the sea — and she even took a souvenir, a bit of sand from the beach to remember the trip by.
It was a wonderful trip for both Waterbury and Schneider, as Waterbury was concerned her mother would only be able to make it to the beach a few days. Schneider ended up going every day, thanks to the young men’s help.
Their assistance was also a blessing to Waterbury, who said that she got to enjoy the trip more as a family member and less as a caregiver.
“I was not a caregiver; I was her daughter,” she said. “That was overwhelming. They were faithful. They were there. It made my mom’s whole trip.”
The Orange Beach Surf Rescue Facebook page shared photos of the heartwarming valet service.
“Lifeguards are public servants and we could not be happier to help provide this service,” the post read. “Ms. Dottie Schneider recently visited us here in Orange Beach at the age of 95 in hopes to enjoy the beach but was unable walk through the sand on her own.
“Everyday for one week Lifeguards would meet Ms. Dottie and her family to help assist her down to her beach chairs then at days end escort her back to the condo. The family thanked us in return with a fridge full of food at the end of the week.”
The lifeguards refused tips, saying the only payment they needed was “watching her smile.”
“We are forever indebted to the guys with Orange Beach Surf Rescue,” Waterbury continued, growing emotional. “They made my mother feel special. She was not made to feel like she was a burden on anybody.
“I can’t wait to go back. It was magical. Better than going to Disney World. These guys earned their wings for the way they treated my mom. All of them genuinely cared.”
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