MICHIGAN CITY | Frania Turley, a lifelong Michigan City resident, sang polka songs on the radio before television was invented. More than a half century later she got her wish to sing again, belting out classic songs alongside a live polka band.
Turley, 92, raised her hands in delight and carried tunes like she was still in her prime.
More than 70 people, mostly residents of The Arbors nursing home in Michigan City, helped fulfill Turley's wish Saturday.
"That's what I want, a big crowd," Turley said just before the the band, Musikmeisters of Chicago, started playing "Beer Barrel Polka."
Her wish was made possible by DreamCatchers, a group founded by University of Notre Dame student Caitlin Crommett when she was 15. She was living in Orange County, Calif., at the time and her idea sprung from a desire to help others after volunteering at a hospice when she was 12.
There are now more than 25 DreamCatchers chapters operating or in start-up mode in more than a dozen states, all run by high school or college students.
"Any dream request we get, we'll fulfill," said Crommett, now 19.
"It's very rewarding," said 21-year old Katie Mattie, another Notre Dame student and DreamCatchers volunteer who organized the polka band event for Turley.
Turley was joined by her daughters, Cindi Mitchell, of Nashville, Tenn., and Cathy Piwowar, of Chicago, during the polka party.
Mitchell said her mother was healthy until about a year ago, when she began experiencing kidney, heart and respiratory failure. Recently, though, her condition has improved.
"This is really cool for her," said Mitchell, who revealed her mother made polka records during her heyday and has been in hospice for about a year.
Crommett said everyone affiliated with DreamCatchers are volunteers and all costs associated with granting a dying wish are paid for with money from fund raisers.
"Volunteering to make someone's dream come true — that's huge," Mattie said.