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(Olathe, Kansas) – He couldn’t have known it would be so significant, but a trip Ted Asay shared with his grandpa in 1968 has become the ride of a lifetime.
Ted, who is associate director of major and planned gifts at the Good Samaritan Foundation, explains.
“He showed up at my house in Madison, Nebraska, one day, and he said, ‘Come with me Teddy. We’re going to go and look at a new pickup, a brand new red pickup.’ So we go around the corner to the dealership and he pulled out his billfold and said, ‘I’ll take it.’”
Ted’s grandpa had never owned a new vehicle in his life.
“We just drove it around for hours. Just having a ball. Just us. It was something really special to him.”
The truck has been in Ted’s family ever since. Nearly 50 years later, in Olathe, Kansas, Ted has found a way to make the truck shine and honor his grandfather’s memory at the same time.
“Well, our new memory care unit came about because it’s something we’ve needed for many, many years. It’s what we’ve been lacking in services here,” says Tracey Torola.
Tracey is the senior living manager at Good Samaritan Society – Cedar Lake Village, an assisted living location in Olathe, Kansas. She and Ted have been working together on a campaign to build a new memory care unit on the Good Samaritan Society – Communities of Olathe campus.
Joanna Randall, Communities of Olathe executive director, has also been involved in the project.
“When we met with the landscape architects, they were talking to us about what we could do in our courtyard, and one of the architects had this great idea to put in a truck,” says Joanna.
Phil Thomas, president of AL Huber, the construction firm working on the memory care unit, was excited about the idea.
“Immediately when they suggested it, everybody started thinking ‘how cool, what a neat idea.’ We thought of people we knew who had gone through memory issues.”
What is memory care?
Memory care is a program designed to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and related dementias with dignity and compassion. Click here to learn more about our approach to memory care.
Beyond simply being a unique addition, the truck will provide a sensory benefit for the residents who use it, says Tracey.
“The pickup truck will give them a chance to sit in the pickup, tinker with the truck, sit and reminisce about an old truck or cars they might have had,” she says.
Joanna agrees. “Everybody has a story of maybe the first time they drove a car or their pickup or went for a drive out in the country.”
These sensory moments can help calm some of the behaviors that people with dementia often experience.
So although everyone was in agreement that a truck would be a wonderful addition, they didn’t know where they would find one. Other issues would be restoration and safety.
Tracey contacted Kathy Musgrave, district administrator for technical education and principal at North Olathe High School. Kathy was interested in the project, and agreed that the automotive students would be willing to redo a truck for the campus, if they could find one.
And from there, things continued to fall into place.
“I’ve been working with the campaign to raise money for the memory care unit and spiritual life center at Olathe,” says Ted. “They were hoping for an old pickup truck to be donated. Tracey asked for a very specific date, between 1965 and 1970, because that would be the era of this next generation — it would be about right.”
Ted could hardly wait to share his idea.
“My grandpa was a very special, a very giving person,” says Ted. “If you needed something, he gave it to you. To have the opportunity to give something to someone was very special to him. So for us as a family… the opportunity to give something like this … I think he would have loved it. Both he and my grandmother would have loved it.”
When the truck arrived to Olathe, construction workers realized it was too big to fit the space allotted in the new building.
So Paul Katsulis, who teaches in the advanced technical center at Olathe North High School, came up with a plan.
“We have actually chopped an 8-foot bed into a 24-inch bed,” he says. "Now we’ve put it back together to make it look like it was meant to be like that.”
Even the small truck bed will have a purpose: As Paul’s students restore the truck, it will become a seat.
Brett Balman, a senior and one of the students working on the truck, says it has been a wonderful experience.
“It’s a pretty good feeling. A lot of people volunteer, but this is something residents will be able to use for the rest of the time they have,” he says. “It warms your heart.” For Brett’s classmate Blake Miller, the work has been more personal.
“It means a lot to me actually, because my aunt has Alzheimer’s,” he says. “So I’m trying to make this truck look good and pretty.”
With the truck now in Olathe, the Cedar Lake Village team had to find a way to pay for the restoration.
“Of course, it costs money to redo the pickup,” says Tracey. “So I brought that up at a meeting.”
Again, Phil was excited about the idea of helping out in any way he could. Like Ted, he wanted to honor someone special.
“Gus Huber, the father of my (business) partners, had memory care issues at the end of his life,” Phil says. “Orange is our company color, so I said I’d be willing to donate $1,000 in Gus’ honor if the truck was painted orange.”
Tracey couldn’t believe how well everything came together. And then, one more unique twist was added. The instructor who formerly taught Paul’s classes was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“The instructor I replaced three years ago had been here for quite a while, and was really well respected,” says Paul. “So it was an honor to take his place.”
“It seems like every time we turn around something comes up that adds to this ongoing story and gives us an opportunity to make a difference in peoples’ lives,” says Ted.
“If Christ isn’t at work there, I don’t know who is, because it’s definitely been God driven the whole time,” says Tracey. “The whole way through.”
Click here to read more about the new memory care unit at Cedar Lake Village.
Click here to learn about other services available at Good Samaritan Society – Communities of Olathe.
By Lonnie Nichols Chief Storyteller
The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society