For most of us, virtual reality is a fun pastime or a handy work tool. For some of us, it can represent something more.
Eighty-seven-year-old George Hetrick has always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon. He remembers hearing about it and seeing grainy pictures of it on the television as a child but was never able to make it there in person. Rendever and Wish of a Lifetime from AARP came together to send him there in virtual reality.
Rendever and Wish of a Lifetime From AARP
As George started ticking items off of his bucket list, a friend helped him to apply with the Make-A-Wish Foundation so that he could visit the Grand Canyon. While the application was in queue, George injured himself checking off another bucket list item: skydiving.
Then travel and group restrictions came with the coronavirus and it looked like George might not make it to the Grand Canyon. That is until his case was picked up by Rendever and Wish of a Lifetime.
“We’ve been in the business of helping people check off bucket list items ever since we were formed,” Rendever CEO and founder Kyle Rand told ARPost. “We’ve always looked at Wish of a Lifetime as exactly the kind of organization that we’d like to partner with.”
Through the partnership, Rendever and Wish of a Lifetime delivered a headset preloaded with the Rendever platform so that George and his wife Kathy could visit the Grand Canyon in virtual reality.
George Shares His Experience With Virtual Reality
Surprisingly, George had visited the Grand Canyon in virtual reality once before. It was a room-scale VR experience that he came across in the 1970s. Of course, the technology has come a long way since then and George was definitely impressed.
“The virtual visit took place in the home where I’m sitting right now using technical equipment that you wear over your eyes to get the virtual reality,” George told ARPost. “It was something that I wasn’t used to but it was really something.”
The immersive experience put George in the middle of the Bright Angel Trail. He could even look around him and see other hikers, look up into the sky or down into the depths of the Canyon.
“The screen was everywhere you looked,” said George. “It gave me a feeling of this construction of space and time. It was very rewarding (…). It certainly made you smile.”
The Expanding Impact of Virtual Reality
Rendever primarily works with care facilities to create and deliver experiences that help residents, families, and faculty. However, through Rendever’s Expanding Impact program, family members can apply for an individual to get an “experience pack” for three months. So far, the growing program has shared about forty of these experience packs.
Through the partnership with Wish of a Lifetime, George is able to keep a headset as well as access to the Rendever platform. This way he can continue to experience the Grand Canyon, as well as other Rendever experiences.
“I’m thankful for the people that were behind Wish of a Lifetime and the kindness that they pursued this with,” said George’s son Matt. “This is something that nobody had to do that they did out of kindness.”
“A New Experience for an Old Man”
Rand expressed excitement at the prospect of continued partnership with Wish of a Lifetime and with similar organizations that can allow Rendever to continue offering these experiences to more and more people. And he’s not the only one with that hope.
“Virtual reality sure holds possibilities for people like me. Even if I had gotten my wish to visit the Grand Canyon, I couldn’t do it physically. This allowed me, in part, to experience what the Grand Canyon looks like and what it is,” said George. “It’s something that surprised me and in the end, I’m thankful for it. It was a new experience for an old man.”