The importance of time spent together has taken on added significance for the Latulippe family of Derry, New Hampshire.
Pete and Melanie Latulippe and their sons Cameron, 18, and Brandon, 16, are treasuring every moment as they contend with her two-year-long battle against Stage IV colon cancer. The family recently shared six fun-filled days together at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa, a trip that fulfilled a dream that ranked high on Melanie Latulippe’s bucket list.
The trip was made possible by the Dream Foundation, a national dream-granting organization for terminally ill adults. With the support of a nationwide network of volunteers, hospices, healthcare organizations and committed donors, the organization fulfills final dreams that provide inspiration, comfort and closure at the end of life.
The couple last visited the island in 2007, prior to the birth of their sons, when they stayed with Peter Latulippe’s parents, Peter Sr. and Elaine, who have a timeshare at the Eagle’s Nest Beach Resort. Marco left an indelible impression on her and she longed to return with their children.
“I enjoyed walking the beach with my mother-in-law every morning and collect shells,” Melanie Latulippe, 42, said of that trip. “I still have some at home. They’re still there, not broken.”
The former middle school lunch lady said the trip provided a welcome respite from the stress the family has experienced due to her illness.
“It means everything,” said Melanie Latulippe. “It means a lot that we get to come here, we get to forget about life up there and what’s going on. Down here, we’re just Mel, Pete and the boys. When we want go for a walk on the beach, we can. We don’t have this appointment and that appointment. When you come down here and you can forget a lot about what’s going on in reality.”
For Pete Latulippe, a delivery driver for Pepsi-Cola, the vacation fell right in line with a paramount concern. “I’m just happy she’s happy – whatever I can do for her to make her happy,” he said.
The Dream Foundation has fulfilled nearly 25,000 final dreams since its inception in 1994, said Dani Cordaro, CEO, Piccolo Public Relations, the organization’s public relations provider.
Cordaro said the dream requests that the nonprofit receives are wide ranging, everything from a new mattress or a lift chair, to travel-related dreams and trips to places like Disneyland, where applicants can spend time with their children. There are also adventure related requests like skydiving or jaunts in a hot air balloon.
Applications must meet established criteria to be approved. “What we’re very proud of is that every qualified applicant that has reached out to the organization has had their dream fulfilled,” said Cordaro.
The vacation itinerary included a dolphin and shelling cruise, sailing, a professional family portrait photography session, Mother’s Day brunch at the resort’s Maia restaurant, a spa day for mom while dad and the boys played golf at The Rookery, and much more.
The Latulippes raved about their accommodations, which included a separate room for their sons, both with balconies facing the Gulf of Mexico.
“They really set us up nice,” said Pete Latulippe. “It’s a beautiful room. “That was part of her dream to have a room on the ocean.” Melanie Latulippe said the lodgings were more than she expected. “I was just hoping for a little motel where you walk out, walk on the boardwalk and get to the beach,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting this. It’s wonderful.”
The vacation came about after Melanie Latulippe’s social worker at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Londonderry, New Hampshire, suggested she apply. “You send them a story of what your dream would be and why it would be so important to you” said Pete Latulippe. They received notification that their wish had been granted three weeks after submitting an application.
“I feel like a million bucks down here,” said Melanie Latulippe, while relaxing in a poolside cabana with her family, the beach mere steps away. “They just treat you so wonderfully. We really are blessed to have been given this gift and dream because it’s amazing. I mean, it’s really amazing.”