One thing Berenice Benson loves to do is travel. Unfortunately, due to her dementia, the 85-year-old had to stop pursuing her passion.
That meant she had to give up on her dream of visiting New York City, one place she never got to see. But thanks to the staff at the nursing home in Canberra, Australia, where she lives, and an NYPD officer who was recently vacationing in Australia, her dream came true.
Benson spent her early years traveling around the world.
Benson, who lives at Uniting Mirinjani care home, regularly tells the staff how much she’d love to go to New York City, and not being able to visit the Big Apple is one her biggest regrets.
“I’ve always wanted to see how bright and busy it is, and of course, my biggest wish has always been to chat to a New York police officer in his shiny uniform,” the 85-year-old told Babble. “I’d like to ask him about life in the Big Apple, where the best coffee is, and listen to all the adventures he has been on.”
She always wanted to visit New York City, but never got the chance.
Jo Sumner, coordinator of leisure and wellness at the nursing home, took notice and helped set the wheels in motion.
Sumner has arranged for other residents to go in a hot air balloon and on a police ride-along, but Benson’s wishes were a little more difficult to grant.
Although the walls of the elevator at the nursing home are covered in photos of New York’s skyline, it wasn’t quite the same as visiting the city.
One of the nursing home’s employees spent two years trying to bring New York City to Canberra.
After spending nearly two years trying to find a way to help Benson experience New York City, she reached out to a friend who works for the Australian Federal Police. They, in turn, contacted the New York Police Department and asked if they could help.
Within a few days plans for the surprise of a lifetime for Benson were set.
An NYPD detective was visiting Sydney and was willing to make the drive down to Canberra in order to surprise Benson.
“I lost my father to Alzheimer’s, so being here, [it’s] a bit emotional but I’ve seen a lot and done a lot and this is one of the better moments in my career,” Detective Shank told The Canberra Times of the most unusual request he’s received during his 33-year career.
An NYPD officer surprised Benson at her nursing home.
Berenice has always wanted to meet a “real life New York policeman”. This is the moment an NYPD detective surprised her at her nursing home in Canberra. pic.twitter.com/Bl60BYGiOK
— Sherryn Groch (@Sherryn_G) January 18, 2018
When Detective Shank walked into the room, Benson was overjoyed. She described it as the “best day of my life.”
The two chatted about New York City—he even promised Benson he’d buy her a steak dinner if she ever made it to New York City—before Shank gifted Benson a scarf he brought all the way from the United States.
“I think I’ll wear it forever,” she told Babble.
Everyone involved with the surprise became emotional when Benson met Detective Shank.
It was pretty impossible to do justice to the magic of Berenice meeting Detective Shank in words so here's more video of their time together @canberratimes @NYPDnews @weareuniting @AusFedPolice pic.twitter.com/G5auofxH4t
— Sherryn Groch (@Sherryn_G) January 19, 2018
Benson was extremely grateful for the effort made by everyone involved, but little did she know that her New York experience wasn’t over yet.
Several days after meeting Detective Shank it was arranged so that she could take a trip to New York City, albeit via virtual reality.
Benson even got to “visit” New York City with the help of virtual reality.
Do you remember Canberran Berenice Benson's visit from a New York police officer? Virtual reality just put her one step closer to visiting the Big Apple @canberratimes @weareuniting @Samsung pic.twitter.com/wrDKmlQR5F
— Meg Van Lohuizen (@megvanlo) February 1, 2018
The opportunity was given to Benson through a program where Samsung is testing the use of virtual reality among hospital patients.
“I can’t express what I’m feeling, it’s just magnificent … I can’t believe it exists, it’s here,” Benson said after virtually visiting New York City landmarks.