This holiday season was Roy Casey's first without his son Paul.
In October, Paul Casey, an English professor at Los Angeles City College and Occidental College in Los Angeles, was killed in a motorcycle accident. The loss took a toll on Roy, 80, whose misfortune was compounded days later, when he suffered a fall at his Seal Beach home, re-aggravating a back injury.
The fall sent him to a hospital, then the Mesa Verde Post Acute Care Center in Costa Mesa, where he stayed nearly two months, starting in early November.
While there, he wasn't sure how much Christmas shopping he could do for his family.
Little did he know that the center was planning a grand gift for him — a limousine ride and dinner at Park Ave restaurant in Stanton for him and his family.
"I was very grateful," Roy said. "I had been in … bed for about 10 weeks before."
The gift was part of a new wish-granting program for patients sponsored by the center's owner, Shlomo Rechnitz.
During the holiday season, center administrator Scott Meppen asked patients to share what they wanted most and why.
When speaking with Roy, Meppen learned of his story and Roy shared his wish — to see his family during the holidays.
"It was an opportunity to give him not just a present but time and memories with his family," Meppen said. "I asked him what his favorite restaurant was, then called his family to help coordinate the evening."
A limo arrived at the Mesa Verde center on Dec. 29 and drove Roy, his son John Casey, Roy's sister Mary Kraszewski, her husband, Rob, her daughter Alex Vaughan and Alex's husband, Teddy, to Stanton for the dinner.
The family had celebrated birthdays and other special occasions at Park Ave, and staff members didn't need to hand Roy a menu since they already knew he would order his favorite dish, rack of lamb.
"It was our mother's favorite restaurant," Mary said. "We hadn't been there in quite awhile, so I know this made his holiday, for sure."
Mary and Roy's mother, Betty Sughes, died in 2010.
Roy's present was among the first to be given in Rechnitz's new program.
"When he found out he was chosen, he said to give it to another person who deserved it," John said. "That's just who my dad is. I know he wished my brother could have been there [at the dinner] too."
According to Meppen, many people stay at Mesa Verde for several weeks of rehabilitation. The facility provides services to help with stroke recovery, respiratory therapy, wound care and cardiac and orthopedic rehab.
Every month, the center plans outings for patients.
"We'll go to a movie, shopping or sometimes they just want to go to Subway," Meppen said. "It's all about what we can do to enhance and help fulfill their lives while they're in the care facility."
Roy became well enough to be discharged from the center on New Year's Eve, Meppen said. He is now at an assisted-living community in San Clemente, the city where John lives.