By Kim Gharrity, Hammer Donor and Volunteer
Monty Python comedian and actor Michael Palin recently quipped: “Once the travel bug bites, there’s no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” I’m pretty sure Hammer Travel volunteer Sandy Hongerholt has been bitten and smitten by the same bug!
Did you even know that Hammer has an in-house travel agency? Since 2008, Hammer Travel, LLC has been a subsidiary service of Hammer Residences, Inc. It provides travel opportunities for people with developmental disabilities that are unique, safe and enjoyable. Sandy has been a volunteer on many of these trips over the last two years.
Sandy has been familiar with Hammer for many years. She is co-guardian of her 52 year-old cousin Dean, who is one of four men living at a Hammer home in Wayzata. Amazingly, this group of guys has lived together for more than 15 years! Despite this long time association with Hammer, it’s only been in the last few years that she’s had the flexibility to travel.
On every trip there is one paid Hammer staff member who acts as the trip leader, and then there are as many additional volunteers as needed to keep the ratio of traveler to staff at four to one. After a trip is scheduled, the trip leader and volunteers get together with Tom Ryan, the Director of Hammer Travel, for a pre-trip meeting to discuss the itinerary and assess other needs and possible interests at the upcoming destination. Sandy has taken many trips with Hammer Travel since her first one to the Wisconsin Dells in the summer of 2013. Others trips include two to Hawaii, two to Alaska, one to Florida, one to Las Vegas, one to a dude ranch in Texas and two Disney cruises. Yikes, I have jet lag just writing this!
Sandy loves going on these trips, helping out as needed and having just as much fun as everyone else. She says the best part for her is seeing these vacationers realize their travel dreams and be given the opportunity to explore the world in a way they may not otherwise have been able. She has made lasting friendships on these trips and keeps in touch with many of her co-travelers afterwards. As a matter of fact, she continues to get together with Dawn who lives in a Hammer home and was her roommate on one of the Alaskan trips. Sandy and Dawn have gone out for dinner together, taken walks by the lake, gone shopping, gotten manicures, visited the library and just hung out.
As a Flight Attendant, I know the thrill and excitement these trips must bring to all involved and also recognize how grateful Hammer must be for Sandy’s contribution. What an invaluable, selfless blessing she is to these globetrotters by helping them realize Hammer’s primary mission … to experience life to its fullest!