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Living her dream: 73-year-old Knoxville woman goes zip lining in the Smokies

Darlene Hartwick, or Cricket, as her friends call her, got to cross a big item off her bucket list: riding a zip line.

GATLINBURG, Tenn — Hang on tight. Lean back. Tuck your knees. 

Next thing you know, you're flying among the trees in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Darlene Hartwick, or Cricket, as her friends call her, got to cross a big item off her bucket list on Tuesday, July 9: riding a zip line.

Hartwick lives at The Pointe at Lifespring, a senior living center, and was selected to be a part of its "Livin' the Dream" program that happens once per quarter where one resident is selected and given a chance to dive into their bucket list. 

Julie Sharp, The Pointe's marketing and sales director, said this program is part of the center's mission to go a step further in taking care of the residents' needs and souls by giving them fun and adventure. 

"It's about truly, truly feeding their souls. When you feed their souls, their whole mindset changes," Sharp said. 

The center's staff said the 73-year-old is their resident adrenaline junkie and asked to go zip lining when she was selected for the program. 

"She loves to dance and loves to live life. And when we were thinking of a person that we wanted to represent our program, it was a no-brainer," Sharp said.

The Pointe took her to Anakeesta, singing "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" all the way from Knoxville to Gatlinburg, to fulfill her dream. 

On the adventure course, Cricket got to ride on three different zip lines and repel between platforms twice, stopping only while waiting her turn. 

"We just did it all and it was fun too. But I don't understand why it happened to me," Cricket said.

Cricket may not understand why she was picked for the program out of all the other residents, but Sharp knows exactly why. Cricket helps out in the memory care unit, pushing residents' wheelchairs and clearing meal trays.  

"We're just so tickled that we were able to give back to her today because she has such a loving and kind heart," Sharp said.  

Cricket said living out this dream was her way to honor her family, especially her older brother, who taught her to do what makes her happy, even when you're the only 73-year-old on the course. 

"Well, why not? If you can, you can," Cricket said. "Zip lining, it scared me to death, but it was a lot of fun. I liked it pretty good. I liked the fwhooosh, the fast."  

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