Making dreams a reality occurs every day from a small office suite in Santa Barbara. It’s where the dedicated Dream Foundation staff and volunteers touch the lives of adults facing life-threatening illnesses at a time when they are looking for moments of joy and cherished memories.
Dream Foundation grant recipients face a prognosis of a year or less of life. With the increased medical and dental care required and their inability to work and generate income, they often are confronting very challenging financial circumstances.
For many recipients, the ease of knowing that a utility bill is paid or even just receiving a comfortable chair can make all the difference. Dream Foundation officials characterize the nonprofit organization’s palliative care as providing “ease without curing.”
Families, too, are affected by these trying circumstances and the Dream Foundations fosters the opportunity for family members to share in trips outside of a hospital room. Such outings enrich a lifetime of memories for children and spouses who are facing the difficult loss of a loved one or a parent.
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In 1993, Thomas Rollerson contacted a wish-granting agency for children and learned that a similar organization did not exist for the final wishes of adults. Less than a year later, in Santa Barbara, he founded the Dream Foundation, which has now granted more than 11,000 dreams for adults and families dealing with the impending loss of life of a loved one.
Now, nearly 20 years later, a nationwide network of hundreds of volunteers and more than 600 hospices and health-care organizations makes a variety of dreams possible, including meeting a personal hero and providing a foundation of support and compassion for family members preparing to say goodbye.
“As an organization, we are proud of the national scope of our service,” said Erinn Lynch, the Dream Foundation’s communications director. “Still, it’s our local roots, local partners and local supporters who continue to guide, shape and inspire our service.”
In the Dream Foundation’s first year of operation, 34 dreams were granted. That number has steadily grown to more than 2,000 fulfilled Dream Requests annually.
Current forecasts show that the number of requests continues to grow and the Dream Foundation is experiencing a nearly 20 percent increase in the number of dream requests per year. The organization works hard to maintain its goal of never turning away a qualified applicant.
A host of programs is provided by the Dream Foundation to secure special moments of joy and grace, with the primary program being the Dream Granting Program for adults over the age of 18 with limited resources and a short life expectancy.
Foundation officials say the most commonly granted request is the dream of mobility attained with the assistance of a U.S. Medical Supplies lift chair. Others include family trips to Disneyland or a meeting with a favorite celebrity.
Another program — one that is unique to Santa Barbara and will be featured later in this ongoing series — is Flower Empower, which is held every Saturday at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market, 232 Anacapa St., where volunteers meet to create beautiful bouquets using donated flowers from local growers.
These magical bouquets provide a ray of sunshine and beauty for the seriously ill and grief stricken. Nearly 75 arrangements are prepared each weekend and delivered with homemade cookies, chocolates and a personal card from a local student. Since the program began in 1994, more than 25,000 flower deliveries have brightened up the local community.
And thanks to the generous support of Hasbro, the joy is also shared with children who receive age-appropriate toys from the Toy Program that generates smiles on children’s faces during difficult times.
The ongoing task of finding dreams to fulfill is managed from the local Santa Barbara office at 1528 Chapala Street, Suite 304, in cooperation with a national network of Volunteer Program Dream Hosts who share insight on regional resources and assist with the follow-up needed to make sure dreams are completed.
Potential recipients must complete dream requests themselves using an easy online application process with referrals from doctors, hospitals, social workers and hospices. The requests are received almost daily.
All of these amazing and passionate programs are provided by the organization utilizing noncash contributions and donations from individuals and businesses on a dream-by-dream basis.
With only a small monetary budget, the Dream Foundation expertly utilizes its resources without any state or federal assistance and has become a model for exceptional funds management with an excellent rating from the Better Business Bureau and a four-star rating by Charity Navigator for efficiency and fiscal responsibility.
Volunteers and donors are provided with a wide range of options closely managed by the Dream Foundation for the ability to share in the opportunity of helping make these dreams transcend a lifetime, officials say. The foundation also encourages referrals of a potential dream candidate or someone who can be asked to adopt a dream by maximizing a unique talent or skill.
Monetary donations of any amount are also encouraged but since many dreams include travel for an escape from hospital or doctor’s offices, all unused airline miles from Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are welcomed and accepted. The foundation is also in need of other travel assistance from limousine, car and rental services that can help provide the means for dream recipients to visit family, old friends or reach a dream destination.
Many locations where hotels and time-share units for in-kind resources are common to the dreams include San Diego, San Francisco, Hawaii, New York City and Orlando, Fla.
In addition to resources in talent, travel and money, the organization efficiently utilizes restaurant vouchers, tickets for music and sporting events and unique items for auctions at various fundraising events throughout the year. Gift cards are also a great resource for satisfying daily needs, such as gasoline, building supplies and retail outlets.
Another opportunity for individuals to help is shopping for unique gifts from participating local artists and retailers who donate a portion of receipts to the Dream Foundation. Items for sale that contribute to fulfilling dreams include jewelry from Adesso of Santa Barbara, Dream for 21 and Stoney Clover Lane; organic cotton sleepwear from Piggy Pajamas; and the Dream Foundation online store with coffee mugs and baby items.
Dreams are also generated by supporters both young and old through the nationwide Youth Advisory Committee of college and high school students who are committed to providing a bridge for future generations, or via Leaving a Legacy with a named endowment fund that associates an individual or organization’s name in perpetuity.
The Dream Foundation programs detailed here only touch the surface of the organization’s commitment to those in need. Future stories in this new series will highlight a specific program, share the impact of a fundraising event, introduce the passionate dream coordinators, share inspiring stories from dream recipients, and more.
» Click here for more information on the Dream Foundation, or call 805.564.2131.
» Click here to make an online donation to the Dream Foundation.
» Connect with the Dream Foundation on Facebook.
» Follow the Dream Foundation on Twitter: @dreamfound.
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