Giving Children A Chance To Live Their Dreams
By Kerri Cooke
Children know how to dream. They dream big; unencumbered by the failures, disappointments and reality checks that suppress adults.
Dreams are all about the future, but what if there might not be much of a future left for a child? Dreams Come True of Louisiana is a non-profit organization whose mission is to address this very question.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” and this is a quotation that Dreams Come True of Louisiana truly believes in. They give children ages 3-18 all across Louisiana who have life-threatening illnesses permission to dream by granting wishes.
Dreams Come True of Louisiana was founded 35 years ago in 1982 in Denham Springs, La. Multiple families rallied together for a child who had cancer and had never had a pizza before. Imagine a wish as small as eating pizza — something many of us do regularly.
Denham Springs pulled out the fire trucks and police cars and gave the child a memorable experience. After seeing the positive impact they had on this child’s life, the families decided to continue giving back, and the organization was born.
Dreams Come True of Louisiana, previously based in Baton Rouge, is now based out of Youngsville. It was completely volunteer run until 2008.
There’s only one paid employee presently: Becky Prejean, the executive director of the program. She works out of her home, since she sees no need to waste any of the money the group receives on rent. There’s a joke in Youngsville that her office is Starbucks. Prejean says all the money received stays in Louisiana and goes to the children.
She says the group is currently granting about 80 dreams a year, but there is no limit to the number of projects that could be undertaken. Dreams Come True grants the wishes as they come in.
Many people think the group just funds wishes for cancer patients. But in fact, they cover various illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and immune deficiencies. Still, most of the recipient children have either leukemia or carcinoma.
A dream for a child who might not see tomorrow is something that can keep them fighting. To grant that dream is to show them that dreams do come true and there is more to the world than suffering and hospitals.
Prejean says all the kids are appreciative, strong and mature for their age. They have the attitude that they’re not really sick, but instead are ready to take on challenges and take hold of their dreams.
The parents of these children are affected in a big way as well. The granted dream could be their only family vacation or their last family vacation.
A parent’s biggest wish is to see their child’s dreams come true. To see their child having the time of their life instead of battling for their life can bring much needed refreshment and stamina to them.
The most common wishes Dreams Come True of Louisiana grants are trips to Disneyland, and, for teenagers, shopping trips to places like New York City.
However, many children have unique desires as well.
Brennan, of Westlake, always wanted to be a soldier. Dreams Come True of Louisiana heard him and granted him a surprise Army birthday with many soldiers — more than 40 — from Fort Polk attending. He received the keys to the city from Sulphur Mayor Chris Duncan. Unfortunately, Brennan passed on. But his wish came true when he was buried as a soldier.
Another unique wish was that of a girl named Abigail, who wanted to dance in the famous Broadway musical Wicked. Another child wanted to ride in a submarine, while three girls — Ambria, Aubrie, and Carissa — each wanted creative spaces. One wanted an arthouse, one a playhouse and one a library. Also, a 9-year-old military history buff wanted to visit Pearl Harbor.
After they’ve had their dream fulfilled, some children want to give back and help other kids have their dream. The kids understand each others’ struggles.
Prejean says that this is a world most people aren’t aware of. She wasn’t aware of it before she started working for Dreams Come True of Louisiana. But she wishes everyone could experience the joy that comes from the granting of a wish.
Prejean shares some touching words she received from a businessman named Mr. Russell several years ago. He told her he would help her organization in particular. Business owners see all sorts of people come in for donations; football teams and 4-H clubs come in regularly. So the owner has to choose which groups to support and which to pass on. Russell decided to help Dreams Come True of Louisiana because, he said, the kids involved didn’t ask for anything for themselves.
Fighting for one’s life isn’t an experience anyone, much less a child, wants to go through. Dreams Come True of Louisiana helps restore the goodness, happiness and hope of a child and their family. One simple granted wish can help a child feel they have their childhood back. If they pass on, they’ll have at least one great thing to hold on to. No child should be born into this world and be taken out of it without something wonderful happening in their life. One wish can make all the difference.
How You Can Help
There are several ways to help Dreams Come True of Louisiana. The easiest way is to get the word out about the group to the community. Second, if you know a child who fits the organization’s qualifications, you can submit their name. Third, you can donate on the site dctofla.com through PayPal. Finally, you can attend Beer Fest, which will take place at the Crying Eagle Brewing Co. on March 18 to benefit the organization. You never know what an impact you can have by a simple act.