Every child dreams of swimming with dolphins, hanging out wth their favorite sports players or singers, owning a puppy, going on a cruise or traveling to Disneyland. These dreams acquire a special poignancy when the child concerned has a life-threatening or terminal illness. For 35 years, the Children's Dream Fund has been helping children with terminal illnesses fulfill their dreams.
Laura Sanchez, Communications Director explains that "We serve children from local area hospitals, including Shands (Gainesville), St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, Tampa General Hospital and All Children's Hospital (St. Petersburg). Referrals are received from physicians, nurses, child life and social workers, friends, families and other patients. The types of dreams vary as much as the personalities of the children we serve. This may involve meeting a celebrity, a trip, a gift such as a computer or playground, or our most-requested dream, a week at the Give Kids the World Village, which enables a child to visit all of the Disney-area theme parks. We are proud to say that we have never denied a deserving child their dream-come-true."
The Children's Dream Fund works with children between the ages of 3 and 18 throughout west central Florida and covers all expenses associated with a dream - including travel, lodging and spending money if needed. Sanchez emphasizes that the illness does not have to be terminal, and the dream does not have to be a child's last wish. Expenses for family and caregivers are also covered, to avoid burdening the family.
The Fund is not affiliated with any national organizations and relies on individual and corporate donations in the form of financial funding and gifts in-Kind to make dreams come true.
In addition to individual and corporate donations, says Sanchez, "we receive financial support through our Share the Dream Program, our Kids Who Care Program, memorial gifts, estate gifts, direct mail, grants, and special events. All funds raised stay in our community."
The Dream Fund is proud of its 4 Star rating from Charity Navigator, and more than 84 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to program expenses.The Dream Fund operates with seven full-time employees and hundreds of volunteers, and adheres to the Association of Fundraising Professional's Donor Bill of Rights.
Sanchez believes that organizations like the Children's Dream Fund, that give back to others in need and ask for nothing in return, are so important because "It is important to provide support and hope to people who fall on hard times. In our case, the experience of a dream is often a source of inspiration for many children who are undergoing difficult medical treatments and it frequently enables them to overcome any obstacles they may be facing. We do not fund research. Our sole purpose is to fulfill dreams for children with life-threatening illnesses. We love being able to restore joy to a child and their family and help them make memories that will last a lifetime."