If your life seemed to revolve around the constant pain and misery of illness, how would you choose to escape? For many sick, often dying, children, what might seem like unattainable fantasies can become real-life escapes, thanks to the Central Missouri Dream Factory.
The Central Missouri Dream Factory is one of 40 national chapters of an organization that makes terminally and chronically ill children’s dreams come true. To meet the requirements of having a dream granted, the dreamer must have a mental age between 3 and 18 years old; the dream must be completed before age 19; and the child has to be able to communicate the dream without mediation or help of a parent or guardian. The dreams can be written, expressed verbally or conveyed through a technological aid. The children must be able to communicate their dream with a volunteer in order to ensure the dream being granted is their own original idea.
Although children don’t have to be terminally ill to qualify for a dream to be granted, many children whose wishes are fulfilled by the Dream Factory are facing an insurmountable disease.
“A majority of the children are referred to us by the University of Missouri Women’s and Children’s Hospital,” says Tim Bach, area coordinator for Central Missouri Dream Factory. “Some physicians look at us as part of the child’s treatment.”
After a child is selected and approved, the Dream Factory sends two volunteers to meet the child and find out how they can make the child’s dream come true. The volunteers ask each dreamer for three wishes — in order to maximize the chance that one is achievable.
“The biggest difference between the Central Missouri Dream Factory and other similar organizations is that 80 to 86 percent of the money stays local,” Bach says. The volunteer-run organization is able to exist based solely on donations.
Once everything is approved, the volunteers dedicate their time to do everything possible to make the child’s dream a reality. “My wife and I met one child who wanted to either camp with President Obama’s daughters or go to Disney World,” Bach says. “Disney is the most popular dream; there’s not much of a challenge there.”
One of the toughest dreams Bach granted was for a young woman with a brain tumor who dreamed of shadowing the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, Glenda Bailey. Originally, the girl was only supposed to shadow Bailey for half a day, and then spend three days exploring New York City. Bailey liked the girl so much she allowed her to come to the magazine for all three days of her trip. There was even talk about the dreamer interning for the magazine once she started college.
Bach remembers this as being one of the coolest dreams he’s seen granted. “It’s great knowing that if we weren’t here, these children would have all these challenges and wouldn’t get a day to be special and set their troubles aside.”
The largest fundraiser for the Dream Factory is the annual Dream Factory Poker tournament, which takes place on April 4 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 2525 N. Stadium Blvd. Last year’s tournament attracted 225 players and raised $110,000 — which funded a year’s worth of dreams. This year, the buy-in is $75 for all you can eat and drink. The high roller’s package costs $150 and includes premium liquor, bottled beer, private waitresses and other perks.
To register for Dream Factory Poker, visit www.dreamfactorypoker.org.