Making Dreams Come True
for children with life-threatening illnesses
The Power of a Dream Fulfilled
Every year, thousands of families are given the news that their child has cancer or some other life-threatening illness. Many of them live right here on the First Coast. For these families, life is instantly changed. School days are replaced with hospital stays, play dates are exchanged for radiation treatments, and the simple joy of watching their child sleep silently in bed is now shadowed by the fear that he or she may not reach another birthday.
Dreams Come True exists to help these brave children and their families find a momentary reprieve from the stress and struggles associated with battling a serious illness. We do this through the fulfillment of dreams. For some children, that’s a special day at Disney World or a shopping spree in New York City, but it can also be something as simple as a new furry friend. Dreams bring hope and light to families facing some of their darkest days, and can give these amazing children the strength to defy the odds. That’s the true power of a dream fulfilled.
2021 Dreams Come True Moore Scholarship Winners
Emma was the recipient of a $500 Dreamer Sibling education scholarship, courtesy of the Dreams Come True Moore Scholarship, funded by a generous estate bequest from the Honorable John H. Moore, II and Joan Kraft Moore Living Trust.
Growing up, Emma and her older sister, Alexis, were the best of friends. “We were on the same sport teams and always wore matching pajamas,” wrote Emma.
When Emma was in the third grade, Alexis was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 2. Over the next five years, they spent as much time as they could together: eating dinner together every night, playing games, watching TV, going on road trips, attending doctor’s appointments, and even swimming with dolphins.
Shortly after Emma started her freshman year at Bishop Snyder High School, Alexis passed away. “Starting a new school is already scary, but it was extremely nerve wracking knowing that I would not have a best friend to go home to and talk about my day with,” she said. But even in the face of her loss, she flourished.
Emma involved herself in numerous extracurricular activities, including volunteering for her school’s St. Vincent de Paul Society and Columbian Exchange Garden, playing golf and basketball, cheerleading, and even founding a new club inspired by her experiences with her sister, Kids 4 Kids. “Kids 4 Kids allows kids my age to help kids that are going through the same situation I was in,” she said.
Emma says that her “calling for service” has also been strongly influenced by her experiences with Dreams Come True, to the point where she hopes to start her own non-profit organization someday. As a sibling scholarship recipient, she will be studying business marketing.
“I would be able to be involved in making kids’ dreams a reality while helping the family and friends who are close to that kid have a forever memory.”
More than 4,000 local children diagnosed with a life-threatening illness have seen their dreams turned into realities thanks to Dreams Come True. Currently, over 600 children are dreaming of the perfect escape.
Where Are They Now?
“I woke up to a morning that would change my life forever.” Those were the typed words from Rudy Wells’ letter to Dreams Come True in 2020, recapping the start of his journey with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and the impact Dreams Come True would make on him and his family. We are honored to share with you Rudy’s full letter, which discusses his medical journey, the impact of his dream, and his goal for the future. His words below truly express the POWER of a dream.
I woke up to a morning that would change my life forever. My stomach was in a knot as my mom stared in shock at the bruises that covered my entire body. I still remember the anxiety and tension in her voice when she called my dad to explain how sick I appeared. I had a smile on my face when we picked up my dad from work on our way to the hospital. We made it through the main entrance, I could not hold on any longer, I collapsed losing consciousness. I slowly woke up to the sound of the steady beat of the heart machine and three blurry figures talking about my condition. I will never forget my dad asking “Is there any way that you can give this to me so my son does not have to go through this?” I soon discovered that I had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After enduring years of intensive chemotherapy, cranial radiation, and many hospital stays, I was able to make a full recovery.
Through my journey, I have been able to experience much joy through several nonprofit organizations that have truly made a difference in my life. One of which being Dreams Come True. My family and I enjoyed a trip to Disney World and Sea World, having so much fun in the process. This trip allowed us to take a step away from treatments and have an experience of a lifetime. I think of the fond memories of meeting all the Disney characters, riding all the rides, and seeing my family happy. I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you for the wonderful experience and the time I was able to spend with my family in the face of such an eye-opening experience.
From a young age I have wanted to make a difference in the live of families that are battling childhood cancer. During my life, I have had the privilege working with several nonprofit organizations with the same goal of helping these families. My ultimate goal is to become a pediatric oncologist so that I can inspire hope, compassion, and care. I am happy to announce that I am graduating from medical school and I will be entering University of Florida’s Jacksonville pediatric program where I will be training at Wolfson’s Children Hospital with the hopes of specializing in pediatric oncology.
Thank you for helping me reach this point in my life and the compassion that you have showed and will continue to show to so many families. My hope is that you will continue to hear more inspiring stories and understand the value that you have added to so many lives.
We are excited for Rudy as he works toward fulfilling his goal to be a pediatric oncologist and inspire hope, compassion and care. We are honored to be part of his journey and know that he experience of his dream is still making a difference.
Learn how you can give back to help children realize their dreams, by visiting our Ways To Give page.
Meet Some of Our Dreamers
Since 1984, Dreams Come True has fulfilled the dreams of more than 4,000 local children. We actively work with more than 400 families each year, planning and scheduling upcoming dreams. The Dreamers below represent some of the children who are still deciding on the perfect dream, or have see their dreams turned into realities with the help of our generous sponsors and donors. We thank you for taking the time to watch these short videos and getting to know a little more about their journeys.
Rian Dreams Big
Rue’s New Friend
I’m Dreaming Of…
Dreams Come True never turns away a child or puts them on a waiting list because there is no guarantee of tomorrow. But, we can’t do it without your help. The typical dream averages $3,300 to $7,200, depending on the number of family members and the complexity of the dream. We are actively seeking individuals, schools, groups and companies to help fund the following Dreamers who have yet to experience the power of a dream fulfilled.
Diagnosis: Severe Congenital Neuropenia
Dream: Still Dreaming
Area of Town: Avondale/Ortega
Severe congenital neutropenia is a rare bone marrow disorder where marrow does not produce neutrophils (white blood cells that fight infection). The only option for George was to have a bone marrow transplant. While waiting to reach the appropriate age for the transplant, George maintained his blood with shots, which helped stimulate his marrow. Unfortunately, he was in and out of hospitals during those two years due to various illnesses. Finally, in 2019 at the age of two, George was old enough to have his transplant, and his sister (Kate) was a perfect match. Today, George is doing really well, considering all he has been through since birth. According to his family he has taken all of this with a great attitude and strength.
Diagnosis: Stage 3 Rhabdomyscaroma
Dream: Claw Machine (Fulfilled in 2021)
Area of Town: St. Johns
Ava was diagnosed with a stage 3 rhabdomyosarcoma inoperable tumor on July 8, 2020, at age seven. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of cancer that affects muscle tissue.
She is currently participating in a clinical trial, which involves one year and four months of treatment. So far, her treatment has included chemotherapy at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and 33 proton therapy radiation treatments at the UF Proton Therapy Institute. Ava is currently in her maintenance stage, and will conclude this November if her tumor remains stable.
Ava LOVES claw machines, and for her dream, she wanted her own claw machine to enjoy for years to come. We were able to secure a machine and have it wrapped and personalized. The machine was filled with specific stuffed animals and toys so she can enjoy it every day.
Diagnosis: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS)
Dream: Zoo Dream (Fulfilled in 2021)
Area of Town: Jacksonville
For Whitney, a day at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens was the perfect dream! Whitney was diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), a severe form of epilepsy that causes intractable seizures. Before her dream, Whitney never had the opportunity to interact with animals. On her special day, she enjoyed meeting the animals up close, including her favorite, the goats! This was not only a special experience for Whitney, but also for her mom (Shirley) who loved spending a relaxing day with her daughter.