Tuesday, October 28, 2014

National Convention highlights & awards

A special thanks to the San Antonio Chapter and everyone who helped make the 2014 National Convention last month a huge success. Todd Fairbanks, the new National Director/CEO, said “everyone was welcomed with Texas hospitality which was pervasive throughout the week, and the selections of sessions were well attended and our speakers were very informative.” There were more than 100 volunteers from 29 chapters gathered to celebrate our success over the past year and share ideas to help in the future. The amount of chapter representation at the Convention was a record!!!

Following are a few highlights from the Board of Directors meeting:

  • The election of Virginia Avery to a three-year term as National Vice President. Virginia is a 24-year Dream Factory volunteer who has held every position in the York-Maine Chapter. She just completed a year as Chapter Representative and was a member of the Executive Search Committee.
  • The election of Andrew Fruits to a three-year term as Chapter Representative to the Executive Committee. Andrew has served as the Chapter Representative for the Central Missouri Chapter and is a full-time student at the University of Missouri.
  • The announcement that for the third consecutive year, The Dream Factory received a Four-Star Rating from Charity Navigator.
  • The ratification of the Executive Search Committee recommendation of Todd Fairbanks as the new National Director/CEO, replacing Anne Bunger, who retired on October 1.

Awards were also presented to the following:

·         Service Pins          
v  10 years          Gayla Lane, Dyersburg
v  5 years                        Danielle Williams, Dyersburg
v  5 years                        Sharon Waisner, Memphis
v  5 years                        Allison Clary, North Carolina
v  5 years                        Jamie Clark, San Antonio
v  5 years                        Paul Hunnicutt, San Antonio
v  5 years                        Mary Jo Riley, San Antonio

·         Team Spirit Award           
Because of their quick response and willingness to help National Headquarters with maintaining a relationship with a national sponsor in Millennium Hotels, Anne chose the York-Maine, Brooklyn and Central Illinois chapters to receive this year’s Team Spirit Award. 
·         Outstanding Fundraising Event Under $10,000
The Dream Factory of Portland-Maine for the “Kids Helping Kids” concept. The concept is behind starting Dream Factory Clubs in three local Portland schools.
·         Outstanding Fundraising Event Over $10,000
The Dream Factory of Lexington for their 26th Annual “Sweet Dreams” Gala which was their largest gala to date with net revenue of almost $91,000! 
·         Most Unusual Dream
The Dream Factory of Jersey Shore for granting Tara’s dream was to meet the cast of the Walking Dead and the unique and inventing way of letting her know her dream was granted.
•     Best In-Kind Dream
The Dream Factory of Portland-Maine, for granting James’s Dream to PAY IT FORWARD by inviting 30 of his classmates to go to a local amusement/waterpark for a day. The Chapter was able to get the complete dream donated, including transportation, admission and a pizza lunch.
•     Outstanding Special Project
The Dream Factory of North Carolina for their partnership with a local organization called “Free to be Me” and other nonprofits that work with children who are seriously ill.

The Stephan Douglas Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Bonnie Silvey from the Audrain County Chapter. Bonnie has 26 years of service and is a founding member of her chapter. She has held every board position and has been the trip coordinator for the chapter for nine years. Bonnie goes above and beyond for the kids making sure each family has a notebook with pictures of places of interest they may want to visit while on vacation, information on restaurants, ticket information, maps and contact numbers. Congratulation Bonnie!!

The President’s Award was presented to Anne Bunger, retired CEO/National Director, for her many years of dedication and leadership to the Dream Factory. She will be missed by all!!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Melanie Vale: from dream family to dream makers

By Tommie Kendall
Director of Program Services

‘A lot of days it’s the reason you even get up and go because you know there are
other kids out there who you can change as much as it changed you.’

An emotional speaker who is never short on words, Melanie Vale can talk for hours about her eleven-year-old son Tagen and the dream he was granted by the San Antonio Dream Factory in 2009.

She can explain in explicit detail the day her family was told they would be granted a dream. She can go on and on about their “amazing” experience of being involved in mAAgic Flight, when her family of five left for Give Kids The World in Orlando on the same day Tagen turned seven years old. She can talk about how she was surprised when her son, who had never run before or since, jumped out of his stroller and ran into Mickey Mouse’s arms at the first sight of his favorite Disney character. And, more importantly, Malanie can talk about how her family has not been the same since.

But what makes Melanie’s story even more unique is the fact that she can also speak from the other side of The Dream Factory as well – from the eyes of a volunteer who makes these dreams come true. Within five years, Melanie went from a dream family, to a volunteer within the San Antonio Chapter, to secretary and to the area coordinator, the top position within each chapter which is often referred to as the president. With Melanie at the helm, San Antonio hosted the National Convention in September 2014.

“Our dream happened back in 2009 and everyone in my entire family can tell you so many wonderful memories from that vacation, how much it changed our lives,” Melanie said. “When we got blessed like that, it changed us as a family and we wanted to do whatever we could to give back.”

Tagen, who turns twelve in October and has three sisters, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in a unique situation because his brain scans didn't reveal the disorder but he shows most of the signs and symptoms. His doctors say Tagen is a one-of-a-kind person. Malanie describes him as a special boy who will just grab your heart from the first moment you see him.

Melanie and her husband, Rodney, first heard about The Dream Factory from family friends, who turned out to be the first to be granted a dream out of San Antonio back in 2008. Tagen was referred by the family to Paul Hunnicut, who was the chapter’s area coordinator at the time. It was perfect timing with San Antonio searching for a family to fill a slot at Wish Flight, which is a product of The Something Magic Foundation and sends dozens of families to Give Kids The World each fall. It is now referred to mAAgic Flight and is one of the most anticipated events for The Dream Factory each year. It is still difficult for Malanie to find words describing the experience.

“It was so exciting all the way around. They had a huge birthday party for Tagen, too, and made such a big deal about everything. From the time Paul first talked to us about the dream to all this building up, my son would just light up the whole time. The entire thing is really just like a dream, from the time they pick you up until you get back home, and even afterward. All of it was amazing.”

The family had a calendar and was counting down the days until the trip arrived. Finally, it did, and a limousine was waiting to take them to the airport, where the party awaited. Tagen was infatuated with Mickey Mouse. His specific dream was “to go to Mickey Mouse and play with him and to go to his house.”

For Melanie and Rodney, the best moment came on the first full day of the trip when they went to Disney World. Tagen was timid with some of the other characters they encountered, but not his favorite one, which they waited until later in the day so he could warm up to his surroundings for a while first.

“We often still talk about that,” Melanie said. “We were worried about what he would do when he saw Mickey Mouse because he’s afraid of big things and seeing a small Mickey on TV just wasn't the same as having this huge character walking around. But when Tagen saw him, he jumped out of his stroller and literally ran to him, and the thing is my son can’t run! It’s a moment you’ll never forget your entire life. To see my son’s excitement will be infused in my head forever.”

Following the trip, the Vales went to a Christmas party put on by the San Antonio Chapter for the dream families. It was then that Melanie said they first started to ask how they could help. From that point on, they started attending meetings and were involved in different events.

“There were just a few people on the board and we could see so much potential in this organization with the dedication from those involved,” Melanie said. “When you see that, you want it to grow. I think our excitement and love for this organization just grew and took over.”

Eventually, both Melanie and Rodney were voted on as board members – Melanie as the secretary and Rodney as the treasurer, a position he still holds. The first dream Melanie played a major part in granting was the mAAgic Flight child in 2012, making everything come full circle.

Janie, who was seven years old at the time, left San Antonio early in the morning along with her parents and sister to a memorable send-off party, helped orchestrated by Melanie and her own family. It was almost exactly three years after Tagen had the same dream.

“It was all so exciting, just like our dream,” Melanie said. “Going through the process of planning it takes a different sense when you know everything they’re going to experience and what exactly is going on. It’s really amazing to be on both sides, and is actually just as exciting as seeing my own son go through the same thing.”

Melanie pointed out that her family looks forward to mAAgic Flight each September to they can revisit their own experience each year. “It keeps our dream alive.”

Four years following her son’s dream, and one year after helping to grant Janie’s dream, Melanie was voted the new area coordinator of the San Antonio Chapter in September 2013. She attended her first National Convention that month in Kansas City, and her chapter hosted the next.

“You know? At first I thought there was no way I could be a leader of such a wonderful organization because I view this as all an incredible thing. The reason I’m in this position though is because of the fire I have inside of me that lives, dreams and breaths Dream Factory.”

Melanie said the San Antonio Chapter is small right now within a larger city and hopes that having the National Convention there will benefit them in the long run.

“You go to your first National Convention like I did last September and sit down there to hear about all the other chapters and the amount of fundraising and dreams they’re doing and it gets you excited,” she said. “There are so many kids here in San Antonio and so many opportunities so that’s what I want us to look like. We’re very excited to have everyone come to San Antonio.”

From the mother of a dream child to the top position within the chapter, Melanie wants to keep the momentum going while never forgetting what got her started in the first place.

 “So many people think that it’s just about getting a trip to Disney, but it’s really not – it’s about your entire life changing. Some people take it for just that trip, but if you allow it to then it grows in your heart and comes a part of your everyday life. A lot of days it’s the reason you even get up and go because you know there are other kids out there who you can change as much as it changed you.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wink's 'Dragon Shirt' to benefit The Dream Factory

It's mean.

It's green.

And it's back!

Wink Martindale's infamous Dragon character from the Tic-Tac-Dough game show will be featured on a retro-looking shirt and sold for $25. What's even better? For each of these sold, Wink is donating $5 to The Dream Factory!! But these shirts are offered for just a LIMITED TIME until Friday, April 11. Spread the word to help support one of our national ambassadors and The Dream Factory. To order, please visit http://teespring.com/winkdragonshirt


Wink was host of nineteen game shows including Tic-Tac-Dough in which The Dragon made appearances starting in 1978. Wink got his start with broadcasting in Jackson, Tennessee, at age seventeen and later moved to Memphis where he started a long career hosting game shows. He helped benefit The Dream Factory Memphis Chapter while celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of his restaurant, Martindale's. He was also the honored guest at the chapter's Celebrity Gala. Since 2007, Wink has been one of The Dream Factory's national ambassadors.
The Dream Factory wants to give a big thanks to Wink and his team of Caleb Nelson and John Ricci, Jr., for their support of this project. Now, please help support them as well!!!
The Dragon Shirt
$25 each ($5 donated to The Dream Factory)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Racing Team announces three new members

The Dream Factory Racing Team is happy to announce that three new members have joined the team for 2014. The first is training to race in his longest-ever event (314 miles!), the second is planning a 3,100-mile bicycle ride across the United States, and the third is aiming for a return to the Boston Marathon just one year after being there during the tragic events of 2013.

For information on how to join the team, check out www.dreamfactoryinc.org/runfordreams/


Ultra Runner going for 314 miles

Frank Pic

Frank will be competing in the Vol State Road Race, which is a 500K, self-supported event across three states in the middle of July. Why? “Because it’s there, but to actually complete this nightmare of an event, I’m going to need some motivation.” That’s where The Dream Factory comes into play. Frank approached us about joining The Dream Factory Racing Team as a way to give back to the community, and for that needed boost of motivation. “And maybe put a smile on as many faces as I can through my struggles,” he said. Frank is an outdoor enthusiast who runs the roads and trails around Louisville during early morning hours, nights and weekends. He said he started running three years ago and fell in love with it, culminating with a 100-miler finish in November. This will be his first attempt at an event this long. Visit Frank’s donation page at www.active.com/donate/dreamfactoryrunners/volstatefrank.

Cycle across the United States

Kevin Gambill

Yes, that’s the kind you pedal! Kevin will start his 3,100-mile journey in San Diego, California in March with the final destination being St. Augustine, Florida. The plan: 85 miles per day and six weeks to complete, passing through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Kevin is riding with a guy from Texas who is raising money for M.S. “It’s one of those bucket-list things,” the 48-year-old said. “It’s less about the bike and more about the journey.” Visit Kevin’s donation page at www.active.com/donate/dreamfactoryrunners/kevinxcbike.

Return to Boston after the bombings


Amy had already finished her 26.2-mile race on Boylston Street, had already snapped and uploaded a picture to Facebook, and had already made her way to the hotel room before tragedy struck at the Boston Marathon last April. It was a day she’ll never forget! But as soon as registration opened to enter this year’s race, Amy signed up and is ecstatic to be going back again. She will be lining up with thousands of others who are eager to not allow last year’s events slow them down. The race is scheduled for April 21 and Amy will be representing The Dream Factory!!!


Please help support the Dream Factory Racing Team by joining today or donating toward one of these athletes!

Friday, February 7, 2014


I hadn’t put up a new blog post in a while, and was tossing around a few ideas so just decided to hit on different topics in one post instead. There are many other happenings within The Dream Factory, including all the proceedings within the Long Range Planning Committee sub-committees and other avenues we're using to generate a buzz, but here are a few items worth mentioning.

GKTW and Sunshine: After intensive renovations, Give Kids The World and The Sunshine Foundation Village – two places in Orlando we send many Dream Factory families to each year – are back in the full swing of things. We’re looking forward to the many, many more dreams that both of these places will help us fulfill. Thank you GKTW and Sunshine!!! We’re super excited you’re back in business and to see the updates.

Dream Factory Racing Team: We’re still recruiting runners for The Dream Factory Racing Team during the spring/summer racing season. We’re excited to announce three new members: one who is biking across the country, another who is competing in a 300-mile-plus ultra-marathon race and another competing in the Boston Marathon a year after being there during the bombings. More information about these three coming soon! Check out how you can be a part of this team on our website at the direct link www.dreamfactoryinc.org/runfordreams/

Louisville’s Dream Factory Marathon and Half: The early planning is already taking place for next October’s event with two important issues being discussed now: what will be the date of the race and the new course layout. Those announcements will be made very soon! We’re excited for another opportunity to be partnered with this wonderful event.

Football Dreams: While we’ve had so many dreams take place during the previous few months, there are two “football” dreams worth noting. Heaven, from our North Carolina Chapter, went to a Pittsburgh Steelers NFL game in December. He was able to tour the facility, attend a practice, hang out with the players and watch a game. He also received a jersey, signed football, a game ball and the gloves of his favorite player, wide receiver Antonio Brown. Perhaps even more impressive, our Lexington Chapter sent Ryan to the Super Bowl last week. Ryan was also able to spend time with the Seahawks the day prior to the game. These were two awesome dreams!

New chapters: We’re happy to announce there are some new chapters in the process of opening up so announcements on these will be made soon as well. Also, we want to point out our newly-formed Pennsylvania Chapter for completing their first dream. Lexi and her family went to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas where they also had a swim-with-the-dolphins experience and went on a horseback ride.  And thanks to the Lexington Chapter for sponsoring this dream! Pennsylvania has hit the ground running and is doing a wonderful job!

                                                      Lexi from our Pennsylvania Chapter
March Meetings: We’re prepping for our annual March Meetings in Louisville. They will be March 21-22 so make sure to start making arrangements today, if you haven’t done so yet.

Social Media/Website: Besides Blogger, be sure to like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dreamfactoryhq, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/hqdreamfactory and check out our website at www.dreamfactoryinc.org. The IT Committee is in the process of updating our website.

And as always, continued to spread our mission!!!

~Tommie Kendall
Director of Program Services
February 7, 2014

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's official! Dalton Cyr named National Ambassador for The Dream Factory!

(Press Release)

The Dream Factory, Inc., a national dream fulfilling organization for critically and chronically ill children, announced that award-winning teen recording artist Dalton Cyr has been selected as a National Ambassador for the organization. Cyr, just 13 years old and managed in L.A., is already touring and working on his second album. He has been named one of the most promising songwriters in the world and has fans in 149 countries.

A rising singer/songwriter from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, Cyr will be added to the Dream Factory’s list of celebrities who bring big hearts and a commitment to making dreams come true for critically ill and chronically ill children aged 3 through 18 years old. The all-volunteer, non-profit organization which has granted more than 25,000 dreams, is the largest organization to grant dreams to chronically ill children and the second largest children’s wish-granting organization in the United States.

Anne Bunger, National Director and CEO of The Dream Factory Inc., says, “With the exposure that Dalton’s celebrity will bring to our organization, we hope to increase the number of Dream Factory chapters while adhering to the wishes of our founder that it remain a volunteer organization. As a National Ambassador Dalton will help increase our public exposure so that we may locate more children and be able to grant more dreams. In the process, we believe we will attract the attention of individuals who are looking for a rewarding opportunity, as well as national and corporate sponsorship.”

Dream Factory National Board Member, Laura Walitsky approached Cyr with the idea while he was in New York during his East Coast tour this summer. She says, “As a teenager who is overcoming obstacles to beat the odds and make his dreams come true, we believe Dalton has a perspective that will enable him to relate to sick children who face challenges every day and persevere. We are seeking respected, influential, members of our society to help promote our organization and demonstrate to these kids that they can dream big and that dreams can come true. We believe Dalton fits that bill.”

Cyr says, “I’m very honored and proud to represent The Dream Factory. Through my performances for Wolfson Children’s Hospital, I’ve met kids who work so hard just to survive. They inspire me. As a National Ambassador, I hope to help make more dreams come true and inspire people to start Dream Factory chapters when there isn’t one in their city or join in helping existing chapters.”

If you are interested in learning more about The Dream Factory, would like to find out about volunteer opportunities, start a chapter, know a child who may be eligible for a dream, or would like to make a financial contribution, please visit www.dreamfactoryinc.org , email dfinfo@dreamfactoryinc.org, or call 1-800-456-7556. For more information about Dalton Cyr visit www.daltoncyr.com.

About The Dream Factory: The Dream Factory (a 501(c)(3) organization) is a volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization devoted to granting the dreams of critically and chronically ill children aged 3 through 18. The Dream Factory operates with 37 chapters and more than 5000 volunteers. Founded in 1980 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the organization does not limit its mission to children who have life-threatening illness. The organization believes that children with chronic illnesses and disorders also suffer from substantial emotional and physical pain. It has grown to become the largest organization to grant dreams to chronically ill children in the United States, and the second largest children’s wish-granting organization. Relying on the generous support of individuals, corporations, and foundations, the organization accomplishes its mission through cash and in-kind donations along with the help of thousands of volunteers. Ninety percent of all money raised by The Dream Factory is used to grant dreams, a record recognized as a four-star charity, the highest rating given by Charity Navigator. For more information, visit www.dreamfactoryinc.org .

About Dalton Cyr: An award winning singer, songwriter, musician, and recording artist, Dalton Cyr has toured the East Coast, Midwest and South. His debut 11-song album, “I’ll Be There” was entirely written or co-written by Cyr and songs for his second album, co-written by Cyr, were recorded with multi-platinum producer Paul Fox (10,000 Maniacs, REM, Ziggy Marley, Phish) and an all-star cast of musicians including drummer Josh Freese (Sting, Guns-n-Roses, Dixie Chicks.) Hand-picked by international talent scouts, he was named one of the world’s most promising songwriters. A high energy performer who instantly captivates audiences with his powerful guitar and intense vocal delivery, his original music uniquely merges pop and rock with infectious hooks, and immediately grabs people’s attention getting them out of their seats. He’s appeared on NBC, ABC, & FOX TV, NPR Radio and multiple radio programs and been featured on the cover of Folio Weekly Magazine, Jacksonville Magazine, Florida Times Union and numerous other newspapers and publications. His music can be found on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, Google Play and many others. For more information visit www.daltoncyr.com.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Louisville's Dream Factory Marathon and Half

Twelve weeks and counting… The marathon (and half-marathon) that runs along the Ohio River in Louisville each fall has a long tradition, but this is the first year The Dream Factory has come on board as the benefiting charity, including the naming rights. And we’re very excited!!! Please help spread the word: Louisville’s Dream Factory Marathon and Half is Sunday, Oct. 20. It is now 12 weeks away. We’re aiming for 2,000 runners between the two races with the cap at 3,000. The course starts and finishes at American Turners off River Road with the flat, fast layout staying near the river for a majority of the route. Both races start at 8 a.m. The cost of entry into the marathon is $70 until July 31, $80 until Sept. 30 and $90 up until race day. For the half, the registration cost is $50, $60 and $70. Awards will be presented to the top-three male and female finishers overall, along with the top-three in each age category for both races. Part of the proceeds will be donated to The Dream Factory. Visit the race’s website at www.dreamfactorymarathon.com for more information or to sign up. Inquirers may also contact Tommie Kendall with The Dream Factory at 502.216.0378 or tommie.kendall@dreamfactoryinc.org, or Todd Heady with Headfirst Performance at 502.550.9553 or todd@headfirstperformance.com. Twelve weeks is still plenty of time to get ready to go the full distance of half so lace up your shoes now and head out the door. Also, tell all your running buddies about the race to help spread the word, or newbie’s looking for their first half. Increasing the numbers means helping The Dream Factory, both as a marketing tool to reach out to potentially thousands of people and as a financial gain. Louisville’s Dream Factory Marathon, Oct. 20!