DREAM Fund Stories

No matter how creative we are, it’s impossible to know where our life stories will take us. Amidst the dreams we chase and the plans we make, there are inevitable hiccups. And sometimes, those hiccups are too big of burden to bear alone. But that doesn’t mean that even those stories can’t have a happy ending.

For two decades, DREAM Fund has supported people in our industry stricken by severe illness, tragic loss and other life-altering situations. Because we are uniquely equipped to provide immediate financial resources and emotional support, we are often able to help our recipients within a matter of days – not weeks or months. The assistance we provide enables people – who, many times, would not qualify for assistance from other sources – to pay medical bills, meet insurance costs, purchase treatment equipment, replace destroyed property and rebuild whatever has been lost.

These are our stories.

Peggy Lark was diagnosed with an incurable heart disease and was unable to work. The doctors told her that she would need a transplant to survive. Peggy’s mounting medical bills consumed her savings, she had no medical insurance and was unable to qualify for Medicare. Peggy couldn’t even afford the medications she needed while she waited on the transplant list.

Peggy had nowhere to turn.

That is, until Shirley Ward heard about Peggy’s terrifying situation. Shirley immediately put together a fundraiser and sent the proceeds to her longtime friend. Unfortunately, Peggy died within a month of receiving the donation, but she died knowing how much people cared and that her media family wanted to help in any way possible.

As a result of Shirley’s personal experience with Peggy’s death, she founded DREAM Fund in 1991. Shirley wanted other colleagues experiencing an unexpected life crisis to have support and a place to turn.

Today, more than 1000 individuals and families have been able to benefit from DREAM Fund. Peggy didn’t live to see her dreams of a transplant realized, but her story inspired one person to change the lives of many. Peggy’s heart truly lives on in the spirit of DREAM Fund.

Mary was a light in the media industry. She was a buyer, a tough buyer, at The Richards Group and always involved in the media community.  Mary’s personality was big, her contributions were big and she was a big presence in many lives.  Mary left such a legacy that an award was created and named after her, the Mary Henry Humanitarian Award.

Mary was a dedicated volunteer for DREAM Fund’s Night in Monte Carlo, leading the charge in decorations and the auction for years.  She also had her own ministry, a clown ministry, which she shared with children and those who needed a lift!  Mary always had time for others and served humbly and with a true passion for giving to others.

Mary started not feeling well, but in true Mary fashion, she waited to go to the doctor until Night in Monte Carlo was over.   That doctor appointment changed the course of Mary’s life and the diagnosis she received that day began her journey with cancer.  Determined to fight it and beat it, she started with surgery and chemotherapy.

Those were tough years and due to the surgery, Mary could no longer eat and received her nourishment through a feeding tube.  The surgery had made talking difficult, yet Mary still chaired the decorating committee for Night in Monte Carlo and made appearances at industry events.  She was so strong and courageous!

Three years into her battle, Mary was struggling to cover her medical expenses.  A friend mentioned DREAM Fund.  Mary said no.  She was assured that it would be confidential.  Mary said no.  Then, the friend mentioned DREAM Fund again and suggested Mary tell everyone!  Mary’s eyes lit up and she loved the idea.

Tell everyone about DREAM Fund?  Challenge accepted by Mary.  She told EVERYONE, anyone that would listen.  She made a video, wrote letters, and shared her story publicly online and in DREAM Fund promotional brochures.

In the fall of 2004, Mary was really sick, the cancer had spread and she was hospitalized.  Her hospital room was always full, with a regular schedule of volunteers and visitors consisting of friends and DREAM Fund volunteers.  Though, as people visited, it only took Mary a minute to ask them if they had made their donation to the Night in Monte Carlo Auction.  If they hadn’t, they did so quickly.

Because people knew that if Mary could still find the strength to give, they could too.

And that was Mary…giving until the end.  Mary died in November of 2004 and in lieu of flowers, she asked for donations to DREAM Fund.

So, while she may have been a recipient of DREAM Fund, we were the ones that truly received.  We were the ones that were blessed.

Any wonder that there is an award named after her?  Learn more about Mary and the Mary Henry Humanitarian Award here.

Nancy started an advertising agency in Cedar Hill in 2003, but has been in the business since 1995. In 2004, in Nancy’s late 30s, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). In 2007, she stepped down from the CEO position of her agency. Due to the MS, she lost her eyesight and spent two years in a wheelchair. A new drug has helped her to regain her vision and walk with a cane, though she still requires over 20 different medications to keep her body functioning.

In 2009, Nancy qualified for Medicare. But with her husband now as the sole provider, the costs are still insurmountable. Even with Medicare,
their out-of-pocket costs are still over $20,000 annually. Combined medical costs and care for their two young children leaves no additional budget to provide care for Nancy, who stays home alone each day. The family has amassed large amounts of personal debt covering medical needs for Nancy.

DREAM Fund provides ongoing relief for this family and has covered dental care, prescription costs and immediate medical needs.

Mike’s dream came true when he got his first job in the advertising industry. His skills had finally been recognized and he would be able to work for a company that would push him to new limits. The dream soon became problematic.

Mike and his family of five moved from Orlando, FL to Dallas, TX in June of 2015 to begin work at The Richards Group. The move itself was far more expensive than expected and they arrived in Texas with an unanticipated deficit. To complicate things more, Mike had lost his supply of insulin during the move and despite panicked calls to three hotels hoping it would turn up, he was forced to pay cash to replace it and left the family another thousand dollars in debt.

Starting a new job and insurance not kicking in for 30 days, left them with several out of pocket medication costs and more debt. Essentially, the journey to a new career and life in Texas, with a few medical crisis along the way, left them in a financial crisis.

Soon, they were facing eviction and had been told that their daughter needed a surgery for severe sleep apnea. The surgery would cost more than a thousand dollars in advance and Mike and his family felt helpless…and hopeless.

Too proud to ask for help, he eventually turned to his new employer with his crisis. They referred him to DREAM Fund. Mike felt certain that he would not be able to receive any help from DREAM Fund, his faith was stained with hopelessness at that point.

DREAM Fund stepped in to assist his family, both emotionally and financially. Mike was overwhelmed with the compassion and concern showed by our philanthropy team. With assistance from DREAM Fund, Mike’s daughter was able to receive her surgery, the family was able to regain sound financial footing and they are now in a hopeful and optimistic place in life.

In Mike’s words, “his family loves Texas and it is possible for him to dream again”.

It was an honor and privilege to serve Mike and his family…and we love knowing that your DREAM is alive again.

Mary Ryan was a visible and involved member of the Dallas Media Community for many years. She began her career as a syndicator and then as regional NSM based in Dallas. She was a dedicated professional but beyond that, a friend to many.

In 2008, Mary was diagnosed with Melanoma. She went through chemotherapy, radiation, multiple surgeries and fought her way to remission. Mary had no family in Dallas and was recently divorced. She had a large circle of friends, but didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. She had great insurance but needed some help and turned to DREAM Fund. She didn’t need much, just some help around the house, rides to doctor appointments and someone to keep her steady as she walked around the block.

DREAM Fund was there.

It was during this time that Mary said, “DREAM Fund quite literally saved my life”.

What seemed small to us was everything to Mary.

In 2011, Mary agreed to be part of our 20th Anniversary video. She was funny, sarcastic and grateful in our video. We were grateful too. She had fought and won her cancer battle.

In 2013, Mary’s cancer returned, more violent and fierce than before and the news was grim. It seemed that the tumors in her brain and lungs were in a foot race with each other and she was only given weeks to months to live. This time Mary was unemployed and her financial resources had been drained during her first battle. A long journey ahead of her, Mary feared the worst and reached out to DREAM Fund once again.

DREAM Fund was there.

Aside from providing financially for Mary’s medical care, DREAM Fund created a schedule to provide transportation to and from doctor appointments and in home care. Mary had around the clock care; her family came from out of town, a DREAM Fund provided caregiver, friends, colleagues and DREAM Fund volunteers. Mary had a string of visitors, an endless supply of groceries and smoothies to keep up her strength. Mary did her part too, with her trademark sense of humor intact, she fought hard. Her spirit and strength were an inspiration and at times, it was difficult to understand how she could remain so positive.

The day that everyone feared came and we were told that Mary was losing her battle. She was released to hospice care; her siblings, beloved cats and DREAM Fund family were with her until the end. Her last few days were filled with love, music, laughter and she was surrounded by friends and family.

Mary was never alone. New friendships were formed. We were forever changed.

Mary gave new meaning to what we do, how we help and a deeper connection to our mission.

Laura and Bob weren’t your typical parents, but they did believe that strength came in numbers.  You can ask any of their nine children and they will agree! Laura homeschooled the children and Bob worked in radio as a production director.

As in many big families, when one child gets sick, they all get sick! Laura was seven months pregnant when the flu was going around and she was hit especially hard. After two trips to the emergency room, she was admitted to the hospital. Her condition rapidly declined and concerns about the baby increased. Baby Erinne was delivered early, but healthy, while Laura was in a medically induced coma. Laura fought for four weeks before the infection became too much for her body to handle and Laura passed away shortly after Erinne was born. Laura was only 38 years old.

The family was in shock. Not only did they have to figure out to how to face life without Laura, but in the midst of their grief and shock, also figure out how to pay for a funeral and cover the devastatingly large medical bills.

DREAM Fund immediately stepped in and covered funeral costs. DREAM Fund then set up a fund for directed donations and the media community stepped in to generously and overwhelmingly support the needs of the family. Their medical bills were covered and the remaining portion went toward purchasing a van that could hold all of the children.

Their lives were changed in an instant, but the family remained incredibly strong and leaned heavily on their faith. This media community kept this family believing in all that is good, and the family attributes its ability to move forward to the goodness of the community and to DREAM Fund.

The setting couldn’t have been more beautiful. As Jared Dunten sat in the hot springs on the edge of the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park, he luxuriated in his first vacation away from his copywriter job at GSD&M. He stood and dove into the river.

But he didn’t come back up. On his dive, he’d hit a rock.

After a harrowing few minutes, a friend managed to get Jared’s head above the water so he could breathe. But the C4 and C5 vertebrae in his neck were broken, and he was 90 miles from the nearest medical facility.

Eventually, they managed to summon park rangers, and Jared was transported to the small town of Alpine, then to the ICU in Lubbock where he stayed for one month. He was paralyzed from the neck down and suffering from pneumonia. The doctors gave him little hope for recovery.

After another six months in a Houston rehabilitation hospital, Jared was finally able to return home to Austin. Armed with an unwavering determination to get life back to normal, Jared was set on returning to work.

And DREAM Fund made his plans possible. The foundation provided a van, specially modified for Jared’s wheelchair, to transport him to and from the agency. It meant the difference between many more months of being stranded at home and a return to his job at GSD&M.

“It was a breath of fresh air. When it seemed everything else took forever, DREAM Fund got the van very quickly,” Jared says.

“It was pretty much ready for me when I got home. DREAM Fund and my agency were both great and really came through for me.”

Jared is now married with two beautiful children and has begun painting. Jared is an amazing artist and an inspiration to all. To learn more about Jared and his paintings, please visit the Dunten Studios website.

Lisa lives in New Orleans and has worked in the advertising business since 2006. Lisa was working at Radio Disney when she had an accident and required knee surgery. At first glance, it seemed lucky that she only needed surgery on her knee.

However, the knee was not repaired correctly and required an additional surgery by another doctor. This surgery required the breaking of her femur and using bone from her hip to repair the knee. While the surgery was successful, it left her unable to return to work of any kind. In the meantime, the radio station where she was employed closed.

With medical bills and co-pays, even the physical therapy costs became too much for the family.

With the economy and the loss of Lisa’s income, the family was behind on payments and barely affording necessities.

DREAM Fund helped the family evaluate their new normal, covered some critical medical bills and Lisa’s physical therapy. The physical therapy was crucial to Lisa’s recovery and allowed the family time to rebuild their lives.

Chris had developed a successful profession in radio sales. Chris worked hard and played hard and loved playing football on the weekends. One game, he bumped heads with another player, but being Chris, he shook it off and went back to playing the game.

Unknowingly, he had suffered a concussion and did not seek medical attention. Unaware that the vision in his left eye had become impaired, Chris pulled into the path of a truck while merging onto the freeway. What Chris didn’t know, was that at the young age of 32, he had suffered a stroke.

His wife’s insurance covered much of the medical expenses, but there remained a mortgage payment, two car payments and a small child to support.  Chris’ rehab would take up to seven months to complete.

DREAM Fund helped with his expenses. Eventually, with a lot of hard work in rehab, Chris made a full recovery and continues a successful career. He even still plays a little football on the weekends.

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