Sweet Dreams Foundation fundraiser
Summer time is here! Kids are outside running around as summer break keeps them at home for most of the day. Public pools are full of kids enjoying relief from the heat.
The sound of laughter and joy are heard all around. Parents look forward to family time and running with their kids.
There are other children though that cannot enjoy the sun and who can’t experience the joy of jumping and running. Some children, because of illness, are restricted in what they can and cannot do.
Some children have had a hard and difficult short life and have been diagnosed with a life threatening disease.
There is an organization; Sweet Dreams Foundation whose mission is to “Improve the quality of life of children who have been diagnosed with a life threatening disease through the creation of their Dream Room.”
To meet that goal Jennifer Richards, Founder and President of Sweet Dreams Foundation has put together a team of volunteers and created a governing board for the foundation to move forward.
Two young girls, one diagnosed with ALL (a form of leukemia) and the other diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy applied for the opportunity for their dream room.
Virginia is an 8-year-old diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) a form of leukemia characterized by excess lymphoblasts.
Below is Virginia’s story as told to Sweet Dreams Foundation.
Virgina was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia on July 8, 2009 one month after turning 5 years old. We went through two and a half years of chemo, frequent spinal taps and many pills. We were finally finished with everything in November of 2011. We were free! Five months later on Easter, April 8, 2012 we knew something was extremely wrong. Virginia was not herself for a few weeks. People mentioned she was pale and on Easter morning when she could not even get off the couch to look for Easter eggs we knew we had to get her blood work done at the lab. Our hearts sank when the results we got showed that her counts were almost at zero. We called her oncologist and she thought it was a mistake. Virginia’s chance of relapse was only 5 percent more and none of us thought this could happen including her doctors. We were told to check into the hospital and a few hours later our worst nightmare was confirmed. Virginia had relapsed and would need an immediate blood transfusion with intense 10 times stronger chemo over a shorter span of time. A bone marrow would be needed and our lives would be turned upside down with the chance of Virginia surviving at 50 percent. We were all tested in our family to be a marrow match and little sister Rebecca Rose was the match. We were extremely happy.
Virginia was also found to have leukemic optic nerve damage which required optic and brain radiation for 12 days. This is something very rare and this is probably why she relapsed because there were dormant leukemic cells hiding in the optic nerve.
Six-year-old Malena’s story is just as heartbreaking. Her mom Nina gave the following diagnosis.
We live in Sacramento and found out our baby was diagnosed at 15 months old with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2. This is the number one genetic killer for kids under 2 years of age. We were shocked.
At age six thankfully Malena is doing much better after two years of setbacks and three hospitalizations at Sutter Memorial in Sacramento. She can be seen driving her purple power chair rolling as fast as it will take her – she’s an outside girl with a lot of enthusiasm! Malena loves anything princess but her love of nature and being outside also is a factor….she loves pink of course, but she loves calm environments and the sea – also loves interacting with girls her age. Malena recently got a cockapoo named Hannah, that she adores which is also helping her with the healing process….
We are blessed to have her in our life – she’s a very gentle soul with a lot of love to give.
Upon meeting Malena late last month Richards noticed how vibrant and inquisitive the little girl was.
Richards meets each child to find out more about them and learn what they like. Malena obviously enjoys the outdoors and while visiting the little girl she moved around her back yard with speed on the wheelchair she has had her whole life.
Malena adores her little dog, a cockapoo named Hannah. Both Hanna and Malena were full of life the first day Richards met them.
The process of visiting and learning as much as possible about children who can benefit from the Sweet Dreams Foundation requires interest and patience. Richards asks many questions of the child. By asking questions Richards learns what the child likes to do and starts formulating an idea for what that child’s dream room should look like.
Malena maneuvers around her home with ease but with some limitations and that will be one of the main considerations as the room becomes a reality. Richards asked as many questions about Malena’s bedroom. Richards’ enthusiasm is beyond comparison she loves children and kids are eager to return the love.
Richards asks about the child’s favorite colors, books, videos, music, art and wardrobe. Malena and Richards share their similarities in outfits and shoes.
Enjoying a wonderful emerging relationship the inquisitive little girl asked if Richards was strong. Malena asks, “Are you strong enough to lift me to my bed?” Richards laughingly says, “Of course I am,“ and puts lifts the adorable little girl to her bed.
After a while of talking Malena turns to Richards and says, “Are you just going to leave me here?” Richards turns to me in disbelief and quickly turns to Melena and says, “Of course not Malena.”
Richards at this point has noticed how restricted Malena’s movements can be and the little girl’s personality just melts your heart. She is very inquisitive, funny, charming and very adorable. Malena and Richards continue talking and then Richards said she already had an idea about a bed for her room. Richards’ idea could not be kept secret as Malena guessed what Richards had in mind.
Malena finally grew restless and asked Richards to move her back to the wheelchair. Richards amazed Malena by lifting both her and Hanna to the wheelchair.
The initial meeting went wonderfully and it was a wonder to watch Richards work with Malena.
Sweet Dreams tries to raise funds to help create dream rooms for children diagnosed with a life threatening disease or chronic medical conditions by seeking donations from the community. Several events are also planed during the year to help with this effort.
This Saturday, June 23 Sweet Dreams Foundation will hold their 2nd Annual Luau event. The Luau will have an assortment of entertainment, food and drinks. Visitors to the event will also have a chance to meet with families of past dream room recipients.
The event will be held at the Carriage House Gardens located at 6444 Sylvan Road in Citrus Heights.
Log on to the Sweet Dreams website to purchase tickets to the event. Also browse the “Events” page for more information about the event and see past Sweet Dreams events and to learn more about the foundation.
As of Thursday only two more tables of eight seats remained to be sold for the Luau. Tickets can still be purchased on line or by calling (916) 220-3203.
Disclosure: I am a volunteer for Sweet Dreams Foundation