Charity Spotlight: DreamCatchers

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Posted By on April 29, 2021

Organization:

DreamCatchers

Leadership:

Founder: Caitlin Crommett

Annual Budget:

Approximately $90,000

Origin:

Caitlin Crommett founded DreamCatchers when she was 15. She had been volunteering with a local hospice for three years and wanted to have a more tangible impact on patients’ lives. After noticing that many patients were rarely visited by family or friends — and even more rarely by young people — Crommett came up with the idea of giving them a chance to have their last dream granted. The idea came from the movie “Patch Adams,” specifically the scene where Dr. Patch fills a pool with spaghetti for an elderly woman who always dreamed of swimming in spaghetti. This sparked the idea of making last dreams come true for those nearing the end of their lives.

Crommett started a club with this mission at her high school, some friends joined, and the concept spread to other schools. Since then, 55 chapters have sprung up in high schools and colleges nationwide, and the mission has evolved to emphasize intergenerational connection through dream fulfillment and other activities.

Volunteer who makes a difference: All of DreamCatchers’ student chapters are volunteer-led, but one particularly notable student this year was Kristin Jung, a junior and president of the chapter at University High School in Tucson. Despite being in the busiest year of high school, Jung continued to run her club successfully, keeping members engaged throughout COVID and beyond. They fulfilled a Dream a month in her first year leading the club (which remains one of DreamCatchers’ top-performing chapters nationwide). To top it off, Jung volunteered as an operations intern with the organization on a national level at the same time.

Known for:

DreamCatchers is known for being entirely run by youths in high school and college, serving the typically elderly population in hospice and palliative care. Students do everything from fundraising, awareness, dream planning and, of course, dream execution and connection with Dreamers. DreamCatchers is proud of its focus on intergenerational connection, which has stemmed from realizing that young people gain as much from these connections as the Dreamers benefit from their dream coming true.

Challenges during COVID-19:

Working with such a vulnerable population in hospice/palliative care put many DreamCatchers activities on hold. Plus, student chapters had trouble engaging their members on a virtual-only basis, though many participated in pen pal programs.

DreamCatchers launched the Kindness & Compassion Initiative at the onset of COVID to keep students connected to seniors in challenging times. The program has taken off, and now thousands of volunteers and seniors engage in pen pal and greeting card exchanges.

To learn more, go to dreamcatchers1.org.

About Karen Werner

Karen Werner is the editor of Frontdoors Media. She is a writer, editor and media consultant. She has interned at The New Yorker, worked at Parents Magazine, edited five books and founded several local magazines. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Mental Floss and the Saturday Evening Post.