Mike Schmidt, Mariah Carey, Adam Sandler and Dan Marino are just a few of the A-list celebrities who have partnered with a Lehigh Valley nonprofit organization to make local children’s dreams come true … literally. Dream Come True, a Lehigh Valley-based charity founded in 1984 and made up primarily of volunteers, has turned dreams into reality for more than 1,000 chronically and terminally ill children in the greater Lehigh Valley area.
The organization was founded by Kostas Kalogeropoulos, who made it his mission to send 6½-year-old Jamie, a local child battling leukemia, to Walt Disney World before she passed away. During the nonprofit’s first year, Jamie was Dream Come True’s only mission. Now, 30 years later, the organization fulfills dreams for an average of 30 children each year. Executive Director Rayann Vasko says the organization “has never denied anyone who is medically eligible.” Medically eligible refers to children whose lives have been significantly altered by serious, chronic or terminal medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, HIV and cancer. Referrals can come from anywhere but most frequently come from caring doctors who recognize the need for a break from the litany of appointments and treatments that plague these children’s lives.
According to Vasko, the organization relies on the success of fundraisers and the generosity of donors for most of its funding. Its popular Restaurant of the Month calendar rolls out annually in October, with each month dedicated to the story of one of Dream Come True’s spirited kids. The calendar sells out every year. A telethon produced by television station RCN is held each December and has been hosted at Sands Bethlehem in previous years, raising awareness and funds for the nonprofit. Aside from donors, schools and organizations sometimes sponsor a specific child and raise the funds necessary for that child’s dream to be realized, thereby personalizing the entire experience.
Of course, the inevitable request for most children is a trip to Walt Disney World; however, Dream Come True has funded a medley of other dreams, including setting up meetings with celebrities and sports figures, planning trips all over the world, and even throwing a sweet 16 party. Dream Come True believes the experience is something personal for the children and their families to enjoy, and the team avoids intruding on that experience in any way. Whatever idea the child conceives, Dream Come True turns it into reality.
Possibly an even greater testament to the dedication of this organization is the fact that the organization’s generosity does not end with the fulfillment of a dream. “Once a Dream Come True Child, Always a Dream Come True Child” is the organization’s resounding motto, and the nonprofit stays with the children through life, offering support, fellowship and opportunity. All Dream Come True recipients receive college scholarships if they are fortunate enough to win their personal battles. For those children who are not so fortunate, Dream Come True helps pay for their funeral expenses to ease some of the family’s burden. For all of the children and families touched by this generous organization, it is evident in their beaming faces that the memories Dream Come True has helped create are irreplaceable.
For more information or to refer a child, please contact Dream Come True at 610-865-3475 or www.dreamcometrue.org.