US: Non-profit organisation Dream Foundation is serving terminally-ill adults and their families by providing end-of-life ‘Dreams’ that offer inspiration, comfort and closure, and vacation rentals, thanks to their privacy, spaciousness and kitchen spaces, are proving to be the optimal lodging accommodations.
Founded in 1994, Dream Foundation, which claims to be “the only national dream-granting organisation for terminally-ill adults”, is supported by a nationwide network of volunteers, hospices, health care organisations and committed donors. The foundation has also given life to more than 32,000 final Dreams since its establishment 27 years ago.
That is where vacation rental hospitality comes in – it is all about creating memories for guests, but not all memories are created equally. According to Dream Foundation, travel-related Dreams account for 65 per cent of all Dreams fulfilled.
Here are four Dreamer stories along with vacation rental heroes who stepped up to meet the need: representing our industry’s impact in ways not previously imaginable.
At 22 years old, Belmi has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and with that, a six-month life expectancy. She is lovely, bright, and very positive. Belmi lives in Santa Barbara, California, with her husband Gustavo, and two young children, Genesis and Isaiah. Belmi’s Dream is to go on a family vacation to Maui, Hawaii, to make memories her daughter can remember and cherish.
She tells Dream Foundation: “Genesis loves the ocean so much that she comes home every day and puts on her bathing suit asking: “When are we going to the beach?” She loves all the creatures. Hawaii will give me that one chance to give her that and create that one lasting memory.”
With generous donations, Belmi had a trip of a lifetime to Maui. Dream Foundation partners at Alaska Airlines provided round-trip airfare and foundation friends at Coconut Condos provided Belmi and her family with a seven-night stay in a two-bedroom condo. Among the activities coordinated by Coconut Condos, the family enjoyed whale watching, compliments of Trilogy Excursions, and a lu’au donated by Drums of the Pacific.
Upon returning from their great getaway, Belmi said: “I was able to forget about everything. It was amazing and an unbelievable experience”. She was quoted in an interview with Maui News, saying: “I am eternally grateful to come across this amazing opportunity because of Dream Foundation. They have made a huge impact on my life. Through Dream Foundation, I have experienced an unbelievable feeling that has helped me bloom again.”
About Genesis, she said: “It was just me and her bonding. Me and her laughing inside the pool. It’s crazy to say, but when I’m home and thinking so many negative things and getting through my activities, it’s hard to just sit down and hug her. I was able to forget about everything and just love her and hug her and fill her up with so many kisses.”
Angie Leone, owner of Coconut Condos, said: “We have been so thrilled and honoured to be a part of fulfilling Dreams alongside Dream Foundation for the last several years. It is an incredible opportunity to partner with our owners and fellow small business owners to help provide a lasting memory for these families.
“Being a part of these Dreams is fulfilling not only to the Dreamers themselves but to us and our employees as well. This industry can be gruelling and demanding but working alongside Dream Foundation helps provide a deeper meaning to the daily grind.
“I am very thankful we can use our business to play a small role in making a difference in these Dreamers’ lives,” she added.
When Sandy was a child, she had an aunt and uncle who lived on Oahu, Hawaii. They sent many glorious postcards that enamoured Sandy about the mystery and beauty of the islands. She decided that one day she would visit Hawaii.
Now at 62 years old with a terminal diagnosis, Sandy wants only one thing – to visit Oahu. She wants to see and experience everything those postcards represented all those years ago, and as a veteran, she also wants an opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor.
Dream Foundation provided Sandy with the trip of her Dreams. Generous friends at Ola Properties provided Sandy and her husband, Larry, with a beautiful ocean view villa just outside of Honolulu. It was the perfect location to soak up the Hawaiian breezes, views, and sunshine.
As a welcome gift, Ola Properties had two deluxe orchid leis and a bottle of champagne waiting for them. One of the activities Sandy looked forward to was a real Hawaiian lu’au that Dream Foundation provided along with funding towards other experiences and expenses. Long-time partner in Dreams, Alaska Airlines, provided flights.
Following their trip, Sandy said Hawaii was everything she thought it would be. She reminisced about how much she relaxed, Larry snorkelled as she enjoyed Pina Coladas watching him in the boat from above, and they toured the Dole Plantation and Pearl Harbor. Most of all, Sandy said the accommodations were even better than her dreams.
Debi Gurnett, director of operations at Ola Properties, said: “At Ola Properties, we are fortunate to have owners and vendors help the dream come true. The staff at Ola Properties takes pride in making sure all our guests are welcomed with Aloha. Welcoming the Dream Foundation families makes our jobs even more special.”
After 86 year old Eddie from Port Orchard, Washington, was given a terminal diagnosis and a life expectancy of four months in January 2020, he shared his Dream of one day visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor with Dream Foundation.
The organisation brought the Dream to life thanks to a generous donation by Ola Properties, a six-night stay at one of their luxurious villas. Travel was made possible thanks to long-time Dream Foundation partner Alaska Airlines, and a special tour at Pearl Harbor was arranged by Keawe Adventures and led by community relations manager at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, David Hodge, a veteran himself, for Eddie, his wife Constance, and his daughter / carer Kari. Keawe Adventures also arranged a special tour around the island.
Eddie told Dream Foundation that the importance of going to Oahu is to pay homage to, and salute, the sailors lost in Pearl Harbor.
He said: “The main thing on my heart and mind for years has been to return to Pearl Harbor and pay my respects.”
Not only is he a veteran of the US Navy, but to his delight, eight of his children and grandchildren have served their country. He was at Pearl Harbor in 1955 and saw the rusted hull of the Arizona, and when the Memorial was built, he declared that one day he would go to see it. This was his last opportunity.
When Eddie first saw the wreckage, he told Dream Foundation: “I just broke down and cried at the sight of it. Seeing the USS Arizona was the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done.
“It brought everything together at the end of my life. We sincerely cannot thank you enough for this experience. We had a fantastic time! The villa was beyond beautiful and everyone we met along the way was so kind,” he added.
Aleksandr, 45, from San Diego, California, married Natalia – “the woman of his dreams” – in 2012. In February this year, he was given a terminal diagnosis and a life expectancy of one year. As Aleksandr comes to terms with his prognosis, he dreams of a honeymoon, an adventure he and Natalia never got to enjoy.
Aleksandr reached out to Dream Foundation to share his Dream of a honeymoon in Miami where he and Natalia can enjoy being with each other on the beach and forget about his heartbreaking diagnosis. Aleksandr hopes the trip will leave Natalia with warm and beautiful memories she can treasure forever.
With flights made possible by Dream Foundation partner Southwest Airlines and a generous donation of a week’s stay from short-term lodging company Sonder, Aleksandr and Natalia enjoyed a “fabulous” apartment in South Beach, Miami, Florida. Following his Dream trip he and Natalia said: “It was the best place they’d ever stayed!”
Sonder GM Miami Samuel Artmann said: “We are humbled by the opportunity to provide a comfortable place to stay for families in need through The Dream Foundation. At Sonder, we are dedicated to making a world of better stays open to all and collaborating with this organisation to provide a meaningful experience, for even just one family, has been incredibly rewarding.”
Kari, a 42 year old daughter, sister and single mother of two from Vista, California, has exhausted her treatment options and was recently given a life expectancy of one year.
As a kid, Kari went on family vacations with her parents to Oahu, and she has always dreamed of taking her children to pass that tradition along to them. Kari tells her kids all about the pineapple fields, the lu’au dinners, snorkelling and the amazing colourful fish, as well as enjoying the trade winds on perfect beaches. Her Dream is to visit Oahu one last time and create a third generation in her family that will continue the tradition with cherished memories of Hawaii.
Thanks to Ola Properties, Kari and her family enjoyed a three-bed / three-bath villa for seven nights on the island of Oahu. Travel was made possible thanks to long-time Dream Foundation travel partners, Southwest Airlines.
Dream recipients must have a prognosis of one year or less and lack the resources to fulfil Dreams on their own.
The foundation itself receives no state or federal funding itself, relying solely on corporate partnerships and private donations.
To support its mission, visit this link for more information.