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Jamie's Dream Team
At just 18 years old, Jamie Holmes founded a nonprofit organization that has changed the life of children and adults alike. Her goal: to make people’s dreams come true.
Jamie’s Dream Team is a nonprofit based in White Oak, Pennsylvania that, “Grants dreams to the terminally ill and severely injured children and adults, or anyone suffering from a serious medical need,” says Jamie.
Seven years after founding Jamie’s Dream Team, she is now helping countless people who are ill and injured reach their dreams despite their health difficulties.
For Jamie herself, the subject of illness is close to her heart. Suffering from V.A.T.E.R. syndrome, a rare condition that has caused her to have over 45 operations in just 25 years, she is no stranger to hospitals, rehab and the challenges that accompany them.
It was her own experiences of illness that motivated her to help others and fueled her desire to make people’s dreams come true.
“All through my surgeries, all through being in the hospital, in my hospital stays, I always wanted to help somebody else, give away my balloons, give away my presents. When I was fifteen, I went in for a surgery and I said, 'If I make it out of this surgery, I want to start an organization.'”
Her courage in the face of her own difficulties is remarkable, and despite her own illness, Jamie’s dedication to helping others is incredible.
Kim Shidel, the First Vice-President, explains that, “Jamie understands how it is to be sick and not want to get up and not want to do what she has to do but she loves doing what she does so it gives her motivation.”
“We do all sorts of dreams: princess parties, bedroom makeovers, weddings,” says Jamie. The goal is to grant any dream that is thrown at them to change someone’s life for the better.
Examples of past dreams include everything from a young girl getting to meet Avril Lavigne, her favorite musician, to a mother of three with breast cancer being given the chance to spend a week at Disney World with her husband and daughters.
In a very recent dream, Jamie took an iPad to a nine-year-old girl called Gabby Hrinda in hospital after a brain aneurism.
“I know going in there, I just want to make her happy. She's struggling. She went from playing baseball to not being able to and I would like to be able to do this. It makes me feel good … it's the best feeling in the whole entire world.”
Jamie’s dream-granting often affects people far beyond those she is helping directly.
In taking an iPad to Gabby, she made Gabby’s father as happy as she made Gabby: “It's a tremendous feeling for me because I've got a chance to see this through some of the darkest hours to where she is making amazing improvements.”
“This was a huge surprise today that Gabby was going to get an iPad, which is something she's wanted for a long time,” says Ed Hrinda, “Something she's been able to play with here, something that's been very helpful in order to … help her communicate, to get her words out.”
Jamie’s Dream Team also works on larger projects that take a lot more time and planning. Jamie explains that, “One of the bigger projects that we'll be working on ... is a skatepark in memory of Henry Woodhall.”
Henry passed away at the age of sixteen after hitting his head while skateboarding without a helmet. The skatepark that Jamie’s Dream Team is working on will not only act as a memorial to Henry, but it will also serve to remind those who use it of the importance of staying safe while skateboarding.
Jamie works tirelessly to grant other people’s dreams and the only reward is the joy that helping others brings her. “When I see their faces, when I tell them that they're going to receive their dream and when we surprise them with a dream, it's unbelievable.”
Her selflessness is certainly something to be admired and her altruistic nature is truly inspirational. Jamie took what she learnt from dealing with her illness and throws all her energy into inspiring others.
“Most people with illness feel terrible about their illness,” she explains. “They feel, 'why me? Why am I like this?' I look at it as there's other people out there with an illness much worse than mine. And I wake up every day knowing that I am sick but I'm going to make somebody else happy.”