Help fill a sick child’s dream – be a part of their hope

Photos from the June 2014, Help Fill A Dream Foundation contribution. Matteo Salehi, whose father is in the Mexican Navy, went for a trip to Mexico with his family.

Photos from the June 2014, Help Fill A Dream Foundation contribution. Matteo Salehi, whose father is in the Canadian Navy, went for a trip to Mexico with his family.

Rachel Lallouz, Staff Writer

Help Fill A Dream Foundation, a Vancouver Island charity that makes the dreams of sick children come true, is mid-way through their seasonal fundraising campaign and is looking for community assistance.

“We are an immediate responsive charity that steps in to provide resources and financial support to families who have a child with a life-threatening illness,” says Craig Smith, Executive Director.

Established in 1986, Help Fill A Dream has been supporting civilian and military families on the Island for the past 30 years by offering three types of programming to families in need: the Dreams Program, Family Assistance Program, and Quality of Life Program.

Their most publicized program, explains Smith, is the Dreams Program, which fulfills a single dream of a child, no matter how wildly imaginative the dream is.

“The idea is that when a child is sick, or when they are in their recovery period, they can look forward to their dream coming true,” says Smith. “Having that one thing to look forward to is very powerful incentive to get better, and having hope and happiness is so beneficial in the healing process.”  

For this particular program, someone who knows the ill child, be it a medical practitioner, family member, or neighbour, fills out an online application on behalf of the child. The child must meet the organization’s requirements, meaning they must reside on the island or on the Gulf Islands, be under 19 years of age, and have a life threatening condition.

Once approved by the organization’s board, Smith and his team work on making the dream come true.

“We’ve done everything from having families meet celebrities such as Carrie Underwood to sports stars. In a couple of months we’ll be having a Nanaimo child travel to Los Angeles to hang out on the set of The Mindy Project,” says Smith.

But the most popular “dreams,” says Smith, are mostly travel-oriented.

This past Christmas, Help Fill A Dream sent a young man with lymphoma to Disney World. In the past, Smith sent a sick child and his family to Mexico, and reunited a father who lived in Barbados with his ill daughter.

“The one thing we hear consistently from families with dreams, especially trips, is that the trip gives everyone in the family an opportunity to make positive memories,” says Smith. “To just spend time together as a family is so special because they might not be able to do that if their child is going through an illness.”

Help Fill A Dream’s second program is Family Assistance, which provides immediate financial assistance to a family who has just learned their child has been diagnosed with a life threatening condition.

“Often, a child could end up in BC Children’s Hospital, meaning that Mom or Dad might need to take time off work anywhere from three to 12 months,” says Smith. “Costs could add up for accommodation, food, travel, and medication. This program allows a family to basically survive a very stressful time.”

Just this summer, says Smith, a military family from Comox had a young baby diagnosed with a serious illness. The baby and mother needed to stay at BC Children’s Hospital, and through the Family Assistance Program, both the father and young son living in Comox could travel back and forth to visit them.

“Again, the theme we hear from families about this program is survival: it literally comes down to surviving,” says Smith. “It’s unbelievable.”

The final program is Quality of Life, a broad program that provides financial assistance to improve an ill child’s quality of life.

A child might be coming home from the hospital and need a wheelchair, or a special bed, or an insulin pump, says Smith. They’ve also provided IPads to children to help them catch up in school and communicate with their teachers, and even covered the cost of therapeutic horseback lessons.

In the past year alone, the organization has fulfilled 10 dreams, 30 quality of life requests, and helped 60 families through the family assistance program.

“Our programs exist for families who need the support,” says Smith. “Most likely there are military families who are unaware of us as a resource when they are dealing with stress and financial strain of having a child with a life-threatening condition. We can make a world of difference for them.”

Smith says that to support these families, the organization needs funds. Their $400,000 yearly budget is mostly made through community donations.

“We look at every dream as transformational for the child, and that dream has a ripple effect: there is a child and their dream at the center, a family around them, and around the family is community offering them support.”

Help Fill A Dream accepts donations year round. To make a personal donation to Help Fill A Dream, please visit:

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