The close-knit Arcadia High School community has many inspiring student volunteers, and members of the DreamCatchers Club are no exception. The club’s successes over the last two years have made a big difference to many.
DreamCatchers was founded in 2009 by Caitlin Crommett, an Orange County sophomore who started the club at her high school. It has since grown into a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to fulfilling the end-of-life dreams of hospice patients. The organization has also created the Kindness and Compassion Initiative connecting teen pen pals with hospice and nursing home patients.
When Arcadia junior Grace Reed first heard of the concept, she immediately loved it. She joined forces with Ella Canada, Grace Schlenker and Anna Korn to start the school’s chapter in early 2019.
“The idea of connecting generations and working with people in hospice appealed to me because I think a lot of the time, teenagers forget about the older generations,” Grace said. “I also liked the idea of reducing the stigma around hospice and helping people understand that it can be the best place for the end of someone’s life.”
Ella was also passionate about philanthropy projects and eager to positively impact those who needed it most. “I loved that I would be able to help these patients have at least one more fun experience in their lives,” she said.
The club got to work, partnering with local hospices and collecting patient wishes. The students would then grant these wishes to the best of their abilities, living up to their DreamCatchers name.
They worked with Crommett and a teacher advisor to connect multiple generations, encourage entrepreneurship, and, most importantly, grant dreams to patients.
“The goal is to make the patient have the best time ever,” Grace said. “Members of DreamCatchers are encouraged to talk with the patient and learn about their life. The dream is meant to be a lifelong memory for the volunteer, patient and everyone else involved.”
One of the biggest highlights for Grace was working with the Red Mountain chapter of DreamCatchers to plan a patient trip to Disneyland. They raised funds to make the dream come true.
“I know we were on a time crunch for that dream, so I remember brainstorming ideas on how to get tickets at lunch,” Grace said. “It was so cool to hear about his trip and know that we had granted his dream together with Red Mountain HS. Even if you only contributed a little bit, you could feel the overwhelming gratitude of the people receiving it. They are so thankful for what we do.”
The dreams are meant to give the patient an experience they have always wanted in celebration of their life. The club members got creative and found ways to grant wishes, like a family fishing trip to Lake Pleasant and a Christmas cookie baking and caroling session. They also sent a man and his wife to a fancy anniversary dinner complete with a limo ride.
Grace and Ella said that they understand the importance of brightening the patients’ days, both having visited their grandparents in nursing homes.
“I learned how a small act of kindness or communication with an elder could bring them so much joy,” Grace said. “I also learned about hard work, organization and planning, and how it takes a team to accomplish anything.”
“I have learned that everyone deserves kindness and dignity,” Ella said. “I have also learned that even simple and easy things can bring smiles to a person’s face.”
While the program was put on pause this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit is looking for other students to run the Arcadia club and pick up where the dedicated DreamCatcher’s team left off.