A Banning, CA Man’s Football Dream Turns into a Reality

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 10.36.49 AMA Banning man whose doctors say has less than a year to live spent a recent weekend with the San Francisco 49ers – and, he asserted firmly, helped them beat the Atlanta Falcons.

“When we got onto the field during pregame practice, I got down and kissed the ground,” said Eddy Burch, 54. “I pulled up a handful of grass and put it under my hat, for luck.”

It worked, he figured – the 49ers won their game the next day.

The trip to the Bay Area and getting to meet and mingle with the 49ers came courtesy of the Dream Foundation, which arranges adventures for adults who have life- threatening illnesses.

Burch, an account manager for Valley Crest Landscaping, was diagnosed with colon cancer about eight years ago, he said. It spread to his liver and elsewhere in his body. Doctors have told him that it is inoperable and that he has less than a year to live.

“I’m not looking at that,” he said. “I know I can live longer than that.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 10.38.52 AMBurch traveled to the Bay Area with his wife, Esther, their 13-year-old grandson, Dominique, and longtime friend Tony Thomas of Riverside.

Burch got up close to the team: He was included in a post-practice huddle on the day before the game.

“I got to meet them real good,” he said.

He had meaningful conversations – “not just about football,” Burch said – with players and staff members, including wide receiver DeAndrew White and running-back coach Tom Rathman.

Head coach Jim Tomsula talked to Esther Burch about an experience they have in common: being a caregiver for a cancer patient. Tomsula’s mother has battled breast cancer for many years.

“I was touched that he would do that,” Esther Burch said.

Tomsula also made sure Eddy Burch got the game ball.

Burch said he feels lucky to have had so much interaction with the athletes and coaches of what has been his favorite team since he was about 13.

“Win or lose,” he said.

“Eddy is the 23rd dream recipient the San Francisco 49ers have graciously hosted in partnership with Dream Foundation, said the group’s executive director, Kisa Heyer. “When we call, the 49ers don’t hesitate to make dreams happen.”

For the people the group serves, and especially their caregivers, she said, the trips are a much-needed break from the hardships of illness. The foundation puts them up at luxury hotels – the Burch party stayed at Plaza Suites in Santa Clara – and provided all meals, transportation and special gifts.

“We all had a blast,” Burch said.


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Congressional Record Statement in Recognition of George “Ray” West

M. Speaker, today I rise to recognize the Dream Foundation’s new “Dreams for Veterans” program. As we pause to commemorate Veterans Day, I would like to acknowledge their unique and invaluable service to terminally-ill military veterans.

Dreams for Veterans is dedicated to serving terminally-ill veterans during their time of greatest need. They are the first national program specifically serving and honoring these individuals by fulfilling their final dream. Over the past year, Dreams for Veterans granted more than 100 dreams to veterans and are on track to double that number this year.

This spring, the Dream Foundation, which is based in my Congressional district, helped my constituent George “Ray” West realize his final dream of traveling with his family to Yosemite National Park. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. West at the “Dreams for Veterans” inaugural ceremony in Washington, DC earlier this year.

Mr. West is a US Navy Veteran who served between 1944 and 1946. He was stationed first in Sampson, NY and later in Utah and Nevada. He eventually settled with his family in my hometown of Santa Barbara, CA.

Mr. West and his wife Jean first visited Yosemite on their honeymoon in 1950. The couple loved Yosemite so much that they have celebrated each anniversary by returning to the park. Ray had been diagnosed with heart disease and leukemia when he contacted the Dream Foundation to help his family travel to Yosemite at least one final time.

Each day, more than 1,800 of our nation’s heroes die, accounting for nearly one-quarter of all American deaths. In addition to giving dream recipients and their families the opportunity to make the most of the time they have left, a final dream also improves their end of life care by addressing the emotional and psychological needs of terminally ill patients and those of their loved ones and caretakers.

The Dreams for Veterans program allows recipients the opportunity to reconnect with their former military service and provides a unique chance to reconcile memories and achieve a sense of closure. This one-of-a-kind program engages the military community by providing opportunities to refer applicants, contribute resources, or volunteer as Veteran Dream Hosts—volunteers who participate in Veteran-to-Veteran Dream deliveries.

The Dream Foundation is a leader in our community and has touched and inspired so many during its 21 year history of delivering final dreams to terminally ill adults. They fulfill more than 2,500 final dreams every year, working with hundreds of volunteers and more than 600 hospices and health care organizations nationwide.

I yield back.

Celebrities, Supporters and Dreamers Turn Out for Dream Foundation’s 14th Annual Gala

The Dream Foundation held its 14th Annual Celebration of Dreams Gala at Bacara Resort & Spa in Goleta, an event featuring unparalleled entertainment, heartfelt dream stories, and attracted a national audience of celebrities, special guests and foundation supporters.

The foundation is the only national dream-granting organization for adults and their families suffering life-threatening illnesses.

Entertainers included country/American musician Natalie Noone — daughter ofHerman’s Hermits frontman Peter Noone, and Dream Foundation supporter and event co-chairwoman, Mireille Noone. Raised in Santa Barbara, Natalie Noone has also been a Dream Foundation volunteer.

Giving a more classical performance was 15-year-old Sara Stevens, who has been training since the age of 6 and is currently working with Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera musical director Paul Schwartz on an album.

O.A.R. (Of A Revolution), founded in 1996 by high school classmates in Rockville, Md., also performed American rock, much to the delight of guests.

After a pleasant social hour, guests participated in a live auction hosted by Andrew Firestone, Santa Barbara businessman and alum of ABC’s The Bachelor, with his wife, Ivana.

Featured live auction packages included an “After- Noone with Peter Noone,” a private concert for 100 given by Noone; “Two Tickets to Paradise” package including four nights in New Zealand and three nights in Fiji; a five- star meal at one of Los Angeles’ favorite eateries Little Dom’s.

The silent auction boasted more than 70 items, including signed Kobe Bryant game sneakers.

The lovely Priscilla Presley, Dream Foundation ambassador and gala co-chairwoman, told Noozhawk about her longtime dedication to the nonprofit organization.

“I have learned so much visiting with Dream recipients,” she said. “I have sat, talked, shared and played with these recipients, and have gained for myself as well strength and a greater appreciation of life.”

Dedicated to celebrating the more than 22,000 dream recipients the foundation has served since its inception in 1994, the event also included heartfelt testimonials from three recent dream families, the Malones from Arizona, the Hoods from California, and Tara Middleton from South Carolina.

Sheri and Jimmy Malone are the wife and son of 55- year-old James Malone, who died in June, just one day before realizing his dream of visiting Washington, D.C.

A Navy veteran who served from 1977 to 1981, Malone was honorably discharged as a disbursing clerk second class. The Dream Foundation was honored to have the Malones attend the public launch of its newest program, Dreams for Veterans, on Capitol Hill last month.

The Dream Foundation also welcomed dream recipient William Hood and his wife, Ellen. With a life expectancy of six to 12 months due to cancer, Hood received his dream last month when he and his family, including daughter Madeline, 14, and son Robert, 10, attended a San Francisco Giants game.

Middleton, 32, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor last year, continues to fight for her life. Her final dream was fulfilled when she met her idol, Tamar Braxton, and appeared on her talk show, The Real.

Middleton continues to thrive as the founder and CEO of Rare Rubies, an organization that focuses on life coaching, consulting and motivational speaking.

“Dream Foundation is privileged to have such a generous, national network of supporters, corporate and in-kind partners, and volunteers who support the fulfillment of thousands of dreams each year,” Dream Foundation executive director Kisa Heyer said.

As seen in:

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Veteran’s dream of Yosemite fulfilled Letter written because ‘Obama was our last chance’

Ray West stands during a Veterans Day observance Wednesday at The Samarkand retirement community. RAFAEL MALDONADO/NEWS-PRESS
Ray West stands during a Veterans Day observance Wednesday at The Samarkand retirement community.

A World War II veteran whose dream vacation was brought to life by a Santa Barbara nonprofit is urging other veterans to take advantage of the end-of-life program.

Former Petty Officer 3rd Class Raymond West, 90, and his wife, Jean, were provided a trip to Yosemite National Park by the Dream Foundation in May.

The Dream Foundation fulfills dreams for terminally ill adults with a life expectancy of 12 months or less. Mr. West was one of the inaugural members of the foundation’s Dreams for Veterans Program.

Kisa Heyer, executive director of the Dream Foundation, said the organization has provided dreams for more than 700 veterans from World War II through the post-9/11 conflicts. The foundation’s new veterans program has provided 115 dreams so far.

“All I can say is every veteran should be able to take advantage of the opportunity I had through the Dream Foundation,” said Mr. West after a Veterans Day event at The Samarkand retirement community in Santa Barbara.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ray West is pictured during his World War II service. COURTESY PHOTO
Petty Officer 3rd Class Ray West is pictured during his World War II service.

“It’s a connection that most veterans may not know about.”

“I didn’t like the word hospice, but I realized there was so much available to us. You should accept and embrace what is offered to you because it enriches your life,” she said, adding that her husband is doing well after a nearly a year of hospice care.

Mr. West joined the Navy in 1943 at the age of 17 and served for three years at an ammunition depot in Nevada.

“I was in the Navy, but they shipped me to the desert,” he laughed, explaining that he would package ammunition for shipment to ports in San Francisco and Oakland. From there the artillery rounds and other ammunition would be sent to battlefronts all over the world.

After leaving the Navy, Mr. West became a movie audio mixer in Hollywood. The Detroit native won an Oscar for his audio work on the movie “Star Wars” in 1979.

Mr. and Mrs. West were married in 1950 and moved to Oakhurst after Mr. West’s retirement from the movie industry.

Ray West and his family enjoy the trip to Yosemite National Park provided by the Dream Foundation. From left are his son, David; Mr. West; his wife, Jean; and daughter-in-law Victoria. COURTESY PHOTO
Ray West and his family enjoy the trip to Yosemite National Park provided by the Dream Foundation. From left are his son, David; Mr. West; his wife, Jean; and daughter-in-law Victoria.

“We went to Yosemite on our honeymoon and we have been to there every year at one time or another for the rest of our married life,” said Ms. West.

The couple have missed the annual trip only once in their 65-year marriage.

When the Dream Foundation asked him what he wanted to do for his dream, the answer was obvious, Mr. West said.

“My original dream was that I visit Yosemite National Park one last time. It was just wonderful wish that came true for me, to be back in the park where we had spent a lot of time.”

Mrs. West said she thought it was a death sentence when her husband was admitted into hospice care in December following a diagnosis of chronic lymphetic lukemia, but quickly discovered the Dream Foundation and other programs that catered to those with end-of-life needs.



Top 5 Dream Requests from Dying Veterans

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 5.08.39 PMDream Foundation in honor of Veterans Day releases list of specific dream requests in order of most often received

According to Dreams for Veterans, a program created in 2014 by the Dream Foundation to serve terminally ill veterans through the fulfillment of a final dream, the most common requests received include assistance with obtaining basic items intended to meet the veteran’s day-to-day needs, as well as facilitating fun family outings or gatherings. The following is a list of specific dream requests in order of most often received:

  • Basic needs items (i.e. a working appliance, wheelchair ramp, hearing aid batteries or payment of a utility bill)
  • Vacation with loved ones
  • Family reunion
  • Trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World
  • Day out on the town

Other leading veterans’ dream requests include attending a sporting event or meeting a personal hero, such as a celebrity, professional athlete or well-known musician. Many dreams served through Dreams for Veterans include tailored elements intended to recognize these individuals’ former service and reconcile memories.

Dreams for Veterans program recipients are U.S. military veterans 18 years of age and over with a life expectancy of 12 months or less due to a terminal illness. Dream Foundation has served the final dreams of more than 700 veterans since its inception in 1994.

With no state or federal funding, Dream Foundation relies on a network of volunteers, sponsors and individual donors to support the work they do. For more information on Dreams for Veterans and to help serve final dreams for those who have served, visit dreamsforveterans.org.

About Dream Foundation The only national dream-granting organization for adults, Dream Foundation enhances the quality of life for individuals and their families facing terminal illness. Dream recipients are those individuals who have been given a year or less life expectancy. Dreams range from basic needs items, like a working stove, to bedside reunions and meaningful experiences with children and loved ones. Founded in 1994, Dream Foundation serves more than 2,500 dreams each year and relies on a network of volunteers, sponsors and individual donors. For more information, visit www.dreamfoundation.org.

About Dreams for Veterans Dreams for Veterans is a program of Dream Foundation. Its mission is to serve those who have served by giving back to terminally ill veterans and their families through the fulfillment of a final dream. Having learned the importance of acknowledging veterans, honoring their service and sharing their personal stories, Dream Foundation created Dreams for Veterans in 2014 to effectively tailor the dream experience to veterans and their families. Dream recipients are U.S. military veterans 18 and over with a life expectancy of 12 months or less. For more information, visit dreamsforveterans.org.