IN­TER­VIEW:

AN IN­TER­VIEW WITH...

WDW Magazine - - Content - IN­TER­VIEW BY CARL TRENT

MISTY GRIF­FIN OF DREAMBUILDERS

This month, we are pleased to bring you an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Misty Grif­fin of Dreambuilders.

Carl – Tell us a lit­tle bit about Dreambuilders.

Misty – Dreambuilders is a wish-grant­ing foun­da­tion. We started a year ago, I guess. Ba­si­cally our goal is to help fam­i­lies fac­ing ter­mi­nal ill­ness give the gift of a va­ca­tion, a mem­ory-build­ing va­ca­tion to the par­ents so that they can go and make mem­o­ries with their chil­dren. The only, I guess, dif­fer­ence between us and Make-a-wish® is that this is for the par­ents who are suf­fer­ing from the ter­mi­nal ill­ness as op­posed to for the chil­dren.

Carl – Cool. How did you get started?

Misty – Well, I'm ac­tu­ally a travel agent. I was work­ing for an agency out of Mis­souri. I'm in Colorado. I was ba­si­cally just do­ing it for fun. I am lucky enough that I didn't have to work. I had

been home with my kids for ten years and my brain had turned to Jell-o, and so I was look­ing to use it again. Travel has al­ways been im­por­tant to me, and to my hus­band. I had a friend who owned an agency and she asked me to join her, and so I did. I was hav­ing a lot of fun.

I was ac­tu­ally talk­ing to my brother and he asked me if I had still been think­ing about start­ing a foun­da­tion, and I told him yes. I kind of brushed it off and said, "But not now. I've got time." That's when it started—the idea started. I started dream­ing about it a lit­tle more. I had al­ready pur­chased the do­main Dreams­for­dream­ers.org. I'd had it for quite a while. I'd just been wait­ing ‘til the right time. Then I re­al­ized that if I ac­tu­ally went off on my own, started my own agency, then I could have a lit­tle bit more free­dom to help more fam­i­lies, and that was my goal.

I, in a very scared and ridicu­lous man­ner, called my friend who was the agency owner that I worked for and cried the whole time I was telling her be­cause I was scared she was go­ing to be mad at me. She was not, and said, "Go for it. I'm happy for you." I went off on my own, and just grad­u­ally it's grown. I started... Like I said, I kind of sat on it. I was just kind of en­ter­tain­ing the idea of start­ing the 501(c)(3) process. Then a friend of mine from high school, Mon­ica, con­tacted me and said, "I have a friend who has stage four cancer. She has three kids. We were stand­ing on her porch the other day talk­ing and she said, “I wish we would've just made time to travel. Now I'm out of time.'" She was like, "Misty, is there any­thing out there?" I was like, "Well, I don't know. Let me find it."

I started search­ing, be­cause I was like, "surely it's not Dreambuilders that's go­ing to be able to help her." I started look­ing. I called Make-a-wish®. I called Give Kids the World [Vil­lage] in Florida ask­ing them for re­sources, and they were clue­less too. They knew of noth­ing. That's when I called my friend back and said, "You know what? I don't think this is what Dreambuilders is sup­posed to be, but I'll help you raise the money." I started a Go­fundme and just started beg­ging peo­ple for money. Ev­ery time I would book a trip I would put some­thing in there ask­ing for them to help Mon­ica. I started giv­ing in­for­ma­tion about Mon­ica's story out to peo­ple. It just started spread­ing. Then my hus­band looked at me one night over din­ner and said, "And why is this not what Dreambuilders is sup­posed to do?" I just kind of laughed and said, "Oh. Well, okay."

I had a gen­tle­man tell me about this or­ga­ni­za­tion out in Nashville, Ten­nessee called The Foun­da­tion Group. Ba­si­cally their whole or­ga­ni­za­tion and what they do is help not-for-prof­its get started. I con­tacted them, asked them how much it was go­ing to cost to help me with the 501(c)(3), and 64 pages later we sent our ap­pli­ca­tion in. We were ap­proved in Au­gust. We got our let­ter from the IRS. We sent Mon­ica on her va­ca­tion in Novem­ber.

Carl - Was Mon­ica ex­cited about her va­ca­tion?

Misty - Yeah. She's our big­gest spokesper­son now. She tells ev­ery­body. She was very thank­ful. Ac­tu­ally, my hus­band and I flew to Mis­souri to present her with her gift in per­son. The lo­cal news cov­ered it, which I was dumb­founded about. I couldn't even hardly be­lieve that they showed up. We just sent a press re­lease out say­ing, "Hey, we're go­ing to do this," and kind of laughed about it when they showed up.

Any­ways, they cov­ered it on the news, and then they cov­ered Mon­ica leav­ing for her va­ca­tion, and so it was kind of a big deal. We got letters from her kids. Her kids started send­ing me mes­sages on so­cial me­dia thank­ing me. Just se­ri­ously the most gra­cious, sweet­est fam­ily ever.

That was when I re­al­ized that that's what Dreambuilders is sup­posed to be. I ac­tu­ally got the name from the song Wishes dur­ing the fire­works spec­tac­u­lar at Walt Dis­ney World, the line, "A dream is a wish your heart makes when you're fast asleep." When I think about va­ca­tions and fam­ily and my kids, I've al­ways told my hus­band, "If I found out I had a ter­mi­nal ill­ness to­day, to­mor­row, ev­ery­thing else... Noth­ing mat­ters. We're go­ing on va­ca­tion, we're trav­el­ing, we're spend­ing time with our kids." Be­cause when I'm gone, that's what they have. They have mem­o­ries of us see­ing the Grand Canyon and laugh­ing and act­ing silly at Dis­ney, or what­ever.

Like I said, the name came from the song, be­cause I was lis­ten­ing to it at Dis­ney World with my kids. I was watch­ing my son. At the time, he's twelve now, but he was ten then, and he looked at me and he goes, "Mom... It's true. Any­thing can hap­pen at Dis­ney." I said, "You're right." Right after that was the line in the song. It just worked out. I kind of was play­ing with it. Dream­ers... I love... Just the his­to­rian in me, I used to teach his­tory... I love Walt Dis­ney's story. I love how he started with noth­ing and made this beau­ti­ful em­pire. He was a dreamer and he never let any­one tell him no, and that's been my mantra my whole life, and so: Dreambuilders. That's what we do, we build dreams. That's where the name came from.

The Costs

Carl - Cool. About what does it cost to send a fam­ily through your pro­gram? How much do you need to raise for each fam­ily?

Misty - It re­ally de­pends on the fam­ily. As you know, Dis­ney prices are not get­ting any cheaper. Carl - Don’t I know it? So what is the av­er­age cost these days?

Misty - It's go­ing up. We were able to send Mon­ica for, just cash do­na­tions, $5,500 for her fam­ily of give, but we did get a DVC do­na­tion, which, if you fig­ure up rental points and all of that, is the equiv­a­lent of about $2,200. For about $7,700 we were able to send Mon­ica for five days. The rea­son it was prob­a­bly even a lit­tle bit more was that she went Thanks­giv­ing week be­cause we were try­ing to keep the kids from hav­ing to be taken out of school. We were try­ing to keep their lives as nor­mal as pos­si­ble. Then we flew them down from Mis­souri. They were go­ing to drive and they were very gra­cious about it, and then I had some­one con­tact me and ask me if I knew that the cancer had metas­ta­sized in her spine and she was hav­ing a lot of back pain. She had not men­tioned it to me at all. When I called her and asked, she's like, "No, no, no. I'll take pain medicine, I'll be fine."

Carl - No.

Misty - I said, "Well, I don't want you loopy when you get there." We dug back into the Go­fundme and started beg­ging peo­ple for money again and put her story out there. It worked out. We also gave her Dis­ney’s Mem­ory Maker be­cause we wanted them to have pic­tures. We weren't able to pay for all of their meals, but we were able to give them a $500 credit on their ac­count that they could use for food.

Ide­ally, prob­a­bly about $8,000 to $9,000 a fam­ily would be my guess is what we would shoot for.

Carl - Ev­ery­thing you raise goes to the price of the va­ca­tion—there's no over­head, no ad­min­is­tra­tion costs?

Misty - Not at this time, no. The only over­head cost that we have now is we do have Quick­books be­cause I have to keep ev­ery­thing le­gal. Then print­ing costs, right now my hus­band and I are do­nat­ing that. Ev­ery­thing is go­ing straight to the Dream at this point.

Carl - Have you lo­cated the next fam­ily?

Misty - We haven't. I had taken the ap­pli­ca­tion off of the web­site be­cause I was get­ting at least one ap­pli­ca­tion a month and we didn't have the funds. It was break­ing my heart to have to say no, so I took the ap­pli­ca­tion down. We just re­cently got a $10,000 do­na­tion, un­so­licited. I just got a check in the mail.

The Or­ga­ni­za­tion

Carl - Do you have a board of direc­tors?

Misty - We got a new board put to­gether. We had a tem­po­rary board just for the IRS sake to get ev­ery­thing ap­proved, and now we have a board and... Let's see. Hold on, let me think. Three of us are travel agency own­ers, and then the other two are travel agents. We are a com­plete travel agent board at this point, from dif­fer­ent agen­cies across the U.S. I was very adamant from the be­gin­ning that I did not want this to have any­thing to do with my agency. I don't want peo­ple look­ing and say­ing, "Oh, that's just a way for her to get new clients." That's not it at all. Last week when we met we ac­tu­ally talked about how we are go­ing to get the ap­pli­ca­tion back on the web­site and start let­ting peo­ple know we're able to grant a wish this year.

Carl - Cool. Long term, what are your goals?

Misty - Our short-term goal is one fam­ily a year. Long term, I never want to have to say no to a fam­ily. Our fundrais­ing goal for this year was $9,000, which, boom, we sur­passed. We ac­tu­ally set a new goal last week. Our short-term goal for this year for fundrais­ing is an­other $5,000, just to stock the cof­fers to make sure that if any­thing hap­pens next year and fundrais­ing is slow we have enough to at least sup­ply for one more fam­ily. Then, like I said, long term I would like to... I mean, the sky's the limit. I hear of fam­i­lies all the time in which some­one is ill, or what­ever.

A year and a half ago my hus­band and I, and my fam­ily, we were at Dis­ney. We were get­ting on the bus at Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios. We had just met Ri­d­ley Pear­son, who is my son's fa­vorite au­thor, and so we were fly­ing high. We were get­ting ready to get on the bus and go to Magic King­dom. My son was sit­ting down and a fam­ily walks up. The mom's in a wheel­chair. My hus­band is ac­tu­ally a physi­cian, and he looked at me and said, "It looks like she has MS." We sat and I was watch­ing her. She was tired and she just didn't look well. Her girls were my kids' age. That was pretty much the mo­ment when I re­al­ized Dreambuilders needed to be a re­al­ity, be­cause there is so much out there for chil­dren, as there should be, but I'm a mom and I think there should be some­thing out there for us too.

Carl - Yeah. I think the chil­dren's niche is cov­ered pretty well.

Misty - Yeah.

Carl - Make-a-wish® does a great job. Misty - They do.

Carl - We had some friends that had a child and Make-a-wish® did a Make-a-wish® trip. He talks to me about it all the time.

Misty - Yeah. It's amaz­ing. I've had some great men­tor­ship through this. I ac­tu­ally got to come down and meet with Caro­line, who's the Di­rec­tor of Oper­a­tions at Give Kids the World [Vil­lage]. I got to sit down and talk with her and she'd give me an en­tire day of her time back when I was just en­ter­tain­ing the idea. This was last March. I hadn't started the process of the ap­pli­ca­tion yet. She was just amaz­ing. I had a gen­tle­man from Make-a-wish® meet me last week. His job is fundrais­ing. He was like, "Here's what we do. Here's what we've tried. Here's what does not work. Here's what works." Ev­ery­body's been so great. It's amaz­ing.

You guys are great, too. I don't even know what to tell you. I was a lit­tle star struck, be­cause I've had your mag­a­zine for a cou­ple years, and then I bought the cal­en­dar for a cou­ple of my agents. They were all teas­ing me last week, all the board was, be­cause I just kept go­ing on and on about how great your pic­tures are. They were like, "Okay, we get it, Misty."

Carl - Thank you. We try. Let's see. Any­thing else? How do peo­ple get in touch with you?

How You Can Help

Misty - We have a web­site. It's Dreams­for­dream­ers.org. We have all the con­tact in­for­ma­tion on there.

You can email us at: dream­ers@dreams­for­dream­ers.org or misty@dreams­for­dream­ers.org. Like I said, all the con­tact in­for­ma­tion is there.

We also have so­cial me­dia. He have Face­book. We're just try­ing to get the word out is the big thing right now, just to let peo­ple un­der­stand what we are, who we are, what we're try­ing to do, just be­cause I feel like the ex­po­sure is where the funds will come from.

Carl - There's a do­na­tion tab on your web­site?

Misty - There's a "do­nate now" but­ton on there. We're ac­tu­ally look­ing for some­one now. We'd love to have some­one or­ga­nize a 5K for us. We would come along­side and help any way we can, whether it's through print­ing, ad­ver­tis­ing, what­ever we need to do. Or­ga­niz­ing a 5K is not in my wheel­house; so we're putting it out there right now to ask peo­ple to con­sider, if that's your thing, please con­sider or­ga­niz­ing a 5K for Dreambuilders.

Carl - I'm sure you wouldn't ob­ject to any kind of fundrais­ing that peo­ple might want to do.

Misty - No, ab­so­lutely not. I had an ice cream shop in cen­tral Mis­souri; they do­nated their re­ceipts for one evening to Dreambuilders. We were very ap­pre­cia­tive of that as well.

Carl - Cool. Any­thing you would like to add?

Misty - I don't think so. If there's any­thing spe­cific you need me to tell you about, but I think you cov­ered it all.

Carl - All right. Well, thank you so much for shar­ing the story of your in­cred­i­ble foun­da­tion with us. We look for­ward to see­ing what dreams you build next!

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