By Mara Mazar | firstname.lastname@example.org
With a blue wagon full of gifts behind her, Ashley Smith, dream manager for Dreams Come True of Jacksonville, was on a mission to find chocolate milk for one of her patients.
Dreams Come True of Jacksonville is the only First Coast locally based non-profit organization that is dedicated to making the dreams of every area child battling a life-threatening illness come true.
Smith represents everything that Dreams Come True is by not only making sure that all qualified children see their dreams realized, but by also helping the families and making the children’s recovery easier.
Smith has been working for Dreams Come True for just over two years. She said that there’s no other place she would want to work.
“I have the potential to bring so much light to kids during their darkest days and being able to support so many different children across this county,” Smith said.
Dreams Come True puts hope and joy into the lives of the children and their families at Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville. The most rewarding aspect to Smith are the smiles she sees on a daily basis.
“So we get to do the big dreams, which everybody expects, but it’s those little things,” Smith said.
The families of the children usually don’t eat or bring much with them when their child is in the hospital, so Dreams Come True also helps the families with the little things.
“One mom left home without any of her toiletries or clothes when her child came in and all she wanted was mascara,” Smith said. “She was trying to figure out how to get it up here and I remembered that I had just bought some for myself so I went down to my car, brought it up, and she just cried that mascara can just be so magical some days.”
Smith works hard, with a big smile and positive attitude to make every child smile. She even reverted to dancing just to make 8-year-old Janice Loggins smile.
Loggins, an Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) patient from Georgia, has been at Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital for a month since relapsing. She was diagnosed in 2016 and Dreams Come True was by her and her family’s side.
Loggins’ dream was to go to Walt Disney World in Orlando and meet all of the Disney princesses. She also was able to go to Universal Orlando and SeaWorld. Loggins said her favorite part was SeaWorld, though.
Even after making Loggins’ dream come true, Smith did the little things to help out. Loggins wanted a baked potato, so Smith had a baked potato delivered to her with all of her favorite ingredients.
David Brown, Loggins’ 14-year-old brother, also sees the happiness and change that Dreams Come True has brought to his sister.
“I’m happier because she has gotten things that she’s wanted for a while,” Brown said. “She started playing a lot.”
Shajuanda Sibert, Loggins’ mother, has been grateful for the presence of Dreams Come True throughout her daughter’s hospital stay.
“They help with keeping your kids happy while they’re here,” Sibert said. “We have had quite a few hospital stays and every time, Ashley comes. She really gets to know the kids.”
Sibert said that Dreams Come True does more than just making a child’s dreams come true –they also make recovery much easier.
“From what I’ve seen, if your child is sick and they’re sad, it can really prolong the process of recovery but as long as you keep them happy and in good spirit, it seems to help them,” Sibert said.
All of the non-profit’s proceeds goes toward making dreams come true for the children in the community. The community financial support allows them continue helping children and their families.
“It helps a lot, because even if they’re going through pain or sickness, sometimes a toy or a meal or just something to make them happy will make their situation a little bit better,” Sibert said.