Wednesday, August 7, 2002

If you've been dreaming for rain, considered Monday's shower a gift from The Dream Factory of Dyersburg.

As drops came, left and came back again, Dream Factory volunteers watched as a 3,000-pound limestone rock was placed near the entrance at the Dyersburg Middle School outdoor classroom.

For those volunteers, the placement was the fulfillment of their own dream.

More than five years ago, then-national director of Dream Factory, the late Dennis Haverin, introduced the idea that chapters plant a Forest of Dreams in honor or memory of the children in their communities whose dreams have been fulfilled.

"Not long after that, a member came with a check of anonymous funds to pay for such a project," said Beth Bell, area coordinator for Dream Factory.

Over the next several months, Dream Factory volunteers talked with many people and considered several locations in Dyer County to establish the forest.

"We wanted to make it more than a tree planting, we wanted it to be a place that could be educational and could be enjoyed by children and parents," Bell said.

So when talk of an outdoor classroom at DMS reached Bell, she saw an answer.

"Beth heard that we were developing an outdoor classroom and told us about a benefactor designating funds for a Forest of Dreams and how they'd been trying to find a suitable location for the project," explained Terry Cook, a DMS sixth-grade science teacher. "We all thought it was the perfect place because children would be involved in the outdoor classroom's development and they would be on campus."

With those special funds given specifically for the Forest of Dreams project, 43 native Tennessee trees - symbolizing the children whose dreams have been fulfilled since the organization chartered in Dyer County 1991 - were purchased from Stanfield Nursery. Cook and fellow sixth-grade science teacher Betsy Jones worked with nursery owner Bill Newsom in selected the 23 varieties, from river birches to willows to pin oaks, to start the forest. Newsom volunteered to plant the trees and worked with the DMS sixth-grade science students about caring for them. After the trees were planted in October 2001, the students adopted the trees, cared for them and journaled their progress. That adoption will continue this school year.

"The kids will pick a tree, water it during their enrichment times through this hot, dry season to make sure the trees make it and write about the trees and their progress in their science journals," Cook said. "The kids really enjoyed it last year and we'll have a new batch of kids doing it in the years to come until we feel the trees are big enough to be OK on their own."

Bell said in the near future, the hope is to design a map that tells about the trees, where they're located around the outdoor classroom and about Dream Factory.

With the Forest of Dreams begun, Cook and Jones suggested placing a stone monument in the outdoor classroom showing it as the location of the Forest of Dreams.

"Betsy and Terry had seen a large stone used to dedicate an outdoor classroom," Bell said. "Jamey (Sanders, a Dream Factory volunteer) said he might be able to help get a stone."

Sanders is operations manager at Choctaw Transportation. A month ago, before a business trip to Vulcan/Reed Quarry in Grand Rivers, Ky., he contacted the company about the Forest of Dreams project and the monument idea.

"Looking for this stone, we (he and Vulcan officials) searched two to three hours before finding one with a flat edge and looked like a monument," he said. "Once we saw it, we said, 'That's the one.'"

The 3,000-pound limestone was set on the side of the Ohio River and lifted by crane onto a barge, going down the Ohio to the Mississippi River to Choctaw's landing at Heloise. Tim Ferguson of Choctaw volunteered his time Monday to bring the stone from Heloise and place it on a concrete foundation at DMS. Forcum Lannom Building Materials donated the foundation after being contacted about the project by Dream Factory volunteers Kirby and Judy Ogden.

The monument is located in front of a river birch that is part of the Forest of Dreams.

"I couldn't wait to see it this morning (Tuesday)," said Cook, who couldn't be present Monday. "It's just perfect. I'm very happy with it."

In the coming days, Hank Gray of Cindy's Florist in Newbern will place a bronze plaque on the stone. The plaque is engraved with the Dream Factory logo and the statement:

"The Forest of Dreams

"Established 2001

"A collection of native trees presented for education by The Dream Factory of Dyersburg in honor and memory of our dream children."

"We are so excited," Bell said. "We have been inching and inching toward this for a long time. I'm glad we could put it (the Forest of Dreams) in a place where children will be every day and enjoy it."

A dedication for the dream children and their families will be held at a later date.

Working with volunteers, corporations and other non-profit organizations, The Dream Factory, Inc. has granted hundreds of dreams each year to 3- to 18-year-olds who have been diagnosed with critical or chronic illnesses.

It was founded in 1980 in Hopkinsville, Ky., by Charles Henault, a South Central Bell employee who wanted to create a volunteer organization dedicated to granting the dreams of children with life-threatening illnesses.

Currently, there are more than 38 Dream Factory chapters across the United States in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas. Each chapter focuses its efforts on addressing the needs of its own community.

More than 5,000 volunteers work to produce and deliver dreams, visit children and their families in the hospital and their homes, arrange special celebrations and conduct fundraising events for individual children. Volunteer support ensures that the maximum percentage of donations are used for the procurement and distribution of dreams.

Bell noted that The Dream Factory of Dyersburg is working toward fulfilling its 47th dream. As more dreams are fulfilled in Dyer County, the organization would like to add more trees to the Forest of Dreams.

To make a donation toward the Forest of Dreams, contact Bell at 286-7821 or Dream Factory treasurer Brook Emery at 286-5426 or mail it to The Dream Factory of Dyersburg, P.O. Box 1111, Dyersburg, Tenn. 38025.

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