I’d like to share this positive & uplifting story with you, written by Jersey Shore local skate mom Betsy Renna. Wishing Dawson & his entire family all the best!
A Big “Fist Bump” to The Dream Factory!
Last year at this time my family and I had no knowledge of The Dream Factory. We didn’t know that this national organization even existed for the mere purpose of granting dreams to critical or chronically ill children. When sickness steps into an individual’s life you tend to expect it to do its damage and then exit for the most part. But chronic illness doesn’t work that way. It is more like the unwelcome visitor that sets up camp in your living room and doesn’t leave.
Illness is always unwelcome but when it enters a young child’s life, it can be even more difficult. The illness can change the course of their childhood and they must learn to live a new normal. Maintaining friendships and keeping up with regular commitments can become some of the new challenges. That’s where The Dream Factory comes in. This organization realizes the difficult challenges these children face and they are dedicated to fulfill the dreams of these children. It’s a beautiful mission and it brings many children and their family’s some fresh excitement and some well needed joy and hope.
Last year, our son was a fifth grader at Spring Lake Height’s Elementary School. His Guidance Counselor Dana Wilson and teacher Sarah Moke arranged a meeting with two of the DF volunteers. We had no idea what to expect. After filling out some paperwork and going through the organizations eligibility process, we received a visit from two very upbeat ladies Patti Gallagher and Luanne Woods (both from Wall NJ). They came to simply talk with our son about what he liked to do and if he had any sports or hobbies that made him happy. His interest was Skateboarding. He explained to the ladies that Skateboarding is a non-sport in a way. He liked it because it was NOT organized and he didn’t have to worry about disappointing team mates or coaches when missing practices or games. In skateboarding, its only you against yourself. Its organic, independent and you set your own goals and challenges along with your own timeline. It was the perfect answer for him to feel part of something special and outside of his condition.
Our son shared his dream to meet a particular pro skater. As The Dream Factory volunteers began to probe further, they discovered that our son also dreamed of skating the Berrics. This famous and very private skate park located in LA California is closed to the public. It is owned by two pro skaters Steve Berra and Eric Koston; hence the name “The Berrics” . After our pleasant visit with The Dream Factory, we simply went back to our lives, never dreaming that they would be able to even get in touch with these skate fellas, especially since part of being in the skate culture is all about anti-establishment, anti-rules and mostly all independent thinkers and doers.
Fast forward several months, The Dream Factory was sending our family not only to have a skate session with his favorite Pro skater Paul Rodriguez (AKA P. Rod) but to have their session inside the Berrics. It apparently took The Dream Factory volunteers several months and lots of creative maneuvering to get in contact with the allusive skaters and the reps of the Park but with much tenacity they managed.
On February 4th they flew our family into LA and prepared to fulfill our sons dreams! We were allotted a 30-minute slot for our visit. The Berrics is often booked by pros and busy with promotional videos and filming competitions. Our Pro skater P-Rod has a pretty busy schedule himself especially since signing with Nike as one of their Pro athlete reps. We knew everyone was busy and appreciated any time they could give us. As we pulled up to the Berrics unmarked building, we were not too sure what to expect.
Let’s be real here, Skaters are notorious non conformists and self-proclaimed outcasts. The sport is all about spontaneity, freedom and thrill. I wasn’t sure if our pro would decide not to show or if the Berrics would simply close for the day. If the doors did open, we were expecting perhaps a few “fist bump” greetings and maybe even a couple “hey dudes!” or “what’s ups”.
But instead we were greeted by P-Rod’s manager, Michele. With a warm smile and sparkling green eyes, she calmed our nerves immediately. She escorted us through the doors into this amazing warehouse skate facility. We saw other employees floating around and they also gave us firm handshakes and friendly greetings. No fist bump yet?
Once we entered the skate area, our son was allowed to explore and skate as he pleased until Paul arrived for his session. When the doors opened and P-Rod entered the second half the dream began. We were not disappointed. P Rod greeted our son with strong fist pound and a “welcome dude!” The 30-minute scheduled time slot turned into several hours of skating, fun filming (Berrics YouTube Gram Yo Selfie) and afterwards an unplanned lunch in the lounge was enjoyed by all.
P-Rod also gave our son personal instructions. At one point our son became a bit frustrated with not landing a trick, P Rod was heard telling him during the session “don’t focus on what you are doing wrong but instead focus on what you need to do to get it right! I will take that fine advice back East with me.
The last portion of their time together was spent free skating and conversing in the park. While in skate mode, Paul displays razor sharp focus and seriousness but when he resumes and converses you see a very relaxed, gracious and humble young man indeed. During lunch, we were able to talk with him freely about his career along with his skate apparel and board line “Primitive”. And yes, even a little bit about his famous comedian/actor father Paul Rodriguez Sr. This young man gave our son the full afternoon, not to mention a huge box of fabulous skate clothes, skate paraphernalia and a “gnarly” metallic red “Primitive” skateboard. Our cup runs over for sure.
I have a newfound respect for the fringe sport Skateboarding. It’s raw and edgy but it’s also alive and exciting and bonded by a community of vastly unique people. This family was blessed by an extraordinary charity that blasted through one child’s world of disarray and gave him an opportunity to see that dreams really can come true.