Directors lasso the stars for Ropin’ Dreams
Hailey Gallagher of La Vernia is all smiles after getting a seahorse painted on her face. Hailey was one of Ropin’ Dreams’ first participants and is now cancer-free. She helps give Ropin’ Dreams children help, hope, and confidence.
Today I’m ridin’ high
Cause I’m ropin’ in my dream.
I’ll throw the hoolihan
And lasso me a moonbeam.
The words above, the first stanza from a poem, “Ropin’ Dreams,” easily sum up the experience of many of the children with life-threatening illnesses or physical limitations that Ropin’ Dreams has assisted during the last 10 years.
Dub and Cindy McClister of Marion are credited for establishing the organization that provides a day of smiles for children ages 4-18 with life-threatening illnesses or injuries. In 2002, volunteers united and formed Ropin’ Dreams, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. With the support of companies that serve as sponsors, the “dreams” that could cost several thousand dollars are made possible. Sponsors include Cavender’s Boot City, which helps outfit the young cowboy/cowgirl prior to a rodeo, and Elegant Limousine & Charter, which provides limo service to the event.
Today, the board of directors includes David Blow, Sherry Blow, Kelly Emmons, Katy Milward, Lara Nickelson, David Sears, Deana Sears, Dub McClister, Cindy McClister, Mike “Guppy” Acosta, Donna Carrola, and Jerry Voges. All donate 100 percent of their time. Administrative costs account for less than 1 percent of revenue funds.
“Most of these children’s dreams are simple things, but due to their illness or injuries and everything that the family may have been through, it’s just not possible, for whatever reason,” said Carrola, a director from Wilson County. “We try to make these dreams possible. We try to do anything that their request may be.”
The dreams requested by these children can be as simple as going hunting or attending a sports event -- a Spurs game, a professional football game, or even the Professional Bull Riding finals in Reno, Nev. Some children even get to meet their idols after a performance.
The directors go the extra mile to fulfill the child’s dream, and accompany the family during every event to make the trip as “personal and enjoyable as possible.”
Today I’m ridin’ high.
Thanks to you I’m horseback.
Cause you can’t rope a dream
Without a pony, saddle, and tack.
“Unless someone has been through a serious illness or injury to a child, you could never know the emotional and financial stress that it takes on these families,” Carrola said. “The stories are unbelievable of everything they have gone through. When you ‘do a dream’ with them, you become someone they confide in and just let it all out. By the end of the day, when I do a dream with a family, my heart is so filled with compassion and love for these families. They just want to enjoy the day with their children and forget about everything else that is weighing on them and their families.
“That is what Ropin’ Dreams strives to do,” she continued. “We want that special ‘dream day’ to be a day that will last in their minds and memories forever as one of the ‘great days’ in their child’s life. The families are so focused on where and when they have to go for treatments, what the side effects are, how long it’s going to last, and what the outcome will be, along with all the normal everyday stuff at home,” Carrola said. “It can take a toll on a family in so many different ways. We want them to forget about all of that, at least for one day!
“You bond with these families [in a way] that is indescribable,” Carrola said. “I keep in touch with all of the families I have done dreams with and the families give me updates on special things going on in these kiddos’ lives.”
Today I’m ridin’ high
And I’ll tie hard to the saddle.
No dally this time boys.
A dream’s tough to catch,
Just like the wild cattle.
According to the organization’s website, the children selected are predominantly those with a family background in rodeo or agricultural lifestyles. Each year, Ropin’ Dreams directors/volunteers take a group of 25 to 30 families to the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. The day starts with a breakfast, followed by meetings with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Miss Rodeo Texas, and the Spurs Coyote. After lunch, the group is treated to a rodeo performance.
“This is when the children get to meet other kids with the same or different illnesses and just be kids and have fun,” Carrola said. “That’s our main goal -- for them to forget about everything else and just enjoy being a kid and living life.”
Today I’m riding high,
Ropin’ my dream amid stardust
Draggin’ it to the sun for brandin’
My pony ridin’ quiet and robust.
To fulfill the wishes, the directors customize every dream to each child’s endurance, capacity, and accessibility, Carrola said.
“Many are in wheelchairs and can’t do some things that ambulatory kids can do, so we have to customize each dream to that child,” she said.
Today I’m ridin’ high
You’ve made me smile,
I got to rope my dream
And today be all I could be.
Ropin’ Dreams helps children go to many different stock shows and rodeos across the state or visit adventure parks, such as SeaWorld.
SeaWorld is a favorite “dream,” and Carrola spoke about the “behind-the-scenes adventure” when the children get to touch the animals and interact with them. Carrola recalled a trip this past summer with four families to SeaWorld.
“I got to see a little boy get out of his wheelchair and run around with other kids his age and laugh and just be a boy,” Carrola said.
Due to the treatments for his illness, the boy used a wheelchair, since he tired easily and was unable to enjoy playing with his friends.
“At SeaWorld, he was running around, riding rides, and having the time of his life,” Carrola said. “You can’t forget moments like that.”
Today I’m ridin’ high,
My little cayse and me.
We’ll ride into the sunset
With our ropin’ dream
Happy and free.
A benefit to raise funds for the organization is planned. See “10th annual Ropin’ Dreams Benefit” this page.
For more information about Ropin’ Dreams, visit www.ropindreams.com or call 830-420-2400.