Dreams Do Come True
They really do. Sometimes at the time we’d want them to or in the quantity, color, etc we’d hoped for, but if you stay committed to a dream, it WILL happen. How do I know? Because one of mine came true– big time—yesterday! If you don’t mind, I’m going to have to digress for a moment so you’ll understand the impact of what happened.
Eight years ago I noticed how few teens were reading back then. Well, it was more like IN MY FACE evident that they weren’t, and I’m talking about country wide. I was on a book tour back then, which covered 35 states and major cities in each state. In every book store I entered, I usually found a group of teens sitting in the coffee shop area, cutting up, flipping through Cosmo mags and having a Coke. I made a point of asking all of them—“What do you enjoy reading? Who’s your favorite author?” The response from 98.5% of them was either, “I hate reading. I’m just here to hang out with my friends.” Or “Reading sucks. There’re a lot more fun things to do.”
Hearing this over and over again started a nagging fear inside of me. If our youth weren’t reading, where would our future leaders come from? Presidents, congressmen, then next Lee Iacocca? Without good leaders, what would happen to this country? To my children’s children?
What would a president from that generation do during a war, send a text to a gaggle of generals or corporals that said, “K, nuck ‘em.”? I truly had no idea, but what I did know was that as long as I was still walking on this planet, I would bust my behind to help change that to something more positive.
So, in 2007, I started a non-profit called Literacy Inc. It sole mission back then was, and still is, to fight the growing illiteracy rate in America’s teens. I physically went to high schools around the country giving free presentations and giving away thousands upon thousands of free books. The mountain I was attempting to climb felt twice the height of Mt. Everest. Getting sponsors for a non-profit that fought illiteracy were very far and few, so the cost for all of the travel, time, and books were coming out of my own pocket. And the impact felt about as useful as spitting into the Grand Canyon, hoping to fill it with water.
I may be hard-headed at times—okay, often—but I’m not stupid. I knew that in order to make ANY impact on this monstrous dream I had, I had to change my strategy, which I did. First and foremost, I saw that the very state I live in was third to last in National Stats where reading was concerned and had been for some time. So I chose to narrow my focus to all of the public high schools in Louisiana. Why just public? Because they’re always the last in the money barrel where state budgets are concerned. I wanted to offer hope to those with the least amount.
The next strategic change I made was going to Ipads instead of books. Now if you think it was tough getting sponsors to pay for books, try getting ones that will buy Ipads. In that regard, I had just added another 10 miles of height to Everest. However, I was confident that the last strategic change we would make would not only knock off those additional 10 miles from Everest, it would chop it down even farther. I had 20 acres of woods doing absolutely nothing but growing more trees, so we decided to use those woods for the cause. That’s how Fright Trail was born. 20 Acres of Haunted Woods, an event held each weekend in October, and the proceeds would go to the purchase of Ipads for, to start with, Lafayette Parish public schools.
If you thing spending money traveling around the country giving speeches and buying books to give away to students was expensive, ha! That was a drop in the bucket compared to what had to be spent to really get Fright Trail off the ground. Year one, we barely made enough to cover expenses. Year two I lost my shorts big time. Year three was better, but not enough to really impact a school. This past October, even with a day and a half less than normal because of the weather, we finally did it!
This year, two schools, that will be announced very soon, will receive Ipads that could have only wished they would have been able to give their students!
I’ve got to admit, I stood in the road, watching this eighteen wheeler coming down the road with pallets of Ipads and tears came to my eyes. Finally—FINALLY—all the hard work had paid off. And not just the work I mentioned that I’d put into it earlier, but ALL of our volunteer actors, makeup artists, and our zone managers, and especially my fiance’ Rich, with his 35 years of experience in the haunted attraction business. It would not have been possible without him.
All that said, I had to, wanted to share the pictures we took as these cases of Ipads were delivered. The two schools who’ll get them will find out next week, and I feel like a kid at Christmas, hardly able to contain myself, so anxious to let them know. And believe me, the news and joy will be spread throughout Acadiana. We’ll have the two major television stations at the schools, along with the major newspaper in Lafayette, and radio celebrities.
Our heartfelt thanks goes out to every volunteer, sponsor, and Scott City Official who believed in what we were doing and never gave up on us! And most importantly—I want to thank God for this great blessing!
Dreams Do Come True