Dream Katchers Recreation Inc. helps people live life to the fullest
Debbie Woodring founded the group in order to “provide the opportunity to build new relationships, while enjoying recreations that enhance [participants’] quality of life.”
Although the group does not have its own building yet, Woodring said that she hopes to acquire one someday.
“In the future, we would like a building of our own, where we can have classes for exercise, cooking, ceramics and things like that. We’d like to have it open seven days a week eventually, so [consumers who participate in day habilitation programs] can take advantage of it,” she explained. “There are limited places to go and even [fewer] out this way. My son is in a group home and you do run out of ideas of where to go.”
Dream Katchers draws participants from all over Western New York, including some in Buffalo and Ellicottville.
“We’re located fairly conveniently, especially if you’re not afraid to drive. People who live south know that, if you want to go to something like a Sabres game, you’re going to have to drive. We’re used to driving,” she said.
Woodring said that one of the group’s biggest challenges is getting the word out, since “you can’t make people look for you.
“We’re looking into getting some younger people involved ... who are 13 – 20 or so. We got a few at the luau, some from a younger group, but our volunteers are generally pretty scarce,” she said.
“We’re looking for high school and college kids, retired teachers and other people to come check it out. I thought that, if high school or college kids needed community service, they could come to us and do something different to put on their paperwork.”
She said that volunteers sometimes come to Dream Katchers because of experiences they have already had with the group’s target population.
“I ran into someone who has a daughter who receives special education and some of his children’s friends came to help out. Hopefully, that will continue.
“We’re really working on having people be more aware that we’re here. It’s been 2 1/2 years and still, so many people don’t even know what we’re all about. We want to get the word out, not just in town, but much further,” she concluded.
Woodring said that her organization is trying to fill a hole, since teens and adults with special needs do not have the same level of services that other children do.
“It has always frustrated me that the town is so positive about the [League for the Handicapped] but those kids grow up and some stay in the area and need support,” she said. “It’s too bad, because a lot of those kids get shipped off to other school districts and then the kids here aren’t exposed. If you don’t have someone in your family or among your friends, you ... don’t know how to handle it.”
Woodring said she was pleased to see teen volunteers get involved during the group’s July luau event, and hopes they will continue to work with Dream Katchers, especially as the organization branches out into more events for young people, including a possible dance in September geared toward that demographic.
In addition, the organization’s new tax exempt status should help glean more donations, according to Woodring, although she said she needs someone to help write grants.
“We don’t want to mess it up,” she said, with a laugh. It’s important, but it’s not something I really have any experience doing.
“Some places won’t donate unless you’re tax exempt. Premier wines wouldn’t donate unless I had that status,” she said, explaining its importance.
“It helps when I buy stuff, since I don’t have to pay tax. A friend gave me a list of [donating organizations] I can ask. Some only do it online. It’s a lot of computer time. I want to see it succeed before I’m old and gray. I’d like for the grant money to start coming in, so I can quit my job and do this full-time.”
Although Woodring said Dream Katchers’ main needs are donations and volunteers, she said she is frustrated by the limitations the lack of a dedicated building presents.
“It’s tough, because if we don’t have a place, we can’t do everything that I want to do,” she explained. “And if we don’t have anywhere to go consistently, it’s hard to plan and then it’s hard to get volunteers. We need a place to work with volunteers.”
Finding consumers is another challenge Dream Katchers faces, in part because of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act.
“I have a connection with service coordinators at the [Suburban Adult Services Incorporated] house [and] some of the state houses, People Inc. and I send out a mass email to all of those. We also use a lot of word-of-mouth,” she explained.
“Some of the houses will bring a few people, some will bring a bunch. It’s not the same ones all the time. It helps when we have a boyfriend-girlfriend situation. [We have one couple] where one is in Ellicottville and one is living at a house on East Delevan in Buffalo. If they want to go, they often bring others with them, so this is a good chance for them to get together, to be social with each other and other people and for everyone to have fun,” Woodring said.
Dream Katchers puts on nine dances each year, taking a break in January, after the holidays, as well as June and August.
Each dance has a theme, including luau, Halloween, a hoedown, spring fling and holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day. This year, Woodring is adding a November Thanksgiving dinner-dance, complete with turkey. For each dance, Woodring provides pizza for the guests, which she orders ahead of time.
“That way, I don’t have to worry about it later on. Then, if I do think we’ll need more, I’ll order another one later,” she said. “We don’t want anyone to say there was none left for them and you never know who’s going to eat and who isn’t.”
At the November dance, a band called Universal Mind, made up of local disabled residents, will perform.
“It’s live music, so it’s fun to watch and it’s some of their own, so that’s good, too,” she said. Woodring said she tries to provide live music when she can, since it is “something different” from other dances held around the area.
“Heather Pennington and the WNY Fiddle Kids will be playing for our hoedown. Heather went to school with my oldest, so we thought that might be fun. I don’t know how many of the consumers enjoy fiddle music, but it’s something fun to watch if you don’t want to dance, and a lot of them don’t. Some of them just like to watch their peers, or socialize with others,” she said. “My son is one of those; he doesn’t dance, he just sits along the wall. For a lot of people, it’s mostly just about getting out of the house.”
As its August event approaches, Woodring said the organization is seeking donations for its basket auction, to take place at the Spring fundraising event at Michael’s Banquet Facility.
In addition, Dream Katchers has recently released a cookbook, “Dreamy Favorites From the Heart,” which is available at Anything Printed in Springville.
“There are recipes from some of the houses in there, some from my friends and family,” she said.
The group relies on fundraising for its operating budget. Woodring noted that she solicits funds through a candy bar sale and that she hopes to place donation baskets at local churches for basket items.
“I say to people, just throw me something to put in a basket,” she said. “We don’t necessarily need big stuff; every donation helps.”
For more information about its events, to donate or get involved, Dream Katchers can be contacted by phone at 860-0368, on its website at www.dream-katchers.webs.com, on Facebook or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.