More Than Just A Check – Brandon Lindsey

What it means to “get in the huddle.”

According to the National Center For Charitable Statistics, there are currently over 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States. In 2013, charitable contributions by individuals, foundations, bequests, and corporations reached over $358 billion….yes, with a B! No one likes to use the word “competition” when talking about the non-profit sector of our economy, including me. Here’s an interesting definition I found on the web:

Competition is the opposite of cooperation. It arises whenever at least two parties strive for a goal which cannot be shared or which is desired individually but not in sharing and cooperation.

The reason that we never like to use the “C” word in the non-profit world is because we want to believe that the common goal, a world free of sickness, oppression and poverty, can be shared and certainly requires cooperation. However, at the end of the day… I guess we are all competing for the same dollar.

So what is it that makes an individual or companies decide to give to one organization over the 1,499,999 others? Maybe it’s because of a friendship or pre-existing relationship. Maybe it’s a personal experience that creates a connection to the mission. Maybe the decision is more business related and fits into a greater strategic plan. At Dream On 3, we’ve found that there is a common thread between our donors. The people and companies that get involved with Dream On 3 do so because they see it as an opportunity to give more than just a check. They see it as an opportunity to truly get in the huddle and be a part of a team.

There is no one that understands this concept better than our most recent Dream Sponsor, Valvoline. Valvoline is a leading worldwide producer and distributor of premium-branded lubricants and automotive chemicals headquartered in Lexington, KY. The relationship between Valvoline and Dream On 3 began last year when company representatives happened to be onsite for one of our dream experiences with Dale Earnhardt Jr. After seeing the Dream Experience unfold before their eyes, they approached us and wanted to know more about the organization and how they could get involved. From the very beginning it was clear that they weren’t just looking for an opportunity to write a check. They felt an immediate connection and wanted an opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of our Dream Kids.

We stayed in touch over the next several months, and then it happened! I got the call that a new referral came in from one of our referral partners, DDR. This one was unique and was definitely uncharted territory for Dream On 3 (which we always love). It was our first equestrian dream! Now we know some big time football players, baseball players, basketball players, wrestlers, race car drivers, and tons of other sports celebrities…but I’ll be the first to admit that we knew nothing about horses!

Jayden Polk, a 12-year-old Charlotte boy with autism, had a dream to… “…meet American Pharaoh and some of the trainers.” ~ Jayden

The only reference I had to horses was the Kentucky Derby. I started looking at who we knew in Kentucky and that’s when the light bulb when off…what about those guys at Valvoline. I called my contact, who has since become a huge fan of DO3 and a friend, to ask if he could help and if Valvoline would be willing to sponsor Jayden’s Dream. He called me back the following week with the exciting news that they would love to be Jayden’s Dream Sponsor, but that they wanted to do more than just write a check.

The Valvoline team began putting together the pieces of what would ultimately become a dream come true for Jayden Polk. Our Dream Experiences typically start with a meeting between DO3 and the Dream Kid’s family. That first interaction with the Dream Kid is critical. That meeting is all about establishing trust and rapport. You’ve probably heard me say before that the best part of what we do is the relationships we get to build. Well, this first meeting sets the stage for that relationship. That’s why we were so excited when Valvoline told us that they wanted to come to Charlotte to meet Jayden with us and let him know that his dream was going to come true! They also understood the importance of the relationship that would be forged over the next couple of months.

So what did they do? Well, they orchestrated the day that Jayden would later call “the best day of his life!” The day began early that morning at Keeneland. Located in the heart of Kentucky’s famed Bluegrass region, Keeneland represents one of the most famous locations for both Thoroughbred racing and breeding. Founded in 1936, this historic landmark has been featured in movies such as Dreamer, Secretariat and Seabiscuit. You may also know Keeneland for hosting the 2015 Breeders Cup, where American Pharoah won the first ever Grand Slam of horse racing. The only thing more impressive than the property itself was the hospitality, compassion and generosity displayed by all of those who work there. On April 20th, there was no winning horse, jockey, or owner honored more than our Dream Kid Jayden Polk. Jayden was treated to front row parking, a private tour of the track, breakfast at the Trackside Kitchen, box seats directly over the tunnel where the horses entered the track, and tons of Keeneland gear! For one of the races, Jayden was allowed to follow the riders every step of the way from mount-up to winner’s circle, where he posed for a picture with all of the jockeys. It was a magical day and we will forever be grateful for the love shown to our team by the Keeneland management team and staff.

You may be asking…what about American Pharaoh? Yes, Jayden’s Dream of meeting American Pharaoh definitely came true! Our friends at Valvoline also reached out to Ashford Stud Farm, where American Pharaoh is currently enjoying retirement and single life. Upon arriving to Ashford Stud Farm, Jayden was greeted by the owner who immediately handed him an American Pharaoh replica toy. She then led Jayden and his family through the gates, beyond the barricades used for the daily tours and into the barn that housed the stall of the most famous horse in the world. As we entered, we could see through the oppose side barn doors one of the most beautiful creatures we have ever laid eyes on, being led up the hill. He was enormous and he was beautiful! He walked into the barn in the most majestic fashion and stopped right in front of Jayden. American Pharaoh has swag…and he knows it! There were no words exchanged, but I would give anything to know the private conversation they shared in that moment. You could tell that there was an immediate connection as Jayden softly brushed the head and neck of this gentle giant. American Pharaoh knew that this was not just any other visitor. He knew that this young man was special.

There is no word to describe this day other than magical. As we walked away from the track after the final race, I looked at Jayden and asked, “Was it a dream come true?” Jayden looked at me with that larger than life smile and said…

“It was the best day of my life.” ~ Jayden

As many times as Jayden thanked us for making his dream come true, the wonderful employees at Valvoline thanked us just as much for allowing them to be a part of it. That’s what getting in the huddle is all about. Being able to get involved, engaging your employees, and seeing firsthand how your donations are working in the lives of these kids and their families…. that’s why people choose to support Dream On 3!

There were many others that sacrificed their time, talents, and resources to make sure that Jayden’s Dream came true. We are grateful to all of our supporters, our volunteers, and our sponsors! We are proud to be in the huddle with each of you.

Ashford Stud Farm
Emby Taylor Photography
Donald Wilson
Hilton Downtown Lexington
Imagine Travel
Taco Mac
Adventure Vans
Mellow Mushroom – Lexington
Queen City Party Charters