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Moved by the power of “YES” by Lisa Oppenheimer

It was one of those moments that silences a room.

Ten-year-old Quincy took to the podium at the DJ Dreamfund Gala and told his story about being on the football field with his friends.

He’d dreamed about playing the game…had his eye on one day being in the NFL.

It was when the picture of a much-different Quincy popped up on the screen – the Quincy who didn’t have access to the fitness of after-school sports because his family couldn’t afford it – that caught the room’s full attention. And when the 10-year-old got to the part about playing his heart out, and shedding 50 pounds as a result, the crowd went silent…and then cheered.

Quincy was just one of the stories told that night at the gala – stories on the stage and in the pages of the program about children who, thanks to the DreamFund, are no longer sitting on the sidelines, but playing basketball and doing cartwheels; exploring the woods and going to summer camp; skating across the ice and shooting pucks; and most important, fitting in instead watching from outside the gate.

For those without a window to the scholarships, the stories put a face to the cause. There’s a reason they call the event the “Yes Makers” ball. Because when the fund finances sports, classes, or camps that would otherwise be impossible, that “yes” opens the door to more than just an activity – it unleashes possibilities.

Equally poignant were the stories about DJ himself — the young man who had his own NFL dreams; the generous soul who always wanted to give back. It was in DJ’s name that the Henry family sought to create hope out of despair — for themselves as well as for others. And amid the gowns and clinking glasses at the gala, was a celebration of DJ himself. The Henry family’s oldest child – Dan’s and Angela’s son, Amber’s and Kyle’s brother – was unmistakably present.

In less than four years, the fund has grown enormously, from $900 in its first year, to nearly $100,000 in scholarships granted in 2014, opening doors along the way for nearly 7000 kids. The auctions, donations, and proceeds from the 2014 event kicked off another year of getting more kids from “no” to “yes.”

And then there were the stories…from kids like Quincy and summer camper Giana — showing that the activity fees so many of us might take for granted have the power to change a life.

Someday, future ballerinas and football players will likely look back and be able to attribute much to the power of that first “yes.”

Because when you’re 10, the chance to kick a football or go to summer camp with your friends isn’t just something…it’s everything.

And that’s something to cheer for.
Lisa Oppenheimer

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