by Dorothy Bliskey
While college life often stokes images of craziness at football games and partying until the wee hours of the morning, the reality of campus life for two Beaver Dam women takes on a more serious tone. Lauren Curwick and Teal Johnson, both in their junior year at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, have a unique story to tell. It’s about caring. It’s about getting creative. It’s about bringing happiness and smiles to those less fortunate.
The two Beaver Dam natives and longtime friends, both with admirable goals (Lauren wants to become a pediatric oncologist and Teal a lawyer) – have created an organization on their campus of 50,000 students that brings smiles and happiness to critically ill children. Aptly named “Designing Dreams,” the non-profit group creates dream bedrooms for children upon their return home from a hospital stay.
Their first “reveal” took place in late January when Jessica Helmbreck, a 13-year old Beaver Dam girl suffering with a horrific cancer, went home from the hospital to an upscale dream bedroom in her favorite colors. The room makeover was made possible with considerable fundraising and donations. For Lauren and Teal, more than a year of ground work to launch their campus-based Designing Dreams was under their belts to make this first bedroom makeover a reality.
“We had met first with Jessica’s mother, Jackie, to observe the room and learn about Jessica’s favorite things,” Lauren said. “She loves pink, purple, and butterflies. We purchased everything from furniture and accessories to jewelry and perfume.”
Lauren and Teal led the way during the five-day renovation process that culminated with the reveal. When it came time to unveil the new room to Jessica, a television crew from Madison was there to capture the moment for viewers.
“The look on Jessica’s face said it all,” Lauren said. “It was such a special moment for Jessica, her family and all of us. Words just can’t describe it.”
Designing Dreams was Lauren’s brainstorm during her sophomore year in college. By that December (2012), it was up and running.
“I was interested in making a difference on campus by starting an organization for students – something that would benefit children who are sick or in the hospital,” Lauren said. “I talked about it with my mom who is an interior decorator, and she helped me come up with the idea of Designing Dreams. Through her, I’ve grown up loving art and design.”
Designing Dreams was the perfect idea to bring two of Lauren’s passions together – helping people and her interest in art and design.”
After discussing it with her mother, Lauren brought Teal on board – and the rest is history.
“When Lauren approached me with the idea of starting a student group on campus, I was very excited,” Teal said. “We had a long conversation about all the things we could do with the Designing Dreams idea. From that moment, we never looked back.”
After forming an executive board, with Lauren as the founder and president and Teal the treasurer, they began to market their group to other students. Next, they took on the involved process of designating Designing Dreams as a non-profit organization.
The principle activity of Designing Dreams is to redesign the bedroom of a critically ill child, with the mission to become a beacon of hope, happiness, and inspiration. Funds are raised and donations accepted on an ongoing basis so at least two dream bedrooms per year can be achieved.
“Cancer and other serious illnesses take such a huge toll on the children and their families,” Lauren stated, after the very first reveal at Jessica’s home in January. “We would like to provide an optimistic and encouraging outlook for these young patients and their families through the hardships they are facing.”
Lauren’s plan is to see the Designing Dreams organization spread to other campuses across the country. “I would love to see it become a national organization.”
Teal sees the value of Designing Dreams as a plus not only for the children it helps, but for her own personal satisfaction as she gets into a career in law.
“Starting this group has made me realize the value of doing good deeds for others,” Teal said. “Working hard to accomplish something that will truly make another person’s life happier is better than doing something for myself. I believe having that mentality and seeking to help others will impact me for the rest of my life.”
Lauren’s interest in becoming a physician who will help children through childhood cancer was the catalyst for the Designing Dreams concept. “Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to be a pediatric oncologist,” she says. “Cancer is scary at any stage in life. I am gratified to be able to help families through this horrible disease, particularly children. Anything that gives them hope and puts a smile on their face is important to me.”
To Learn More
To learn more about Designing Dreams and see the television video of the first recipient, Jessica, go to https://www.facebook.com/UMNDesigningDreams
To make a contribution that will help create a dream bedroom for a critically ill child, donations can be made either online or by regular mail. For online donations, go to http://www.youcaring.com/other/designing-dreams/41580
To mail a donation, send check to:
Designing Dreams #3082
126 Coffman Memorial Union
300 Washington AVE SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
For specific questions, email Lauren Curwick at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (920) 219-0104.