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Dream On 3, Industry Team Up to Fulfill Kids' Sports Dreams

Wed June 07, 2023 - Southeast Edition #12

(L-R): Grant Adams, CEO, Ascendum Machinery; Stephen Roy, president, Volvo Americas; Kristin Parker, North Carolina regional manager, Ascendum Machinery; and Mark Arcilesi, account executive, Ascendum Machinery.
(ASCENDUM Machinery and Dream On 3 photo)
(L-R): Grant Adams, CEO, Ascendum Machinery; Stephen Roy, president, Volvo Americas; Kristin Parker, North Carolina regional manager, Ascendum Machinery; and Mark Arcilesi, account executive, Ascendum Machinery. (ASCENDUM Machinery and Dream On 3 photo)
(L-R): Grant Adams, CEO, Ascendum Machinery; Stephen Roy, president, Volvo Americas; Kristin Parker, North Carolina regional manager, Ascendum Machinery; and Mark Arcilesi, account executive, Ascendum Machinery.
(ASCENDUM Machinery and Dream On 3 photo) Fly Ty, a local event host, comedian, tv personality and in-house hype professional for the Charlotte Hornets, honors Kristin Parker and her team at Ascendum Machinery for their support of Dream On 3.
(ASCENDUM Machinery and Dream On 3 photo) Brandon Lindsey describes the annual Dream Gala as Dream On 3’s Super Bowl.
(ASCENDUM Machinery and Dream On 3 photo)

The ability to help make dreams come true for kids and young people with life-altering physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities is a blessing reserved for a rare group of people.

The number of organizations that do so in a highly developed and effective way are few, but a nonprofit based in Charlotte, N.C., has thrived for more than 10 years by applying its own novel spin to fulfilling youngsters' dreams sure to last a lifetime.

Dream On 3 is designed to help young people ages 5 to 21 to realize their ultimate sports dreams, said Brandon Lindsey, the group's co-founder and CEO.

"When we started, there was Make-a-Wish, of course, a similar type of program to ours, but those kids had life-threatening health issues," he said. "As we planned Dream On 3, we saw there was a population of kids that were not being served — kids that were living with chronic illnesses, intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health challenges and other life-altering conditions like burn and spine injuries. These children and young adults are living through some difficult situations, but they did not have access to this type of programming because their diagnoses were not considered life threatening. We recognized the need and decided that was a space we wanted to press into and serve these kids."

Most of the work Dream On 3 does is to connect kids with sports-related trips and personalities, known as Dream Experiences, the nonprofit's core program. Lindsey describes it as one that customizes over-the-top, VIP experiences for each Dreamer.

"All our programs are based around sports, so we like to tell them if their dream is to swim with the dolphins, that is not what we do," he said. "But if your dream is to swim with the Miami Dolphins, then we can do that. We can build an experience around a sports component, and the dream will span three to four days with the child's entire immediate family included. We take them wherever the dream is going to happen, whether it is to meet the athlete or attend a sporting event anywhere across the country."

Examples of the Dream Experience program, which he said has greatly expanded over the past decade, include one young man meeting and hanging out with his hero, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady.

"We also helped a girl battling some mental-health issues to spend time with Simone Biles, the multiple Olympic gold medal gymnast," he said. "That was really cool, because Simone had just gone through her own difficulties, and they were able to connect on a very personal level."

Together, Brandon and his wife, Elizabeth Lindsey, the charity's co-founder — along with their employees and volunteers — have set up a lengthy list of Dream Experiences that involved the National Football League, NCAA college football, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, NASCAR and the Kentucky Derby, as well as other competitions like gymnastics, golf and even professional fishing.

In the first year of Dream On 3 in 2013, the Lindseys were able to fulfill the dreams of three kids, beginning with Nicholas Batley, who was able to meet NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip.

"Nicholas lives with autism and deemed himself as the pioneer of Dream On 3 because he was our first Dreamer," Elizabeth said. "We are so thankful he came back to our 10-year anniversary Gala in January."

She added that Dream On 3's mission to give kids like Nicholas hope and happiness has always been the backbone of the organization.

"How it began and why it is still blessed today is because everyone who gets involved in Dream On 3, whether it is our referral partners in different communities or our volunteers, donors or sponsors, all see and feel the mission," Elizabeth said. "There is a ripple effect, so not only is this child and family living a dream come true and are feeling loved, but they also feel a community behind them. It is not a one-and-done. It is so rewarding to be able to see a child experience that moment when their dream starts and then hear what it does for them after the fact."

Construction Industry Helps Build Dream On 3

According to the Lindseys, their success in founding, growing and expanding Dream On 3 was a near miraculous feat due to their not having any history with running a nonprofit.

"That, to me, was one of the coolest parts of the Dream On 3 story," Brandon said. "I felt like God was calling me to step out and do this. Because I had no experience in doing this type of work, I reached out to the construction contacts that I had made during 20 years of working at Martin Marietta Materials [a supplier of aggregates and heavy building materials].

"I did not know how to get this thing off the ground," he added. "So, I went to people like Martin Marietta, Ascendum Machinery, the noted construction equipment dealer here in Charlotte, and Hoopaugh Grading, a prominent local contractor, and asked them if they would help us put it together. Of course, they all stepped up to the plate."

As a result, the success of Dream On 3 over the past 10 years has been built on the backs of the construction industry, he said.

"Very few people think about construction supporting nonprofit organizations; instead, most folks think of banks and other large corporations taking on that role," Brandon said. "But there is no greater industry made up of so many people that care about serving, about investing back into the community, than construction. They have big hearts, and they want to help. One of the best things we did was to continue working with builders and equipment dealers. Now, in every community that we begin serving, we start by contacting local construction and related companies for assistance."

Ascendum General Manager Kristin Parker added, "I think it is important for people to know that the construction industry's day-to-day competition for market share is put aside when it comes to what matters most. Pulling together for great causes like Dream On 3 — regardless of what company logo we wear on our shirts — and helping realize the dreams of children, is our biggest thrill. Dream On 3 is about the kids, no matter the logos."

Annual Dream Gala Honors Dreamers, Sponsors

After starting off small in 2013, Dream On 3 is quickly approaching its 200th Dream Experience. This core program is one of many that are now being offered across the organization's footprint, which includes the nonprofit's four current "communities," or regions, encompassing the two Carolinas, Georgia, DMV (Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia), and Rocky Mountains (based in Denver, Colo.).

In addition, Dream On 3 is now offering programming on high school and college campuses across the country.

Each community works to identify eligible recipients and the partnerships necessary to carry out Dream On 3's mission in that area.

None of the nonprofit's expansion and new services would be possible, the Lindseys agreed, without the generous funding and support of the business community via their sponsorships and Dream On 3's annual Dream Gala, held annually in Charlotte.

Brandon described the event as "Dream On 3's Super Bowl, the biggest night of the year for us" because it allows the organization to honor not only the kids it has served, but also the various companies and groups, like Ascendum, that showed their support over the previous year.

"When we were planning our first Gala in 2014, I went to our board of directors at the time and said, ‘I want to host a Dream on 3 Gala at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Charlotte, and it is going to cost us $50,000,'" he said. "Well, their jaws dropped because we did not have $50 at that time. But they agreed and we came up with that $50,000, turning it into $120,000 that first night in 2014, and the funding has grown every year since."

Dream On 3 Names Ascendum 2022 Business of the Year

Ascendum sells and services heavy machines made by Volvo, LeeBoy, K-Tec and Bergmann Americas. Other lines include SENNEBOGEN, Sandvik, Doosan Portable Power and Gradall.

But Ascendum also is noted for its philanthropy, and earlier this year was named Dream On 3's Queen City Business of the Year in 2022 from a field of several well-respected companies in the community. Brandon Lindsey noted that Ascendum was deserving of the honor because the equipment distributor engaged its team members last year to raise a total of $532,437 for the charity.

Combined with the efforts of other donors, Ascendum's fundraising allowed Dream On 3 to bring in over $1.4 million through the 2022 competition and at the Dream Gala.

Parker said that her company was grateful both to all the folks within Ascendum, and those in other companies, that helped raise money for Dream On 3 in 2022.

"Your dedication and hard work have made a tremendous difference in the lives of many children and their families," she said. "We appreciate your support and let's continue to make a positive impact in our community."

For Dream on 3's 2023 Queen City Business of the Year event, Ascendum has nominated Lincolnton, N.C.-based LeeBoy, the manufacturer of a range of road and surface products including asphalt pavers, brooms, chip spreaders, distributors, force feed loaders, motor graders, patchers, road wideners and tack distributors.

For more information, visit CEG

Eric Olson

A writer and contributing editor for CEG since 2008, Eric Olson has worked in the business for more than 40 years.

Olson grew up in the small town of Lenoir, NC in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he began covering sports for the local newspaper at age 18. He continued to do that for several other dailies in the area while in college at Appalachian State University. Following his graduation, he moved on to gain experience at two other publications before becoming a real estate and special features writer and editor at the Winston-Salem Journal for 10 years. Since 1999 he has worked as a corporate media liaison and freelance writer, in addition to his time at CEG.

He and his wife, Tara, have been married for 33 years and are the parents of two grown and successful daughters. His hobbies include collecting history books, watching his beloved Green Bay Packers and caring for his three dogs and one cat.

Read more from Eric Olson here.

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