Who doesn’t love to attend a live sporting event, see their favorite artist perform in person, or meet a celebrity that inspires them? Our kids and families have been able to do those things and so much more thanks to the support of The Garden of Dreams Foundation.
A non-profit organization that works with The Madison Square Garden Company and MSG Network, Inc., Garden of Dreams teams up with 25 partner organizations, including enCourage Kids, to positively impact the lives of children facing obstacles. Since their inception in 2006, Garden of Dreams has supported our Escapes program, and it’s because of that decade long relationship that we are honoring them at our upcoming Gala with our inaugural Community Partner Award.
“They were the perfect partner to receive this award. The types of experiences that they can provide are one of a kind, outstanding moments for our kids,” says Executive Director Michele Hall-Duncan. “Our Escapes program would not reach the number of children it does without their support.”
Attending sporting events, like ice hockey, is a thrilling experience for a fan like Nicholas. “My son Nicholas loves the Rangers, as our whole family does,” shared dad Frank. “We are constantly visiting doctors and hospitals. MSG is our escape from everything. He gets so excited at these events that it melts our hearts.”
Going to MSG has even turned one enCourage kid, 11 year-old Christina, into a huge Rangers and Knicks fan. “She actually informs me every night on who is playing where and when,” dad Tony happily expressed. “But that’s not the best part. These moments when she attends games is an escape for her and myself. It’s when she can forget about doctor appointments and enjoy herself. This is the best medicine for all of us.”
Garden of Dreams has also helped to create positive memories for families like the Perez’s, who lost their son Nicolas to brain cancer. A huge Knicks fan, they helped Nicolas to create a Knicks-themed recreation room. He also attended many games and became friends with Knicks legend and Garden of Dreams board member, John Starks. “Nicolas was a great kid and I am grateful that Garden of Dreams brought us and his family together. I miss him a lot, but cherish the opportunities we got to spend time together,” shared John, who will be accepting the award on the foundations behalf.
Xavier accepts a game ball on behalf of his brother, and honorary Knick, Nicolas. Credit MSG Photo
Nicolas was also named an honorary Knick and his brother Xavier was able to accept a game ball on his behalf. “It was such an amazing honor and experience which will live on in our hearts forever,” shared mom Lisa. “We have witnessed first hand the important role you both play in contributing to the lives of the children and families at the time when they need it the most.”
According to Michele, “Life is difficult for families facing medical challenges. To sit in a suite at Madison Square Garden, meet your favorite singer, or have your talent celebrated lifts the spirits of these children in ways that we can only imagine.” Kids have also been able to attend concerts, go to the prom, and even take to the stage at Radio City Music Hall during a star-studded talent show.
For Gabrielle, Garden of Dreams gave her a variety of meaningful experiences, like singing in their talent show, meeting her favorite singer, Sara Bareilles, and even bestowing her with a scholarship so she could attend her dream university – Fordham. But the most meaningful experience of them all was allowing her to know that she wasn’t alone in her struggle.
“When I was little, I would always wonder why it was me that had arthritis. Why couldn’t I play sports or run around like the other kids? I let it stop me, but I don’t now and I won’t ever again,” she reflects. “It makes me feel not only validated, but appreciated that Garden of Dreams acknowledges my struggle and assists me in pressing forward, even with my condition. They made sure I knew that my life wasn’t centered around my arthritis, but around knowing that there is still so much I can do despite it.”
Musician Sara Bareilles mentors Gabrielle (center) in preparation for the Garden of Dreams Talent Show at Radio City Music Hall. Credit MSG Photo