Mendoza School of Business

Notre Dame student grants wishes of hospice patients

Published: October 3, 2012 / Author: Claire Stephens

When Caitlin
was 15 years old, she founded DreamCatchers,
a club she created to grant the last wishes of terminally ill hospice patients.
Now a University of Notre Dame sophomore majoring in business entrepreneurship
and film, television and theatre, Crommett recently expanded DreamCatchers,
which began as a high school club and is now a national organization with
chapters in California and Indiana.

“I had been
volunteering with a hospice near me for a few years, helping out around the
office and singing at memorial services,” Crommett recalls. “I then saw the movie
‘Patch Adams,’ which inspired me to do something more to make these patients
happy at the end of their lives. I wanted them to be able to have their last
dreams fulfilled and help people believe in happy endings once again.”

Crommett and
fellow Notre Dame student Katie McElligott embarked on a five-week tour this
summer to Las Vegas; Washington, D.C.; Raleigh, N.C.; Phoenix; and Nashville,
Tenn., to set up “Dream Teams.” At each stop, Crommett and McElligott met with
hospice administrators, local high school students and teachers, college
faculty members and community centers, explaining what DreamCatchers is and
sharing information on how to start a local chapter.

“Through the
generosity of the Hesburgh-Yusko
Scholars Program
, Katie and I embarked on our five-week trip across
the country, trying to spread DreamCatchers’ mission to as many places as
possible,” Crommett said.

Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program connects a highly select group of
service-oriented Notre Dame students to a special network of resources and
opportunities. In addition to the funding for their trip, Crommett and
McElligott, who were both selected for the program as incoming freshmen, also
will receive a $100,000 scholarship from the program over four years.

accepts forms describing a hospice patient’s dream from family members or
caregivers, and then works with the hospice to fulfill it if possible. After
their dreams are fulfilled, patients receive a dream catcher as a memento, an
item chosen by Crommett to reflect her Native American heritage.

Crommett, who
was recognized as a “Kindhearted Kid” on “The Bonnie Hunt Show” and recently
named a “Local Hero” by Reader’s Digest, said she has been amazed and surprised
at people’s reaction to the DreamCatchers concept.

“I had no idea
that so many people would be so receptive to the idea,” she said in an
interview with the Las Vegas Sun. ”I think people are drawn to it because it’s,
in a way, a new concept, because a lot of charities are focused on children
with life-threatening illnesses, and they forget about adults and the elderly.”

Dozens of
dreams have been fulfilled by DreamCatchers, including a hot air balloon ride,
sailboating, a trip to Disneyland and a final reunion with family from far

“I love
granting dreams. I hope that as many people as possible can have the
opportunity to experience the joy that comes from helping these wonderful
people like I have,” she also told the Sun. “I hope that it will serve as a
bridge between generations, as students everywhere can give back to the
communities that raised them. I want to help people believe in happy endings
again, and I hope that DreamCatchers can give them that hope.”

This year
DreamCatchers has a club on the Notre Dame campus, in addition to the other
cities across the country.

“Many people
here at Notre Dame have expressed interest, so we are excited to start working
with the two hospices in South Bend,” Crommett said. “We hope to continue to
grow across the country, and to expand to five new markets each year. Our goal
is for DreamCatchers to become a nationally recognized foundation sometime in
the near future.”


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