Fossil Rim's 'Dream Day' provides a wild escape from reality for local children

Melissa Holmes|@LissaCHolmes Staff Writer

GLEN ROSE - On Dec. 4, a handful of local children battling serious medical conditions and their families were treated to a special day at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.

“Dream Day” was created nine years ago as a day to bring fun and happiness to families who have endured so much.

Matt Stephans’ 2-year-old daughter, Gracelyn was one of the honoree’s for the special day. Gracelyn was diagnosed eight months ago with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and has been receiving various treatments to help combat the debilitating disease.

Gracelyn's father could not put into words how strong and courageous his daughter has been. His little trooper hasn’t even cried during the many shots she has had to endure. The process has been even more stressful for he and his wife, as Gracelyn is not their only child, the couple are a family of five with two sons, as well.

Gracelyn’s whole family, including her two big brothers, were out for the day and the family couldn’t wait to partake in all of the activities.

The family was ecstatic when they first learned that Gracelyn had been nominated and that the family was looking forward to having a great day together, where they wouldn’t have to worry about anything but having fun.

Gracelyn was nominated by her grandmother, Gina Reed, who is the special education teacher at Glen Rose Elementary School. Reed is usually at Dream Day helping coordinate other honorees, but this year she got to spend it with her granddaughter.

As for what the future may hold for Gracelyn, the family isn’t sure yet. According to Stephans the doctors have told them that Gracelyn’s symptoms could go away or she may experience them for the rest of her life. All the family can do now is simply take it one day at a time.

The day was also special for returning honoree, Jacey Barron and her family. Barron, 14, suffers from arthritis and pseudotumor cerebri. She was previously nominated in 2012, shortly after her second brain surgery said her mother, Amanda Box.

During the time that Jace was first diagnosed, life went downhill really fast, but her mother said that the support of the community helped them get through that time.

Tearing up, Amanda recalled how the community rallied around her family and Jacey during their difficult time. Receiving the aid was not easy for the young family, and it took a while for her and Jacey to warm up to the idea that friends and neighbors were helping them, because the family was use to being on the giving end rather than the receiving.

“My step-mom helped me realize that I had to accept it, because I was stopping others from receiving their blessings,” Box said.

Honored that the community would nominate them again for a second time, the family just wanted to enjoy the day. Jacey said she was ready for a fun day filled seeing the animals.

The day kicked off with a meet and greet, between the families, sponsors and Fossil Rim staff.

Dr. Pat Condy, Fossil Rim’s executive director, addressed the crowd and told everyone that it was the beginning of a wonderful day and the focus was on the families having a fun day.

Honorees and families got to fill up on hot chocolate, donuts and coffee and greeted Santa and Mrs. Claus before heading off on their private tour of Fossil Rim. After the tour the families got to enjoy a Christmas-themed lunch and every family member received a bag of Christmas presents.

Not only was the day special for the families and staff, the sponsors were also excited about being involved. Newest sponsor, Dr. Mike Jones of Glen Rose Veterinary Clinic decided to become a sponsor because the cause hits close to home. Jones said that when the opportunity came, he knew he had to support the event.

Dream Day was also sponsored by Fossil Rim, LDL Foundation, Glen Rose Medical Center, and Dinosaur State Valley State Park.