It was a beautiful day at the Dixie State University Alumni House – the perfect day to make dreams come true.
New DSU Club Turns Dreams into Reality
By University Marketing & Communication
October 21, 2019
This past Saturday, Oct. 19, DSU student Shaq Daniels set out to fulfill a dream for hospice patient Kenneth Spendlove as part of the newest student club on campus – DreamCatchers. Thanks to Shaq, DSU has the first DreamCatchers chapter in Utah and Saturday’s event was the first-ever wish granting as part of this new effort.
DreamCatchers is a network of high school or college student clubs dedicated to fulfilling the end-of-life dreams of hospice patients in their communities.
Surrounded by blue sky and sunshine, family and friends gathered in front of DSU’s Alumni House eagerly awaiting Ken’s arrival. A long-time truck driver, Ken’s wish was to be able to ride in a semi-truck once again.
The deep, rumbling hum of the truck was heard just before the truck pulled up with the 91-year-old dreamer sitting in the passenger seat, grinning in disbelief and waving to the crowd.
Once Ken stepped down from the truck, the group settled into the backyard of the Alumni house to celebrate him and enjoy his food-favorites – hotdogs and ice-cream.
Shaq thanked everyone for being part of the first wish granting event. Then he gave Ken his very own dreamcatcher along with a Dixie State University t-shirt.
“This is the best birthday I’ve ever had!” exclaimed Ken with twinkling eyes.
Monique Hansen, a nurse at Dixie Home Rehab, Palliative and Hospice Care, nominated Ken for the DreamCatchers experience. “We talk about trucks a lot. Recently we’ve also been watching videos on trucks so when I heard about this wish thing I just thought it would be so awesome if he could ride in a truck again.”
So, DSU approached Doug Dennet, owner of Western States Trucking, to tell him about the wish. Doug was all in. He assigned Jim Schoonover to be the driver for the event and when Jim realized who he’d be driving, he was thrilled. Jim and Ken go way back. Beyond sharing a love of trucking, Jim’s dad was great friends with Ken for many years.
“Truck driving is the only consistent memory dad has,” said Ken’s daughter, Danna Engstrom. Danna and her sister, Wendy Lewis, both attended the event. They said their dad drove a truck for over 50 years, until he was 80 years old. They also explained that he always talks about wanting to drive a truck again.
“Now, with his dementia, trucking is what he talks about, what he clings to,” said Danna. “In fact, when the semi pulled up to his house today, he asked if it was his truck.”
Danna shared that this event meant a lot to the whole family because it gave their dad a chance to feel special, to be celebrated. “When dad got dementia 11 years ago we didn’t fully understand what it was. He gets left out a lot because people don’t understand this disease,” Danna expressed through tears. “The stigma around mental illness tends to cause people to stay away. If someone gets cancer, everybody gathers around them but with something like this, people don’t know what to do so it can leave people feeling alone and isolated.”
Overall, both daughters felt the event was a success. “Dad’s smiling, he’s happy and he thinks it’s his birthday!” said Danna. “Also, Shaq is great. He’s so into this and he’s done a great job!”
Currently a freshman and a football player at Dixie State University, Shaq is the president of the club. He first learned about DreamCatchers at his high school, Red Mountain, in Mesa Arizona. Shaq’s outgoing personality is perfect for such a community-centered effort.
“I really am a big community person. I like helping people out and making a difference,” said Shaq. “It’s big for me to be able to bring the community together. That’s why I am so passionate about DreamCatchers, because it is not nearly as successful without the support of the community.”
Ken lives at home with his wife, Venice, who is also 91. Near the end of the experience, while reminiscing over some classic pictures of Ken displayed at the event, Venice reflected a bit on Ken’s dream being fulfilled. “You can’t believe how special it makes you feel. Even if it’s for him, I feel special too.”
“We’ve had a good life,” said Venice. “This topped it all off!”