The Dream Big! story began in 2009, Linda Driscoll—a Boston-based non-profit leader for the past 27 years, who had recently spent seven years serving as the Senior Director of Area Operations for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay—was serving as a consultant for the Women’s Sports Foundation GoGirlGo! Boston program and was the Past President of the Board of Directors of the New England Women’s Fund. On several occasions throughout the past 5 years she had served on grant review committees and was amazed at the inexpensive items that program leaders of girls’ sports and physical activity programs were seeking grant funding for.
Driscoll recalls the grant that probably had the biggest impact on her beginning to think about creating Dream Big! “I remember the coach who was seeking funding for uniforms for her girl's basketball team. I could not believe it when she told us that her girls’ team would play their games immediately following the boys’ games so that they could borrow the boys’ uniforms once they had finished playing. I remember thinking to myself as she was talking that I must know a hundred people that would have purchased uniforms for this team had they known the situation.”
As the years passed, Driscoll had heard many other stories from coaches and program leaders such as: Girls training for a double dutch competition in hallways of schools because they could not afford to rent a facility; Track athletes training in Keds as they could not afford quality running sneakers; Girls dealing with obesity related medical issues who could not afford fitness programs; and high school softball team members who could not afford to own their own softball gloves so they had to borrow them from the school every day. As an athlete herself Driscoll could not imagine having to play competitive sports without her own equipment or the proper footwear and uniforms to train and compete.
In the fall of 2009 she was visiting with her sister when her two nieces and one nephew were discussing with their mom all of the new equipment, shoes and registration fees they needed by the following week for their upcoming seasons. Driscoll commented on all of the equipment in the garage, sneakers and uniforms in their closets and wondered again about how many kids probably don’t participate because their families cannot afford the costs associated with sports and physical activity programs. It was then that she had decided to create Dream Big!, to give any girl interested in participating in a sport or physical activity the items and program fees needed to help lay the foundation for a healthy active lifestyle.
"In a country where the childrens' obesity rate has sky-rocketed and the knowledge that physical activity helps control weight, builds lean muscle, reduces fat, promotes strong bone, muscle and joint development, increases self-esteem and decreases the risk of obesity-related diseases, no girl should be sedentary because they cannot afford to participate in a physical activity they love and enjoy." said Driscoll.
Making it happen in Massachusetts:
Home in Boston, she began taking steps to make that happen. She met with leaders of girl-serving organizations, school athletic department staff, coaches, and health center staff asking if they had the resources to help girls become physically active. Consistently, the answer was no. Next, she started speaking with friends and colleagues seeking their support to get girls the items and program fees needed.
In November 2009, Driscoll created a home office, rented storage space for equipment, uniforms and other basic items and began collecting equipment and items from friends and businesses. In February 2010 Dream Big! was incorporated in Massachusetts and is currently working with hundreds of schools, organizations, volunteers and businesses to get low-income and homeless girls the basic items needed to participate in sports, recreation and physical activities.
As of 2016 Dream Big! has already had a direct, positive effect on more than 20,000 girls throught equipment donations, program scholarships, sports clinics and the annual Dream Big! Leadership Conferences.
Dream Big! envisions a day that all girls will have the equipment, program fees and supplies they need to participate in sports and physical activities that contribute to their health, education and overall well-being.