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Nov 14, 2019

GIVING BACK: Local Man Keeping his Promise and Granting Wishes in Memory of his Nephew

By Deirdre Flanagan Ward

Dennis and Linda McGinnis with Ozzie

A dying nephew’s request inspired a local resident to create a nonprofit that makes dreams come true for children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.

Middletown resident Dennis McGinnis explained, “When my nephew Jason Douglas Creager was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in December 1991, he asked me, as his Christmas wish, to promise I would never forget him if he died.”  McGinnis made the promise to never forget him. He also made a promise to create something in his nephew’s memory, even though he wasn’t sure what or how at the time.

After fighting a fierce but short battle with Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer which mainly occurs in children, Douglas Creager passed away on Jan. 19, 1992 at age 18.  A few months later, McGinnis in keeping his promise, decided to create a foundation in his nephew’s memory called Jason’s Dreams for Kids.

At its inception, the foundation primarily used funds to help renovate the wing of the hospital where Douglas Creager was treated. Over the course of a few years, the mission transitioned with a focus primarily on the patients with a goal to “simply put a smile on a kid’s face by granting a special wish” and make a dream come true.

Some of the wishes the foundation has fulfilled range from Disney World getaways and toy shopping sprees to easing the burden, financially and emotionally, of families with ailing children.

“Sometimes we pay medical bills or build a wheelchair ramp,” McGinnis said.  And sometimes the wishes are as simple as a rocking chair requested by a child who wanted his mom to be more comfortable while sitting by his bedside.

The list of granted wishes is extensive, and the number of families and children who have benefited from Jason’s Dreams for Kids is enormous. McGinnis, who also runs McGinnis Printing in Red Bank, at one time displayed pictures of recipients on his office walls and could name each and every child.

“We are a local organization, and I am personally involved in all we do,” he said. “The component that makes us different from some other charities is that I personally deal with the children and their families. I know their first names and most of their birthdays.

”The bond that forms when helping a child doesn’t end with handing over a check or building a ramp. Each December, McGinnis secures the Sea Streak and sets sail for a Santa Cruise with all the children who benefited from Jason’s Dreams for Kidsto celebrate those who have recovered or are still in recovery.

“There is a lot of sorrow in running this foundation, and in many cases, the outcome isn’t positive, but for me it’s a personal endeavor.  I made a promise,” he said. “But I hope the day will come when there are no more dreams to grant and no more sick children.”

Three things McGinnis would like to share from his experience with Jason’s Dreams for Kids:

1.Count your blessings.

2.Material things are just that.

3.You get more back than you give.

For more information or to help McGinnis make a wish come true for another child, visit JasonsDreamsforKids.com or visit the gracious founder at McGinnis printing on Monmouth Street in Red Bank