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  • Dan Connors

The Dream Machine comes to St. Louis and changes lives

Sometimes it's tempting to shake your head and shrug your shoulders. Life sucks. People are terrible, and what can I do about it? Nihilism rules in so many corners of social and mass media, and people seem more worried about protecting themselves from bad guys than reaching out and being the good guy.

Charlie Jabaley could have gone down that route, after learning that he had a brain tumor while his weight ballooned to over 300 pounds and his high stress life as a hip-hop titan threatened to kill him. But rather than descend into drugs and depression, Jabaley did something about it. He changed his diet, lost 120 pounds and started running marathons. He biked from Los Angeles to New York City in what he called the Dream Machine Tour.

And then he did something truly amazing. Jabaley invented an alter ego, Charlie Rocket, bought a bus, set up a social media presence, and started touring the country helping people with their dreams. He helped a homeless man set up an art studio and sell over $100,000 worth of artworks. Rocket helped another homeless man set up a food truck. And then he came to Florissant in St. Louis County in November of 2021.

Rocket heard about a little girl, Lyla, who had a debilitating disease, CRPS, that afflicted her with chronic pain in her legs that threatens to follow her all of her life. Her insurance company had refused to pay for her to visit a pain clinic in Cleveland that was her only hope for relief from the pain. So her family started a Go Fund Me page, like many do in our dysfunctional health care system, and then something magical happened.

Lyla has two loves, baking and pigs. Baking helps her take her mind off of her pain, and for some reason she had always wanted a miniature pet pig. Rocket came to town and made both of her dreams come true. For one day, his crew turned a Florissant bakery into a pop-up store called Lyla's Dream Bakery (now available online at )

And in the middle of a pandemic, her community rallied behind her and showed up in lines that stretched for blocks. This is the part that gets me when I watch the videos- when you give ordinary people a chance to make a positive difference, they show up!

Lyla and her parents reached their goal to get her the treatment she needed, and Rocket gave her a pet pig that she clung onto throughout the event. I only wish it was easier to make a difference, but this one day event inspired a lot of people that they could do just that.

There have been many attempts on television and in social media to transform lives, and most of them seem to fall short. Changing the trajectory of an unhappy life is hard, but the earlier we start, the easier and more powerful it gets. The Make A Wish Foundation is one of the best, but at best it gives sick children a few days of joy in the midst of misery without radically changing their lives. Throwing money at people randomly rarely works for longer than a short time. At some point the money runs out and problems return. Showing love and support can make a bigger difference, because when we feel truly loved, our problems don't matter nearly as much anymore.

As happy as this story makes me, it still saddens me that our healthcare systems is so broken that parents have to resort to bake sales and Go Fund Me pages to help their sick children. There has to be a better way. But at least in this one magical case, it looks like things might work out for once. And the Dream Machine moves on to its next dreamer.

You can find out more at , and watch the video below for more of the story.

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