Two Local Men Combined Their Experience
In Hospice And The Entertainment Industry,
To Make Dreams Come True
Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography by John Liviero
Some great ideas are just inevitable. That’s how it was with Oneday Dreams—there was no way it wouldn’t come into being.
In 2017, Windsor natives Jay Soulliere and Mike Bennett created Oneday Dreams, a non-profit organization that makes dreams come true for Canadian adults over the age of eighteen living with a terminal illness, and who have a prognosis of a year or less.
Jay Soulliere is a senior talent agent who represents an international roster of musical artists. Michael Bennett worked for ten years at The Hospice of Windsor and Essex County Inc. and is now a professor at the University of Texas.
How did two people from such different worlds connect?
“I met Mike when I first started in the music business,” Jay explains. “I was helping organize some shows in downtown Windsor around 2007, and Mike was the guitarist for Tragedy of Mariam, one of the local bands playing. We became friends after that.”
They continued working in their different spheres until one day, Mike had an idea and needed Jay’s help.
“I was working with a girl named Caroline,” Mike recalls. “She was a fan of the band Marianas Trench. During conversations, she told me how much she enjoyed their music, how it helped her through some very tough times, and even attended some of their shows with her sisters.”
He goes on: “Caroline was nearing the end of her life, and I thought ‘What if I could connect her with Marianas Trench?’ Except, I had no idea how to do that.”
Mike contacted Jay and said: “You’re a big shot in Toronto! Do you have any connections with Marianas Trench?”
Although MT was represented by a different agency, Jay’s company had a relationship with them. He got to work and arranged for MT to do a private performance for Caroline via Skype. Caroline passed away before the performance occurred, but MT posted her picture on their website and social media, telling her story.
“Caroline’s family received a lot of love and support from fans around the world,” Mike continues. “They later told me that that helped them cope.”
A year or two later, Mike was working with a man named Michael.
“He was a massive Shania Twain fan,” Mike says. “She had an album set to be released in a few more months, but it was unlikely that Michael would live to hear it. So, I called Jay.”
Jay worked his magic, once again, and connected with Shania Twain’s team.
“They provided Michael with an advanced copy of Shania’s new album,” Mike says, “via a private hyperlink that gave Michael a seventy-two-hour window where he could listen to the new music as many times as he wanted. Shania even included a personal message to him. It was extraordinarily meaningful!”
It wasn’t until 2017, when Jay was in town putting on a show at The Colosseum at Caesars Windsor, that he and Mike spoke about how great it felt fulfilling those dreams for Caroline and Michael.
“Mike commented that it was too bad something like ‘Make a Wish’ didn’t exist for adults,” Jay remembers. The Make a Wish foundation works to fulfill the wishes of children with a critical illness between the ages of three and seventeen years. “We looked at each other and had the same thought: ‘We should do that!’”
Oneday Dreams incorporated, effective January 25, 2019, under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act. Although Oneday Dreams was founded in Windsor, it is registered across Canada and works with Canadians from every corner of the country.
From the day of its inception, Oneday Dreams has worked with some extraordinary people.
“We are so deeply indebted to our donors, to our early adopters,” Jay says.
The requests Oneday Dreams receives are as varied and unique as each individual.
“That’s what makes it fun to do,” Jay continues. “Connecting people with celebrities is great but there are so many other, meaningful ways of making dreams come true for people. One way is bringing a family together. Or a hobby or an interest that was important to them—how can we do something with that?”
On February 24, 2022, a dream came true for Jody-Anne who wanted to have a private screening of her favourite movie, The Wizard of Oz, with her closest friends and family. She and her sister were driven to the Lakeshore Cinema in a limousine donated by Butterfield Limo. At the theatre, they entered the Land of Oz thanks to a beautiful balloon display provided by Balloon Ladies of Windsor. A yellow brick road welcomed them with some red-carpet flair provided by the stanchions from Festival Tent. There were even custom Wizard of Oz themed cupcakes from Sweet Revenge Bake Shop.
In other instances, Oneday Dreams has brought family members to a person’s bedside, aiding with travel arrangements and costs.
“Another person wanted a peaceful garden to spend time,” Mike says. “So we arranged for that to be done at their home, where they spent their remaining days.”
For another request, action film star The Rock, made a video for a local fan, taking her on a virtual tour of the set of his latest tv production.
Many people are involved in each request.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without our great board of directors,” Mike says. “Jay and I do this on a volunteer basis and so does the board. We’re supported by a tremendous group of volunteers at events across the province. All donations go toward fulfilling dreams.”
“We do a lot of outreach with hospices, cancer centers and hospitals letting them know about our services,” Jay says. “We’ve had a great response locally. This was created in Windsor and backed by people in Windsor.”
Among their numerous donors, Oneday Dreams is especially grateful to 100 Women Who Care, Green Shield Canada, Unifor, Ground Effects, St. Clair College Alumni Association as well as the Stephanie and Barry Zekelman Foundation for their support.
For more information, visit their website at onedaydreams.ca.