By Janis Fontaine
There is no substitute for a good night’s sleep. You can’t buy one. You can’t pay someone to sleep for you.
Something happens when we sleep. We heal. We learn. We adapt. We solve problems. And we dream.
No one knows exactly why, but experts do know sleep is just as critical as food and water. Fatigue from too little sleep increases the risk of accidents and injuries, and sleep deprivation contributes to the development of heart disease and other medical problems.
For children, sleep is even more critical. Their brains are still maturing, and they’re constantly challenged with new learning and experiences. Teachers will tell you a child needs two things to set him up to learn: a good night’s sleep and breakfast.
There’s a network of food pantries and free school breakfast programs working hard to get kids the nutrition their brains need to grow.
On the sleep side, there’s Suzy Broad and Sweet Dream Makers.
A dozen years ago, the former advertising executive volunteered at her synagogue, Boca Raton’s Temple Beth El. One of the first families she helped taught her a lot about the challenges families living at the poverty level face. Broad, 54, realized she had given them lamps but no light bulbs, and school supplies but no desk to work at or cabinet to store them.
But Broad had also given a little girl in that family a bed. The house was in disarray, but the girl’s bed was neatly made, her new teddy bear propped lovingly on her pillow. Broad had an “aha moment.” Could there actually be a need for beds?
There was. A big need.
To fill it, Broad started what would become the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Sweet Dream Makers, which has given away nearly 3,000 beds so far. SDM grew so quickly it became Broad’s full-time job.
Broad, who lives in Boca Raton, found her biggest hurdle was always logistics: Delivering and setting up beds and picking up donated used furniture required a truck and driver, some heavy lifters and bed assemblers, and a storage unit.
Marc Schiller of City Mattress, who was looking for a local charity to support, heard about Sweet Dream Makers from a friend. Both he and Broad knew their partnership was meant to be after they met.
Now Schiller, who lives in coastal Delray Beach, has filled the gap in the logistics area, and benefactors Neil and Doris Gillman have garnered financial support.
Neil Gillman, who heard Broad speak about SDM at a meeting of the Boca West Foundation, told his wife, Doris, who immediately picked up the phone to call Broad.
Since then the Gillmans have rallied around SDM, Broad said, and Doris gets the credit for connecting SDM with Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Now SDM ensures every baby born there goes home to a crib or other safe, sanitary place to sleep.
In December, the Gillmans hosted the second annual “Be a Sweet Dream Maker Celebration” at their home in Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club. The event, which honored Schiller, raised more than $200,000, enough for about 600 beds.
Broad, Schiller and the Gillmans sleep better knowing they’re helping other people sleep better.
To connect with SDM, call Broad at 571-7363 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.