Big Dream to hold first Iowa City event today


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When Brian Bay attended last year's Big Dream Gathering in West Des Moines, he wrote one dream down on a piece of colored paper and taped it to a wall among hundreds of others.

Bay's dream is to return to Spain, where he studied abroad last spring and give back to the community. And after pasting a simple piece of paper to the wall, he received a long list of contacts and information to get him started. This year, the University of Iowa student said he's excited to go through the experience all over again.

"It's a chance to realize what you want in life," he said.

The Big Dream Gathering, an Iowa-based event that tours the country throughout the year, will come to Iowa City for the first time today.

The project began in May 2006 in the West Des Moines home of Mitch and Melissa Matthews.

"It was a happy mistake," said Mitch Matthews, who is also an inspirational speaker. "I invited some friends over to help realize dreams by posting them on my walls at home. Then it grew from there."

Eleven Big Dream Gatherings have taken place throughout the Midwest as well as in Texas and North Carolina. UI Alumni Association members worked closely with Matthews to bring the event to campus this year.

"We want to connect students and alumni talking about their big dreams," said Leslie Prideaux, an assistant director of the alumni programs.

The Alumni Association will have staff members at the event ready to connect students to people who can help them achieve their dreams, she said.

The ultimate goal of the program, Matthews said, is to launch a million dreams.

"In this economy, it is hard to help make dreams possible," he said. "We truly want people to make their dreams happen."

Some past examples stick out for Matthews. One woman whose dream was to have a piano for her family connected with someone who happened to be giving one away. Another woman's dream was to travel to Africa and volunteer — she received $1,000 from someone who met her at the gathering.

The event has taken place at the University of Northern Iowa, and Matthews said students are encouraged to write down one or numerous dreams. After posting the dream on a wall, other students can walk around leaving encouraging comments or helpful information.

Since it started, the gatherings have continued to grow. Matthews said they usually attract 100 to 700 people. The wishes, however, always seem to outnumber the people, he said.

"We have at least 1,000 dreams or more at the event," Matthews said. "It doesn't depend on the number of people."

The gathering, which will start at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the Levitt Center, is free and open to anyone interested.

"You can stay as long as a couple of minutes or a few hours," Matthews said.

Either way, Matthews said, he just wants people to give it a try and see what might happen.

"My best advice is to come and explore it," he said. "See what big dreams get stirred and who you get connected with."

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