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Interview With Avril Mills, Founder Of Charity The Dream Factory

Absolutely West Essex meets Avril Mills, the founder of The Dream Factory, to find out about inspirations, dreams and one heart-warming story involving Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

For readers who may not know The Dream Factory, what do you do?

I set up The Dream Factory children’s charity in memory of my son Oliver, who died at the age of nine on 14 September 14, 1999, from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. We grant dreams for children and young people from the ages of three to 25 with life-limiting, life-threatening, and severe disabilities. The aim is to give them a very special memory, or help them to get through very tough times in hospital.

What do you love most about your charity?

What I love most about The Dream Factory is the family atmosphere within the Dream Team, and seeing the wonderful smiles on all the children’s faces when their dreams come true. I also love the fact that all our dream makers are volunteers.

Avril Mills
Avril Mills works tirelessly for The Dream Factory

How do you look back on how far you’ve come with the charity over the last 13 years?

I look back on the last 13 years and see 508 dreams – how did that happen!? It’s just amazing that I’ve managed to keep us going through thick and thin. We are a very small charity, but we have an amazing selection of famous patrons, from Ray Winstone to Harry Redknapp, Lisa Marie Presley to Kevin Nolan, Sir Iain Duncan Smith to the Archbishop of York, Vicky Michelle to Gillian Taylforth, Colin McMillan to Michael Watson, and Anne Wafula Strike to Christine Ohuruogu… Just to name a few. 

Do you have particular dreams you have managed to make a reality that stand out for you?

There are many dreams that really stand out to be honest, but one that comes to mind is Ruby’s dream. Ruby had a brain tumour and she desperately wanted a puppy. First of all we took Ruby and her mum in a limo to Battersea Dogs Home for a VIP tour and out for her favourite meal in London. Then Ruby and her mum eventually found the perfect dream dog which The Dream Factory funded, and she named him Star. ️Unfortunately, as predicted Ruby passed away a few months later. This dream touched all the dream team’s hearts – we are so pleased that Ruby had Star’s company in her final months. 

What kind of support do you receive from the local West Essex community?

The West Essex community have been vital in playing a big part in keeping The Dream Factory going. Keeping our local supporters informed on everything is very important.

Ruby’s story was one that touched everyone’s heart at The Dream Factory

What events do you have coming up until the end of the year?

We do have some events coming up ,which is brilliant as everything got cancelled last year (with the pandemic), leaving us with £80,000 down on events. We have our kids helping kids campaign, asking children to fundraise for less fortunate children. We have our ️VIP 500 Gold Club, celebrating the milestone of reaching 500 Dreams. We are asking 50 companies to raise or donate £500 in 12 months, to raise £25,000. We have just launched our Mega Christmas Dream Draw and we are also hoping to organise another Wheels for Wheelchairs in December.

Talking West Essex, where do you live and how long have you been there?

I lived in Epping for 30 years. I love North Weald it’s quiet, but only two miles from Epping. 

During lockdown I found many lovely walks to go on in and around North Weald. 

Can you name three favourite local haunts?

Well I absolutely love Ashlyns farm shop and restaurant. It’s spotless, the food is so fresh and service second to none. I also love to sit outside Harleys Bistro in Epping people watching. I do love to visit The Kings Oak on High Beach and go to the Oyster Shack and Seafood Bar.

Do you have a secret about yourself you are willing to reveal?

It’s not really a secret, but I was awarded in 2014 the British Empire Medal for services to children and young people and I was also asked in 2021 to be an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Redbridge.

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