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Kids & Dreams Foundation


Kids & Dreams Foundation

The Kids & Dreams Foundation was founded in November 2013. 

The Kids & Dreams Foundation provides support to children of all ages and their families dealing with autism, bullying and other challenges faced by today's children. We seek to enrich the lives of the kids by locating and providing the resources that will help each reach their full potential in life.

The foundation will introduce you to...

  • Importance of your child's diet
  • Neurofeedback & other therapy services
  • MAPS Doctors
  • Biomedical possibilities & treatments
  • Anti-Bullying programs
  • Social Stories
  • Other Autism & Bullying services

By providing….

  • Assistance
  • Resources
  • Educational Conferences
  • Financial Support

Operation Shine Camp - Sponsors

We are proud to announce the sponsors for the 2016 Operation Shine Camp.  We truly appreciate the generosity of these Organizations and Individuals.  With the help of these sponsors we are able to provide an opportunity to experience the fun of a summer camp for kids that traditionally wouldn't be able to attend.  As we reflect on this opportunity we are so thankful and hope that you will show your appreciation for them by frequenting there business.


Operation Shine Camp - Sponsors

We are proud to announce the sponsors for the 2016 Operation Shine Camp.  We truly appreciate the generosity of these Organizations and Individuals.  With the help of these sponsors we are able to provide an opportunity to experience the fun of a summer camp for kids that traditionally wouldn't be able to attend.  As we reflect on this opportunity we are so thankful and hope that you will show your appreciation for them by frequenting there business.

Camp gives special needs kids a chance to shine, explore

by Kurt Johnson - Aurora News Register, Aurora, NE

Youngsters arriving for Camp Operation Shine were treated like rock stars Friday and the looks on their faces reflected the special weekend that lie ahead.
More than 35 youths diagnosed with autism or related conditions, including Down Syndrome, were greeted by a parade of cheers, banners and waving hands as they drove into Covenant Cedars Bible Camp north of Hordville. It was all part of coordinator Aaron Bly’s well-orchestrated plan, as well as the mission of the Kids and Dreams Foundation which he established 2-1/2 years ago.
“Our goal for the camp is for the kids to have fun, to keep them safe and to provide a weekend for the parents to have a little break,” Bly explained as the activities began. “We try to do as many different things as we can that a lot of these kids don’t normally get to do.”
As the father of a 10-year-old son diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Bly understands all too well the physical and mental challenges related to autism. A banker by trade, Bly created a foundation in hopes of providing support to children of all ages and their families dealing with autism, bullying and other challenges faced by today’s children.
“We seek to enrich the lives of the kids by locating and providing the resources that will help each reach their full potential in life,” Bly explained. “That’s what this camp is all about.”
After a successful though somewhat hurriedly planned debut Operation Shine camp last year, Bly said he was encouraged to see growth and support for this year’s event. A year ago, 24 campers spent the weekend at Covenant Cedars with some 60 volunteers. This year, 35 campers from Ogallala to Omaha showed up with more than 100 volunteers there to make sure they had a safe and memorable experience.
“Our goal is to keep them safe here,” Bly noted. “We have two volunteers for every camper, plus an activities team, three nurses, sensory rooms and a couple of therapists. We’ve done as much as possible to make sure if they get overstimulated they have a place to go.”
Getting excited is easy to do at Covenant Cedars, with the list of activities including swimming, zip lining, crate stacking, rock climbing, bounce houses and archery. Friday was “Dream Night,” inviting kids to dress up for what they want to be when they grow up, followed by Western Night on Saturday, complete with horseback riding.
“I think this environment brings them out because they don’t experience this very often,” said Kaylee Eberle, a senior from Central City High School back for a second year as a camp volunteer. “With autism you are constricted a lot and people try to contain you, but here at this camp they can be whoever they want to be.”
Eberle said she signed up as quickly as she could upon learning about the camp, knowing that she hopes to one day pursue a career in special education.
“What is so cool about this camp is they are not going to try to confine the kids and make them do certain things,” Eberle observed. “The girl I’m with likes swinging, so we can go swing as long as she wants. They give them a wide variety of things to do and they just get to be themselves for the whole weekend. We tried every swing in this entire park last year and by the end she was walking around more and you could see she was more excited about being here.”
Youth volunteer Chase Hurdle was back for a second year as well and was looking forward to spending the weekend with the same camper and adult volunteer as last year.
“It’s just so much fun,” said Hurdle, a sophomore in college from McCook who is studying to become a physical therapist. “It’s crazy how much they come out of their shell. In training, they were telling us things that are typical, but I just saw so much that they didn’t talk about. We pretty much just did whatever my camper wanted to do and he thought that was pretty cool.”

Parent’s perspective
Jennifer Liljehorn of Kearney admitted that she was a bit anxious as she dropped her son off Friday. Isaac was diagnosed just a year ago with autism and thus Operation Shine represented the first time he’s been away from home, alone.
“It looked like a lot of fun and a great opportunity to meet some new people and just kind of get outside the bubble he lives in at home,” she said. “He’s a little nervous and I’m a little nervous, but I think it will go well.”
It did go well, in fact, with Isaac setting a new camp record for crate stacking at 28.
Dawn Rutt admitted that she too was stressed by the thought of leaving her son for the weekend.
“It’s a little bit stressful, but we’re excited about all the fun things they can do,” she said. “There is a great staff here to help them if they have any issues.”
Bly said the goal of Operation Shine is to not only let campers spread their wings a bit and experience new things, but hopefully to instill a new sense of confidence once they return home.
“The parents’ feedback after last year’s camp was incredible,” said Bly, who lives near Kenesaw. “Kids who never went and played with their neighbors had the confidence after coming to camp to go out and play with their neighbors. This camp is hopefully building up their self-esteem and showing them you can do these things, even though people may tell you you have special needs and you can’t do it. We are showing them you can always strive to do something better.”
As for the venue, Bly said Covenant Cedars provides the perfect environment for Operation Shine.
“They do a great job here,” he said. “I got to know Dan (Buhr, executive director) and Covenant Cedars through our own personal situation and I knew once we started to talk about a camp he would be the first person I would call for the Kids and Dreams Foundation. The set-up here is top-notch and what the kids can do here you really can’t match anywhere else.”
Resting at home on Monday after an emotional weekend, Bly said the second year for Operation Shine went even better than the first.
“I told the volunteers before camp that this will be one of the most exhausting weekends, but also one of the most life-changing days they have as well,” he said. “That held true this weekend.”
During the finale on Sunday, kids enjoyed a special “drive-in movie” with their parents, sitting in cars made out of cardboard boxes which they helped create. The movie was a 15-minute video filled with highlights from the previous two days of camp activities.
“It was just a great way for the parents to see what all their kids were able to do,” Bly said. “We saw kids opening up and getting on horses or climbing the rock wall that you never would have thought would do that. Their faces lit up with huge smiles.
“All those little things make all the time that is put in worthwhile,” he  concluded.

A listing of our sponsors (in no specific order):
















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Aaron's Story

My wife, Kerri, and I have adopted five children. Trae, our middle child, has autism. He was developmentally delayed and did not walk or talk until he was 2 ½. At the age of three, he was diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum. Over the next couple years, Trae began a variety of therapies to help him progress and develop. It was during this time, Trae began having intense meltdowns and pulling his hair out, which was very out of character from his laid back personality.  His pediatrician at the time told us Trae was the way he was, and that he would not change.  Well, that was not good enough for us!  After researching, we decided to remove dairy products from his diet.  One day later, Trae was a completely different child.  We were concerned about what he would eat because he was very picky. Dairy was the majority of what he ate; however, this dramatic change gave us the incentive to continue.  He is still dairy free at 10 years of age.  A couple years later, we attended a seminar about autism and nutrition. This was very timely for us because we were considering removing gluten from his diet as well. This seminar also educated us on the biomedical approach to treating autism. We were able to find a doctor that had several hundred autistic patients. We made the appointment and decided on a variety of biomedical tests, which would show allergies and food intolerances, allow the doctor to determine what vitamins and supplements his body needed, and to monitor his intestinal tract and treat accordingly.  Since we began this journey, Trae has made leaps and bounds! He is now in the fifth grade and doing excellent academically, interacting better socially, and sees the world in a refreshingly different way. The combination of therapy services, diet, and biomedical treatment has helped Trae blossom into the kid he is today!


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Amy's Story

My son, Peyton, was nine years old before he was diagnosed as being autistic.  At age five and prior to the diagnosis, I drove him to therapy weekly (two hours round trip), so he could receive hippotherapy, occupational, and physical therapy to address his sensory needs.  These services were not covered through insurance.  I was a single mother at the time, and due to lack of funds, they only lasted one summer. Since preschool, Peyton had been receiving physical and occupational therapy. Our family moved when he was in 2nd grade, and the new school would no longer provide these services to my son.  Even after the diagnosis of autism, he was not able to receive the services because he did not qualify.  As Peyton entered the fourth grade, he began to report being bullied at school.  This was discussed with staff and administration, and they seemed to be trying to help take care of the situation.  When the administration changed at the school, the bullying worsened in fifth grade after his diagnosis of high-functioning autism.  Peyton entered middle school where the bullying only increased.  He had chronic stomach aches, did not want to attend school, and withdrew even more.  The school responded to the bullying by having him be bused home early each day.  We have since moved to a new town. Peyton is now 15 and in the ninth grade, where he is thriving and doing very well.  He now receives physical therapy each week and is improving.  He enjoys school and is no longer bullied.  The school is receptive to his needs and does everything they can to ensure Peyton is safe and ready to learn. 





Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Institute's mission is to meet the needs of the global autism community through research, networking, education, and support for families and people of all ages on the autism spectrum. 

Autism Society Of America

Provides information, education, supporting research, programs, and services for the autism community. More than 50,000 members and supporters are connected through a working network of nearly 200 chapters nationwide.


This independent site is for education and information about digestive enzymes. There is a large need to provide practical and general information on enzyme therapy for a wide range of uses.

Gluten Free Casein Free (GFCF) Diet

The Gluten Free Casein Free (GFCF) Diet is one of the very first recommendations for children diagnosed with autism. This is because many of the children lack the [dpp4] enzyme that allows them to break down gluten (proteins in wheat) and casein (proteins in dairy). This can cause poor attention, odd behavior, a deficit in socialization skills and poor speech. Consequently, when gluten- and casein-based foods are removed improved behavior, better attention, at times improved speech and an increase in socialization skills can follow.

Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS)

Inspired by the late Bernard Rimland, PhD., a leader in the biomedical movement, MAPS embodies his vision and direction of physician education and development in the field of ASD care. 

Special Eats

Special Eats to assist others on the healthy path toward embracing gluten and dairy free living. The site is designed to help educate and enable people to find delicious recipes.

Autism Hope Alliance

The Autism Hope Alliance embodies hope for families facing the diagnosis of Autism through education, financial support and volunteerism. It is the first non-profit foundation for Autism to emerge from the natural foods industry.

Talk About Curing Autism

Beginning in 2000, TACA began providing support services to Californians. In 2007, TACA expanded its services throughout the United States. 95% of what TACA offers to families affected by autism is free.

EEG Education & Research Inc

EEG Biofeedback is a learning strategy that enables persons to alter their brain waves. When information about a person’s own brain wave characteristics is made available to him, he can learn to change them. You can think of it as exercise for the brain.


Joan Schwan Counseling is a family friendly, child welcoming environment.   Joan began her career in Early Childhood education. She has also worked in the Child Welfare system for over 15 years. She has a Bachelors Degree in Health and Human Services Administration, and a Masters Degree in Community Counseling.  Joan provides therapeutic services for attention deficit disorder, oppositional behaviors in children, children of divorce, adoption, abuse and trauma, anxiety, depression, impulse control, anger and children on the autistic spectrum. Joan uses a wholisticapproach which encompassesall the domains, such as physical, educational, spiritual, mental and family systems.   As part of Joan’s wholistic approach she utilizes EEG neurofeedback.  Joan received her initial training inn 2004, and has been using neurofeedback to help calm and train the brain. Joan attended advanced Neurofeedback training in November of 2012 with Dr. Michael Cohen in Florida.   Neurofeedback has been proven useful to help with ADHD, ADD, Anger,  Anxiety, Depression.  It can also be an alternative to utilizing numerous medications as the brain learns to regulate itself.   However, this would only be done in conjunction with the patients physician.  Joan has utilized neurofeedback for children on the autistic spectrum.  Neuro feedback will not cure autism, but it can helpwith some of the symptoms such as sensory acuity, impulsivity, and anger outbursts.  It can be another tool in the tool box.

Grand Island Mental Health

Grand Island Mental Health is the area's premiere counseling center specializing in child, adolescent, trauma, geriatric, family, and relationship counseling services. Our mental health services are available to persons of all ages; offering easily accessible, comprehensive mental health care accepting most major insurance plans including Medicaid. At Grand Island Mental Health we work with our clients to treat a wide range of mental illnesses as well as end of life, relationship and family issues.


Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems

No Bully

No Bully’s mission is to bring innovative, sustainable solutions to bullying and harassment in schools. No Bully® is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  It began in San Francisco in 2003 as a collaboration of educators, psychologists and lawyers committed to preventing the current generation of students from enduring the bullying that they experienced when they were in school. Today, No Bully is helping schools in California and across the nation - from Hawaii to Delaware - stop bullying and transform into learning communities which are inclusive of everybody. 

PTI Nebraska

PTI Nebraska is a statewide resource for families of children with disabilities or special health care needs.  PTI Nebraska empowers parents and provides them the knowledge and capacity to improve the education and healthcare outcomes for their children.

Children's Rehab Center

Children’s Rehab Center is committed to providing outstanding care for children in combination with their primary care providers, daycare, school and community services. We are a medically based facility offering 2 locations in Grand Island and Hastings, NE. The Children’s Rehab Center offers Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy to children on an intensive one-on-one basis. The therapy sessions are designed to allow children to play and have fun while working on developing functional abilities. At Children’s Rehab Center, we believe that children are sensory motor individuals needing complete body involvement and concrete interaction with their environment to maximize learning and mastery of skills. We are designed to assist individuals with developmental disabilities become more independent with mobility, self-help skills, fine motor, communication, vocational tasks and community skills. 

The Spectrum Center

The Spectrum Center for Autism offers behavior therapy services based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). We are currently serving families in Kearney and the surrounding areas.


I said to the child, reach for the stars. The child replied, I am the star filled with wonder and possibility.
— Dan Wilkins