Three staff members in Cardinals gear working an admission gate at Busch Stadium

Field of Dreams

Last week I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to the St. Louis Cardinals home opener, practically a holiday here in town. Between innings I was bopping around to say hi to friends sitting in other sections and a familiar face jumped out at me — Tyler, one of our former Dream Big students, was standing at an admissions gate in his uniform with his fellow staff members ensuring all the fans were having a good time cheering the Cardinals to victory!

I went over to say hi and he was gracious enough to let me grab a photo of him and his coworkers. Tyler’s a huge Cardinals fan (he was part of our group that got to hang out on field with Adam Wainwright last summer). Tyler looked comfortable and confident, and was getting paid to be at one of his favorite places.

The first time I met Tyler went very differently. I was greeting people at the door when he arrived as a new student in our Dream Big Summer Career Camp, obviously a bit uneasy about the whole thing. We know where he’s coming from, new people and places are tough, especially when you’re used to having to explain yourself or your accommodations over and over.

That day, Tyler sat to the side, keeping to himself. Camp staff understood. They were patient and welcoming. Over the course of that week, Tyler became more comfortable. For the first time, his disability meant he had something in common with everyone. He became engrossed in camp projects and joined every hands-on activity. His confidence grew. By the last week of camp, Tyler was the first volunteer to share his final presentation in front of campers, staff, and guests!

Seeing Tyler again showed what came next: proudly at work at a place he loves, with colleagues who value him, and in a role that’s all about talking to new people all the time.

Dream Big Camp focuses on career exploration, pushing students to think beyond a narrow list of options and truly expand their vision for what their future could hold. Days are packed with discussions about disability history and pride, interactive company visits, and training on essential life skills like financial literacy. We teach the history of the disability rights movement and nurture disability pride, helping each student see their unique strengths. Through this curriculum, young people imagine a bright future for themselves and begin to plan to achieve that vision.

The Cardinals did bring home a winner, but running into Tyler was the highlight of the game.