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Charles Ressler's latest DreamMaker efforts include helping a woman build a nursery for her child, a man write a children's book and a woman design a coloring book for her village

By Joelle Goldstein
April 16, 2020 04:46 PM
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Charles Ressler
Credit: Courtesy Charles Ressler

When the novel coronavirus began rapidly spreading around the world and caused closures, cancellations and social distancing, Charles Ressler thought his #DreamMaker initiative would completely lose steam.

“I had been building momentum and thought, ‘Oh my god, it’s all gone. It’s over,'” Ressler, 35, recalls to PEOPLE. “I was finally getting to the point where [a big break] was going to happen and then COVID-19 happened.”

Ressler says things changed when he was contacted by a group of people he’s helped in the past, known as the dreamers. They reminded him that there was no better time or way to restore faith in humanity than to help others accomplish their lifelong goals.

“I started getting emails and messages that said, ‘Now more than ever, the world needs #DreamMaker. COVID is the reason that we need this,'” he explains. “I honestly never would’ve seen it that way.”

Shifting his perspective to focus on the positives is something Ressler — a Los Angeles-based fashion, art and design consultant — has been accustomed to doing for years.

In 2013, he established his #DreamMaker initiative after a series of unfortunate personal events, including the loss of a colleague by suicide, the abrupt end of a nine-year relationship and his best friend losing her pregnancy at six months along.

Charles Ressler
Charles Ressler
| Credit: Lucky Wenzel

Since then, his campaign has been centered around the idea that people can send him their dreams via social media and he’ll help them make it happen — notably without the use of money.

“Everyone thinks that money is the thing that’s standing between them and their aspiration,” he explains. “I really wanted to prove to people that the currency that has more power than money is creativity, ingenuity, the fellowship of community and hard work.”

In recent months, Ressler has helped many dreamers, including Illinois resident Terry Bergman, who wanted to build a nursery for her granddaughter but could not afford it after suffering financial hardships, and Florida construction worker Wayne Van Coughnett, who wanted to write a children’s book but needed an illustrator.

“Thanks to Charles and the donations, we started receiving box after box of baby items for my daughter and grandson. It brought tears to my eyes because my dream was coming true,” Bergman tells PEOPLE. “I could never thank Charles enough for everything he has done for me and my family.”

baby stuff dreammaker intiative
Baby nursery items
| Credit: Terry Bergman
baby stuff dreammaker intiative
Baby nursery items
| Credit: Terry Bergman

Ressler used Twitter to connect Van Coughnett to Spain-based illustrator Paula Edith Suarez. Together, they created his children’s book Little Tommy Tinkertuck Went Riding on a Bunny, which will be available on Amazon in the coming weeks.

“I can’t say enough about Charles and DreamMaker. He is amazing,” Van Coughnett tells PEOPLE. “My book was a fun story for my toddler daughter that I always wanted to publish. After rejections from publishing houses, I thought it would always be a dream, as I don’t have the budget to hire illustrators.”

“He really is making people’s dreams come true,” adds Van Coughnett. “He certainly got mine off the ground… I just don’t have the words to express my gratitude.”

Wayne Van Coughnett
An illustration from Wayne Van Coughnett’s book Little Tommy Tinkertuck Went Riding on a Bunny
| Credit: Paula Edith Suarez

Ressler also helped an author named Evelyn M. Sabino turn her children’s story, focused on women’s empowerment, into a coloring book for the kids who live in a village in the country of Senegal, West Africa, where she spent time in the Peace Corps.

“The power of #DreamMaker is that it makes big things possible for the average person with a simple wish, and then an unimaginable, positive ripple of impact takes a life of its own,” she says. “Charles’ connection to an illustrator did not just help me as an individual, it touched the lives of dozens of children he’ll never meet living in various countries, speaking multiple languages.”

Charles Ressler
Evelyn Sabino with the children from Senegal
| Credit: Evelyn M. Sabino
Charles Ressler
The children from Senegal coloring Evelyn Sabino’s book
| Credit: Evelyn M. Sabino

Up next on his list, Ressler is helping a woman named Ginny Ekins who wants to recreate her wedding. Ressler says Ekins made the request after having the oxygen to her brain cut off during heart surgery, which ultimately affected her longterm memory and caused her to forget her nuptials.

“It really has taken a toll on her relationship because she has asked that all of the wedding photos in her house be taken down and she doesn’t like to talk about it,” Ressler explains. “For her husband, it’s almost as if he also didn’t have a wedding.”

“Because everyone’s shuttered, now became a really good time for me to focus on getting that done,” he continues. “All of the wedding planners, florists, chefs, across the world have suddenly had their events canceled and their time is completely available.”

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So far, Ressler says he’s enlisted event and production planner Dawn Reinholtz and a friend who owns a wedding chapel in Las Vegas. In a few weeks, he plans on presenting the options to Ekins, which include a virtual ceremony or an in-person one to take place after the pandemic.

“The point here is: just as the COVID virus is global, so is the idea of helping each other level up,” Ressler says. “When it comes to people’s dreams, when you step in and say, ‘I will help you,’ it changes the entire dynamic of that relationship and the relationship that we have with each other in the world.”

“DreamMaker is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter your socioeconomic background, what you believe, what your political situation is, who you love,” he adds. “There are no borders when it comes to helping each other, and sometimes it’s as simple as someone saying ‘You can do it.'”