Dion’s Chicago Dream surprises Englewood family with $10K check

Monica Thompson reacts as Dion Dawson, founder and executive director of Dion’s Chicago Dream, presents her with a check for $10,000 outside her home in Englewood on Feb. 1, 2024. Thompson received $10,000 from the nonprofit organization, which is celebrating the start of Black History Month and its millionth pound of fresh produce that was delivered to Chicago residents.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Monica Thompson was making a salad in her Englewood home on Thursday when her son told her she needed to get dressed and come downstairs quickly. 

When she finally made it outside, Thompson was shocked to find a sidewalk filled with dozens of people.

She was even more shocked to receive a check for $10,000.

“Shut up!” she yelled, as she pumped her fist. 

The day’s festivities came together thanks to Dion Dawson and his organization Dion’s Chicago Dream, which delivers free and fresh produce to Chicagoans to combat food insecurity.

Dion’s Chicago Dream dubbed Thursday “Dream Day 2024” to commemorate the millionth pound of free produce delivered since it began operating in 2020. Now, the Black-owned and operated organization delivers 70,000 pounds of fresh produce a month. 

The Thompson family — Monica, 54, and two now-adult children — was one of the first families to sign up for deliveries from the nonprofit that first year. When deciding who would win the “Dream Delivery” — the check, funded through a partnership with Amazon, a $1,000 gift card to Save A Lot and a Chicago Bulls game package — Dawson knew it had to go to a family that supported him from the get-go.

“We wanted to spend this moment giving back and honoring the people that trusted us because we’re living in a time right now where you don’t trust anything,” Dawson said.

Thompson won over four other families in a raffle, and had no idea the “Dream Day” was happening.

Mayor Brandon Johnson, Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th) and State Rep. Sonya Harper (D-Chicago) were on hand to celebrate the Thompsons. 

“Thank you for opening your doors to us when we first started,” Dawson told Thompson.

“I just wanted fresh produce,” she replied through tears.

Monica Thompson reacts as Dion Dawson (in yellow), founder and executive director of Dion’s Chicago Dream, surprises Thompson with a check for $10,000 outside her home in Englewood Feb. 1, 2024 as Mayor Brandon Johnson celebrates the “Dream Delivery.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Englewood-born resident accepted her novelty check and customized Bulls jersey still in disbelief.

“Swish!” she yelled, miming a basketball shot when she heard the news about the Bulls.

Thompson, who works at the AIDS Foundation, hopes to replace her laptop and put a down payment on property with the help of the $10,000 check.

Dion’s Chicago Dream partnered with Amazon, Chicago Bulls and the American Diabetes Foundation for “Dream Day.”

“The Dream Delivery program is helping people live healthier, happier lives,” said Terri Wiggins, senior vice president of health equity at the American Diabetes Association. “Today is about celebrating that impact and continuing to do whatever we can to center health equity and diabetes prevention.”

The delivery coincided with the first day of Black History Month. Dawson said that was intentional.

“We want to show that Black history is being developed every day,” Dawson said. “I think it’s important that we also showcase the good things going on as well. … Sometimes we don’t get a chance to see what’s being done in our own backyard.”

Dawson drew on his own experiences with financial insecurity when creating the “Dream Delivery” to surprise the Thompson family.

“When I was in Englewood as a kid, I always thought that someone could knock on the door and help us if we were behind $5,000 in rent,” he said. “You always in the back of your mind hope, ‘Where’s that guy with the big check or something?’”

Mariah Rush is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.

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