Joe Downtown

Joe Downtown: Charles Ressler’s social media experiment is making dreams come true

Charles Ressler is making a positive impact through #dreamMaker, one hopeful tweet at a time.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

Charles Ressler isn’t an easy one to figure out. You think it’s all a facade—the exuberance, the joy, the boundless energy, the efforts to make others’ dreams come true. How is anyone this positive all the time? It’s even more puzzling when you hear where he came from.

I’ve written about tragedy all over Las Vegas, and I find the abhorrent ways some adults take advantage of children the hardest to deal with. Ressler’s story is right up there. As a toddler, Ressler suffered abuse at the hands of a heroin-addicted mother. When his dad finally won legal custody and allowed the school therapist to work with him, Ressler says the therapist abused him for years.

But years of self-reflection have shaped Ressler, 28, and helped him develop a life philosophy. “There’s what the world is and what it can be,” he says. “And I choose to be in the ‘can be.’ I can’t live in a world if it’s not about potential.”

That’s fitting, in a way, for someone who lives Downtown in the Ogden—the “clubhouse” for so many Downtown Project employees slowly turning a redevelopment dream into reality. Ressler doesn’t officially work for DTP—he’s connected to it through First Friday—but it’s no understatement to say he promotes DTP through sheer energy and positivity more than almost anyone else Downtown.

Ressler was by himself the night before Christmas and decided to launch an experiment on his Twitter account. The idea: Post your dream and Ressler would try to help. He called it #dreamMaker.

Before he fell asleep, Ressler counted 458 followers. When he awoke the next day, it was 1,100. Today it’s around 3,700.

In about a month’s time, he has helped someone get a job Downtown and arranged a free flight for a grandma in California to her grandkids in New York. He’s trying to get a young Brooklyn man a meeting with Ellen DeGeneres, and he’s helping a woman publish a story she wrote about her battle with cancer.

“This is crazy,” Ressler says, excitedly pulling out his laptop and opening a file that lists more than 500 wishes he has already received. “I get them all day every day.”

He even got one from Morgan Spurlock, whose film, Super Size Me, was nominated for a best documentary Oscar in 2004. Spurlock has been hanging around Las Vegas for more than a year, working on a short documentary about Downtown Project. While filming here, he met Ressler and the two became friends.

“What it showed me was that there is a world of people who are willing to help someone but don’t know where to start,” Spurlock says. “Charles is opening the door for all of them. Through a selfless act like this, I believe the ripple effects and impact could be immeasurable both to the dreamers and the dreamMakers. This is about a wish. It’s helping regular people fulfill their dreams.”

Spurlock’s dream, which he posted under the hashtag #dreamMaker: “to be a great dad.”

People from many walks of life have become followers, including world-renowned businessperson and life coach Colette Baron-Reid, who referred to #dreamMaker as “crowdsourcing the making of dreams.” The 500-plus dreams that have flooded Ressler’s Twitter account speak to the things that matter most. A few dream of fame or fortune. Most, though, are for love, a simple job, happiness for themselves or for others:

• “My dream [is] that the world come together with peace, love and Amazing joy for all—It’s not impossible.”

• “I’m dreaming of publishing my children’s books! I want to help children find their strength.”

• “My dream is to share ‘It’s Only Love,’ a song I wrote to help stop LGBTQ hate crimes & promote equality.”

Of course, Ressler can’t do this all on his own. He hopes those who find #dreamMaker want to help others as much as they want their own dreams fulfilled.

“The No. 1 thing is, I want other people to fulfill their destiny and become dreamMakers,” Ressler says. “There is something about the responsibility that you can take on when other people tweet their dreams. You look at them and realize: For every one of these people, this is what they’re holding, and no matter what their aspiration, they’re all equally important.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.
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