The DREAM Project is a compilation CD with songs of different genres donated by musicians and artists who have all donated their time to help the University of West Florida’s Chapter of Students for Suicide Awareness (SSA) in loving memory of Tyler Knisely, a UWF student who lost his battle with depression and took his life fall semester 2008 and Jr. Villanueva, a University of Florida student who also lost his battle and took his life spring semester 1997 at the age of 22.
The CD begins with The DREAM, a poem written by Raela Villanueva right after her younger brother Jr. killed himself. Jr. only said “goodbye” to their mother before he left for Easter Sunday evening mass on March 30, 1997 and never came home again. He came to his sister in a dream, the only way he could say goodbye to her. Since then, Raela has been an advocate for suicide prevention and awareness and speaks openly about her brother’s suicide in an attempt to help save others from suffering such tragic loss and dealing with depression.
Raela met UWF and Pensacola State College students Sabra Jernigan and Ashleigh Aaron in November 2008 via myspace through musician and friend Damien Louviere. The students formed SSA and began commencing plans for their 1st Annual Seeds of Hope music and art benefit show. Raela then met guitarist Glenn Burnett at an open mic night. That week, Glenn wrote the music to her poem, and another poem called Sunset. Raela performed the DREAM song with Glenn and friends at the after party show but vowed never to sing it by herself again. Glenn then recruited singer/songwriter Tiffany Pifer, who lost her father to a heart attach just months before Jr. passed away. She has become the lead vocalist for The DREAM while Raela now confidently sings back up vocals. Tiffany too had a dream about her father and wrote a song called “Out of My Pain”.
All of the musicians and artists are local, regional and national artists who enjoy performing on the Gulf Coast. Musicians and artists own the rights to each song on the compilation CD and have donated their song to help The DREAM Project and SSA’s mission to raise awareness through the mediums of music and art that suicide is still the 2nd leading cause of death on college campuses and CAN BE PREVENTED. The compilation CD will list all the songs, band/musician name, website information, warning signs for suicide and depression, local and national resources for getting help, and list all sponsors involved with the project.
The CD also contains artwork – the cover is the DREAM Project logo painted by Raela on a tambourine during one of SSA’s bi-weekly “Escape” music and art therapy sessions, while the back cover is a sunset painting by Jr. from 1989 that Raela found while going through her parent’s house 2 days before everything was due to be sent off to Diskmakers. It was her brother’s way of blessing the project and saying, “here you go, now the project is complete, don’t give up big sister, this is part of the reason I had to leave.”
Proceeds from CD sales will benefit SSA and their mission, producing more CD’s for the DREAM Project, and resurrection of The DREAM Foundation (which provides a scholarship fund to encourage high school students to continue with their education by attending college and live out their dreams).
Raela’s goal with The DREAM Project is to reach out to students, set up a tour for musicians to perform at college campuses across the state with the help of the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition. Raela will continue to tell her brother’s story to help other college students who deal with depression by performing her songs, speaking openly to students in a group setting and one-to-one, and through SSA’s Survivor Art Exhibit. SSA aims to reduce the stigma that surrounds suicide and depression, reach out to other students and start other SSA chapters across the state, eventually with SSA ambassadors who will help start SSA chapters in the high schools.
Raela is grateful for all the talented, amazing musicians she has known for years and those she has met and will continue to meet along the way in the journey of her healing. She is also grateful for the community leaders and business sponsors who have always supported her efforts to fight one of the toughest social issues ever. She is most grateful for her family for their unconditional love and support and close friends for never turning away, for their support and love through the depths of surviving the loss and in the struggle survive mental illness. Every fall has become a stepping stone, with the purpose to lift her closer to her true calling in life. She will always be grateful to Jr. for the smiles, friendship, and love he shared with all those whose lives he has touched and will continue to touch through The DREAM Project.
Artists involved with The DREAM Project: Raela Villanueva / Glenn Burnett & friends (Tiffany Pifer, Ashley Pennewill, Frances Michaels, Sean Peterson, Brandon Warren, Eric Schmitz); 60 Cycles of Sound (Rodney Ueberroth, Ben Bogan, Jason Holstein, Jason Hurt); Damien Louviere Band (Damien Louviere, Sean Peterson, Brandon Warren); Honey Island Swamp Band (Aaron Wilkinson, Chris Mule, Sam Price, Garland Paul); Five Eight (Mike Mantione, Patrick Ferguson, Dan Horowitz); Dannica Lowery; Joe Green & Matt Dufon; Victor Charlie (Charles Garland, Clay Hinson, Mark Turiano); Good Foote (Mark Ellis, Josh Gill, Mike Tipton, Damien Louviere, Dory Hornsby, Andy Mayer, Sean Peterson); Galvayne's Groove (David Zimmerman, Noelle Black, Nat McKerley, David Stevens); Wake Up The Echo (Travis Brown, Nathan Price, Ryan Steward, Alex Steward); Tiffany Pifer; Tribe Zion (Arlon Wise, Capt. Jonathon Fleege, Joey Harrison, Jeremy King Cole, Brian Vogel, Michael Kinser); Martyr The Unicorn (Rob Dill); and Brooks Hubbert IV.
Special thanks to Students for Suicide Awareness (UWF Chapter), Sean Peterson of 3rd Level Audio Recording, Stephen Moody of Dunn Media, Blazzues Live Blues and Jazz Bar, TK101 FM, Culinary Productions, Inc., Pixie Productions, Creative Instinct, Michael Smith of Take Cover and Shoot, Bond Photographics, Rob Dill, The Gulf Coast Entertainment Directory App, A Router Works Signs, Ozone's Pizza Pub, Digital Now Reprographics, Piedmont Counseling Services / David Zimmerman, The Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition (FSPC), The Davis Family for John Adam Davis, The Jarina Family for Dylan Randolph, and The Leopoldo M. Villanueva, "Jr." DREAM Foundation.