A message from the Founder of Julie’s Dream, Chad Harlan
Julie’s Dream is the realization of Julie Muir Harlan’s vision to create opportunities for Atlanta’s children to experience the joy of outdoor adventure and the beauty of the God’s creation. Julie was raised in Atlanta and graduated from The Lovett School and Wake Forest University (where we met). After we moved to Atlanta in 2004, she joined the Novare Group, ultimately becoming its Executive Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer. Her gracious and thoughtful nature infiltrated her work life, where she was instrumental in creating and championing Novare’s community service days, Bible studies, and social outings. Her desire to share God’s love and serve others was boundless. She was devoted to her prayer life, earnestly worked to deepen her faith and make a difference in the community.
Julie especially loved the Agape Family and Youth Center (now a Julie’s Dream partner) where our family provided and served dinner every other week for several years. She had a profound love for learning, respect for all people, and a wonderful sense of adventure. She instilled a love of travel and the outdoors in our boys, Charlie and Smith, the lights of her world. We had a list of lifetime goals that we discussed and added to during our marriage.
One of those goals was inspired by our trip to Mt. Rainier in August 2008. I had climbed to the summit the previous year with friends from Atlanta and fell in love with it, and I knew I had to share this amazing place with Julie. When we embarked on our trip, it was all the more meaningful to her because our climbing target was Camp Muir, named after the great naturalist John Muir, and by happenstance her maiden name. She also fell in love with Mt. Rainier and claimed the experience as one of the best of her life. Together, we dreamed of taking our kids and others to this otherworldly place.
After that trip we started brainstorming about creating an organization to take at-risk and under-resourced Atlanta youth out west to experience the joy of mountaineering and the beauty of the wilderness. We put our idea on hold due to the busyness of life and raising our family. In late 2016, Julie began to seriously talk about it again, and she started interviewing non-profit directors to learn more about the inner workings of these organizations. She was committed to formally launching this entity and pinpointed an early 2018 start date. She was driven by the hope and joy she knew these children would reap by experiencing God’s awesome creation and challenging themselves in new ways. She knew the confidence and spiritual learnings that would result from these adventures would forever impact their young lives.
After her 2017 cancer diagnosis, we brainstormed about a potential name for this new venture. Her eyes positively lit up when we talked about it. The vision of making her idea a reality gave her additional incentive to fight her cancer battle. As she said many, many times, “God is good ALL the time.” She clung to two wooden crosses, one in each hand representing both of our sons, until the moment she went to heaven. We never had the chance to decide on a name for our organization, but her resolve to get this idea off the ground remained true to the end of her time here on Earth. It was (and is) yet another example of a seed she planted, and another opportunity for us to make good out of bad, and to finish the GREAT work she was doing during her life. As was illustrated in Julie’s life and well-documented at her memorial service, she had planted seeds EVERYWHERE! My wife was a HUGE thinker with amazing vision.
Our family has made it our firm intention to relentlessly pursue blessings out of the darkness of Julie’s sudden passing in 2017. That is what Julie would have done. Galatians 6:9 was one of our most beloved verses: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” The harvest in life for Julie was not material or financial – it was drawing nearer to Christ, serving others, and improving lives spiritually, practically, and relationally. For all of us, the harvest is the natural time of reaping in joy what has been produced during the year. For Julie, the harvest was always measured in impact. I always loved that about her.
And so with God’s help and direction, it has become our family’s honor, duty, and privilege to carry all of Julie’s good works to completion and to carry the torch of her legacy wherever His path leads us. We know God’s light – and Julie’s radiant smile – are both beaming on us as we bring Julie’s Dream to life and witness the impact it makes.