A mother of three and hard-working owner of a thriving plant design business, Joyce Oliveto was living a successful life…but that success was barely skin deep, and wearing thinner every day.

She entered a program at a natural health clinic, where for two weeks, she ate fresh, raw foods, practiced visualization, prayed and meditated, and did exercise and yoga. What started as an answer to desperation led to a radical transformation that changed Joyce’s life and fueled a vision that would find fruit nearly two decades later.

“I experienced feelings of well-being I’d never felt before,” she recalls. “When I went out into the world again, I felt as though I were looking though the eyes of another person,” she says. “Those two weeks made me what I am today.”

Joyce launched a new career as a nutritionist and naturopath. She began running a successful healing center in Michigan, where she helped people turn their lives around with nutrition and natural therapies. Her life was back on track in an entirely new way.

Over a decade later, in 1996, Joyce encountered yet another life-changing experience: she discovered network marketing. It started with her innocently distributing nutritional products to her clients; some of them began to distribute as well, and soon Joyce found herself with a business that was earning $25,000 per month by the end of its first year—and showed no sign of slowing. Within a few short years, Joyce’s networking business allowed her to pursue a dream she’d had for years, but had never been able to even think of taking seriously before.

 

The Birth of a Dream

Many years earlier, she was giving a talk on health and nutrition to local fourth-graders, when she was struck by a boy who was sitting by himself, shunned by the other children. His clothes were shabby and dirty.

“He had hurt in his eyes,” she recalls, and later, the teacher told her he was neglected by his parents. Helping sad, fearful, underprivileged children like that fourth-grade boy became a burning desire for Joyce.

“I began to think about ways it might be possible to affect this child’s life, and the lives of other kids like him.”

As Joyce began going to homeless shelters to drop off gifts for the children there, her calling deepened.

“I started seeing the pain in these places. If I could somehow bring them, even for a short time, to a place where they would feel secure and loved, it might actually help to change their lives. I wanted to expose them to positive thinking, and I wanted it be in nature, where they would encounter wildlife; being exposed to nature opens up so much in children. Inner-city kids don’t have a clue what it feels like to be in nature, that feeling of freedom you get being out there in the wild. That became one of my guiding desires—I really wanted to give them that experience.”

At first she thought of renting a resort for two weeks in the summer and bringing some children there.

“But as my income grew, my vision grew,” she says. As her dream took shape, Joyce decided that what she really needed was to purchase a property and create a retreat for underprivileged children—a place she could dedicate to her dream year-round.

She formed a picture of what she wanted…and spent the next year and a half in a fruitless search.

“I knew exactly what I wanted: I wanted a gorgeous place with a lake within its perimeters, with plenty of wildlife, about 80 acres, somewhere in northern Michigan.”

But nothing she found worked. She found properties with swampy water, with land that wasn’t practical, with poor locations—she met brick wall after brick wall.

Then one day, about four years ago, an associate called and said, “I don’t know if you can afford this—but I’ve found a property I think you should look at.”

Was it far?, Joyce wondered. In fact, it was less than two miles away.

“I walked over there that morning—and there it was. It was perfect, absolutely perfect—as if I had literally created it by visualizing my dream.”

What Joyce’s friend had found, virtually in her back yard, was an 80-acre property complete with buildings, rolling hills, an eight-acre lake, a pond, pinewood and hardwood forests, about 30 acres of apple and pear orchards, blackberry bushes, miles of trails, playgrounds, and baseball and volleyball fields. And to top it all off, the place had served at one time as a summer camp for kids!

“When I turned the corner by the meadow and saw the buildings, I started to cry,” Joyce recalls. “We had been looking all over Michigan for over a year. To find one that beautiful, at that price, five minutes from our home instead of four hours away—it had to be divine intervention.

“I recently ran into an old friend I’d known many years ago, and she reminded me of a seminar we’d attended together, well over 12 years ago. In that seminar, we had to describe our dreams—and she said that I had described this place in detail. ‘I remember your dream,’ she said, ‘and it’s exactly what I see here, to a T.’

“It’s really true,” adds Joyce: “when you are on purpose in your life, if you do what you’re meant to do, it comes back to you—many times over.”

 

A Launching Pad for Dreams

Joyce bought the property and poured the next two years—along with hundreds of thousands of dollars of her networking income—into renovation.

She refurbished the buildings, built a stage with a sound system, updated the kitchen, and made the place ready to be a launching pad for not only Joyce’s dream, but also the dreams of untold dozens of others. Two years ago, she finally began running programs for kids.

“My dream was to have children come in and do the seven-to-ten-day programs we had designed, but there were logistic problems in having the kids stay overnight, so instead, we’ve run a variety of all-day programs. I have a lot of different schools come in on certain days of the year—mainly inner-city groups and kids who have no idea what it’s like to be out in nature. In the summer, I work with various churches and volunteers to drive them back and forth.”

Joyce has had groups bussed in from such urban Detroit neighborhoods as Ann Arbor, Flint and Ypsilanti. Next year, says Joyce, they’ll sponsor their biggest programs yet.

With the help of her adult children and teenage grandchildren and friends, she shows the youngsters the time of their lives—and help them uncover their unique talents and interests. They dance, take photographs, paint watercolors, go on nature walks, pick berries, cook whole-wheat pizzas, grow sprouts, ride horses, play ball, and watch birds.

“I’ve had friends come and do work with art therapy, pottery, and photography; other friends have brought in horses. We work with music, nature walks, art, clay, water colors, we have bonfires at night. The kids help in the kitchen with our meals, which are simple, healthy and vegetarian. We keep them busy!

“I’ve brought in everything I could think of that could help these children go inside themselves and be able to feel some joy. It’s such an opportunity to see how things can change. Just the looks on their faces when they first arrive is priceless.”

All Joyce wants is that her campers have as profoundly life-changing an experience as she did those decades ago at the healing center.

“I awoke there to so many more pathways of living life, and that’s exactly what I want for these kids,” she says. “There’s a place inside them that we can touch that they never knew existed before. I want the camp to touch that part so deeply that they can carry it on into their adulthood.”

“As a naturopath and nutritionist, I’ve worked for over 20 years with people who are very ill, a lot of that work at no charge for people who couldn’t afford it. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work with children’s groups. But here, seeing the children and the experiences they have, is overwhelming. I am so fortunate to be able to do this.”

 

One Life At a Time

Years ago, when she first found herself on this path, Joyce says she felt a sense of futility: there are only so many kids one person can touch.

“I would think, What good can I really do? How much difference can I really make? But I soon realized, Hey, it’s going to make a difference in their lives—in each individual child’s life. Is it worth it? There’s absolutely no question.”

And over the last several years, she adds, with the story of her retreat circulating, she’s been contacted by increasing numbers of people who want to do similar sorts of things.

“Who knows—perhaps I will end up touching a lot more lives than I ever anticipated!”

In fact, Joyce has been touched by how much her programs have struck a chord in others.

“More than ever, these days, people seem to know that they deeply need to be on purpose in their lives. You can only amass so much material wealth, and if you’re not giving back to people who are less fortunate, where is the reward? The rewards I feel from working with my kids in the camp are pretty amazing.

“This is also how I build my business. The people I talk with are all involved in their hearts with helping others. It’s a culture of people who are willing to give and really want to help. Truthfully, I think that’s what makes us successful.

Yet, says Joyce, it’s not a calculated philosophy: it’s not a question of peeling off philanthropic dollars in order to be a successful person.

“I simply need to give; I couldn’t not give back. It’s impossible to imagine my own financial success not being linked to giving. In truth, I think a lot of people are the same way. I believe that’s how the universe rewards people—and not only in terms of financial rewards.”

And, of course, Joyce is quick to credit network marketing as the vehicle that allows such miracles to happen.

“Looking at the success I’ve had, both financially and in terms of personal fulfillment, I don’t think I could have gotten even a fraction of the way there by doing anything else.”