Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Give Kids the World Village

Give Kids the World Village was my favorite part of our trip!  Here is a little taste of how awesome it is!

 Walking around when we first got there...getting to know our way around...

 The first night was the Pirates and Princesses party!  Sarah was transformed into a princess!  (She played along, even though she probably would have rather been a pirate.)  She had so much fun, and so did I, just watching her.  : )

Dancing, dancing with Shamu.  The girl loves music.  And she loved dancing with that "dolphin" as she calls him. : )

 Josh becoming a pirate

 Matthew's bountiful playground!

 Ice cream for breakfast!  (Free, all day every day!)

 Trash cans that talk to you.  It tells you it loves paper. : )

 Sarah inside the castle making her star.

It does go on the ceiling, but Sarah didn't have to put it there. ; )

 Getting ready to go to the pool and sprinkler pad!

 Trying to soak Dad...

 Trying to get soaked... : )

 Outside the pool area

 Cuddle time on our front porch


 One of the "trains" that would pick us up to take us where we wanted to go (Sarah loved them!)

 Family time

 Every day while we were out, "fairies" would bring in gifts.  One day we got this cool Give Kids the World version of Candy Land!

 Playing the world's biggest candy land game on the playground

 Ben got this lion at the carnival

 A few times a week, characters from the area parks would come to visit.

 Jacuzzi tub in our villa!

 Mayor Clayton, the mayor of the Village, came to tuck the kids in bed one night!

 They got the biggest kick out of that! : )

 Finding Sarah's special star on the ceiling

 One of Sarah's favorite things...the train!

 The castle had some activities for down times

 Playing around

 Inside Amberville--video games!

 One of the two restaurants was this outdoor one.  Yummy!

 Mayor Clayton's house--a playhouse to go inside!

 Amberville--lots of fun!

 She found more water!

 The other restaurant--the Gingerbread house

 Thursday night is the Christmas party!  Mrs. Clause came to say hello.

 Horseback riding!

 She got her nails and make-up done at the spa. : )

 One of the nights there was a talent show!  Josh, Ben and Sarah all sang their hearts out!

 Drinking hot cocoa at the Christmas party.  Every week, Santa comes to town!  : )


And last but not least...the carousel!  Sarah would have just stayed there all day. : )

Can you tell how wonderful Give Kids the world is??  I am so thankful we were able to spend a week there!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sarah's amazingly wonderful Make-a-Wish trip!

Okay!  Finally I have all my pictures from our recent trip all in one spot so that I can get to them more easily.  You know when you get back from vacation, and you have all the unpacking to do, and catching up on everything....Whew....now, I can blog about it!

So, I would like to tell everyone about Make-a-Wish and Give Kids the World Village where we stayed, since I know I really knew very little before all of this started for us.  I used to think that Make-a-Wish granted wishes for children who had terminal illnesses.  In other words, I assumed that wishes were only for children who were truly not going to live much longer.  But, I was wrong.  Make-a-Wish grants wishes for ALL children with life-threatening illnesses and situations.  So, Sarah was a candidate for a wish, even though she is very much alive, and very much well at this point! 

We helped Sarah make her wish because at the time when she would make that choice, she was only two years old.  Children are given the choice to pretty much have their dream come true, within reason.  They can go on the ultimate shopping spree, meet a famous person, be something they have always dreamed of for a day (like some kids have wished to be a fireman or an ice cream man), or go on a vacation.  Some people think of other ideas too.  To be honest, if you know Sarah, you would know that she probably would have really wished to be a nurse for a day.  There would be nothing better to her than to go around taking people's blood pressure (giving them froggy hugs), band-aids, pushing buttons on their machines, wearing the scrubs and gloves, and so on.  But.....oh well...she was only two, like I mentioned, so we had to make the decision, and a Disney vacation just seemed like the perfect thing.  And oh, it was really a fabulous choice!!!

So, the Make-a-Wish volunteers came to our house and told us about the choices we had, and we had a special little wish ceremony where all the members of the family wrote what we wished for Sarah for her life on cards, and put them in a special box that they brought.  Then, later, we told them our final decision, and they did all the work to make it a reality.

Finally it was time to go.  We could have gone last year, but we chose to wait a year since she was just fresh past her bone marrow transplant restrictions.  I'm so glad we waited!

A few days before the big "go" day, they sent a  package in the mail with all the final details.  It included our plane tickets and spending money--YES, even spending money!--and fun little things for the kids.  They even sent lego sets for the boys, and a stuffed animal and backpack for Sarah, and t-shirts for all of us!  Oh my goodness, so much fun. : )

On the day of the trip, we got picked up in a limousine (a limo-van for us.  We got a little chuckle out of that)  to go to the airport.  When we reached the Orlando airport, there was a Give Kids the World Village volunteer there waiting for us to explain what to do next.  She took us to get our rental car, and told us everything we would need to know.  And Sarah got to pick out which van she wanted.   She picked blue.  : )

Off we went to Give Kids the World.  Even as I typed that, I had to pause just for a second, and try to think of a way to really describe what a wonderful place that is.

Give Kids the World Village is a resort complex specifically for "Wish" kids and their families.  Not only kids being provided wishes through Make-a-Wish, but many different organizations and hospitals also refer children to go and stay there.  It is made up of villas (little condos) where the families are staying, restaurants, an ice cream "shop," gameroom, train, carousel, pool and sprinkler pad, theater, putt putt golf course, castle where each child gets their own special star which stays forever on the ceiling, great big playground, and more.  And everything is free.  Everything.  : )  And I was happy that we had our own laundry in our villa.  So nice. And the villas have great big jacuzzi tubs in them.  Yes, we learned what it means to be spoiled!  Each morning and evening they have special activities going on for the families.  There were fun parties, an outdoor movie, a talent show, horseback riding (slowly around a little path), a Christmas parade complete with Santa and Mrs. Claus and gifts for all the kids....and every day when we would get home, there were gifts on the table for all the kids.  Sometimes little things like stuffed animals, and sometimes bigger things like board games or DVD's.  A tram would come around stopping to pick up passengers, taking you wherever you would like to go in the village.  That was one of Sarah's favorite parts.

That is just a little taste of how truly wonderful Give Kids the World Village is.  They cater to 7000 families a year.  Each week thousands of volunteers come and give their time there.  Pretty much everyone you see in the Village is a volunteer.  And most of the people I talked to have been doing it for years and years.  It is such a beautiful, happy place.  They say Disney World is the Happiest place on earth, but now I've been there, and I'd have to say the happy factor doesn't compare to Give Kids the World!  I will tell you more about the amazing man who founded it in another post, because he deserves his own story.

We were also given tickets to almost all of the parks in the Orlando area!  If you are thinking that was probably exhausting, you are right. : )  But, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Our week at Give Kids the World was amazing, and they treated Sarah and all of us like gold.  It was sad to leave.  But since we knew we would be needing a vacation after a vacation like that, we stayed an extra week (no, that week wasn't free.  Bummer!)  in a house the owner rents out to vacationers like us.  I was surprised by the very reasonable price!  We had plenty of room to stretch out, and even a private pool in the back.  NICE.  : )  Some of those park tickets were good for two weeks, so we waited and went the second week.  That made the first week not quite as crazy as it could have been.  That second week, we also took a trip to Daytona and took a tour of the big race track, and spent some time at the beach.

Finally, all good things must come to an end, and we did come home.  They picked us up in the limo again when we got to the airport!  (And this time, we did have an extra suitcase in tow that we purchased there to tote back all the stuff they gave us!)

Well, that became a longer post than I expected it would be.  I had planned on posting pictures, but I will post them next time.  For now, I will just give you a little sneak peek. 

And in the future, if you are wondering whether or not Make-a-Wish or Give Kids the World would be worthy of your attention in your giving, I would enthusiastically suggest...Yes!  These children and their families who have been through so much have the time of their lives.  It is such a wonderful thing these organizations are doing.

Getting ready to leave the cold!

 Sarah LOVED the carousel at Give Kids the World!!

 In her glory in the water!

 Boys having fun at the Pirates and Princesses party

 Princess Sarah dancing the night away with Shamu

 Our home for the first week at the village

Waiting for our yummy food : )

We are so grateful to God and everyone who donated to make our trip possible.  We are so very, very blessed to have been able to do this! 

I will post more pics, so stay tuned!