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!