We are finally home after an amazing vacation to Florida for Kylie’s Make A Wish trip! We got in late Saturday night and I started this blog post first thing Sunday after we got settled in but after I picked out all of the pictures I wanted to share, edited them and added them to the post I came to a blank. I’ve been staring at this almost blank post for two days but the words just wouldn’t come. And then I realized what my problem was, no matter how much I write about all that we did and saw, there are just no words for the feelings of love and humbleness that came over us each and every day that we were there!
For those of you that have been long time followers of my blog, you know all about our oldest daughter Kylie and her diagnosis a year and a half ago of a rare autoimmune disease called Juvenile Dermatomyositis. For those of you that are new and would like to get caught up, you can read my previous blog posts about Kylie here!
Since I am still not sure where to start, I guess the beginning is just as good a place as any ;) My husband Matt is a member of our local Rotary and this summer while he was doing some volunteer work with his group, he met a man named Allen. During the course of the day they were chatting and Matt was telling Allen about Kylie and JDM. Well come to find out, Allen is actually the head of our local Make A Wish chapter for our area and he told Matt that he should really look into applying for a wish for Kylie. We had never really thought about this before because we had assumed that it was only for terminally ill children when really MAW grants wishes to children of all types of life threatening conditions as well! So we filled out some paperwork and turned it in all the while not mentioning anything to Kylie about it just in case she wasn’t chosen to receive a wish. A short time later I received a call from the MAW foundation to tell me that Kylie had been approved a wish of her choice. I couldn’t believe it. I was in complete shock and it took me awhile to compose myself together enough to call Matt and tell him. I swear I cried for two days straight lol!
Instead of just telling Kylie that she had been granted a wish, Matt and I wanted to surprise her in a big way! I worked with her school and had her principal call her into the office one day during school and ask Kylie if she would be willing to put together a little presentation about her JDM and talk about it to her class (and the adjoining class that work regularly with them) so that the new students that have joined their classes this year would know more about it. Kylie being the starlet she is, was more than happy to be the center of attention for a good cause ;) After this part was taken care of, I called our local newspaper, family and friends and of course Allen. Kylie knew that she was going to give a presentation to her classes but she had no idea about the other guests that were going to be there so when she walked into the auditorium and saw everyone, she was very surprised! She did an amazing job and at the end did a question and answer session just in case any of the students had any more questions. We had it planned so that the last question would be from Allen and when Kylie called on him he asked her if she had ever wished that she could be somewhere else while she was getting her 8 hr long infusions and she says “Yes! Texas!” (that’s where her grampa and nina live). Allen then asked her if she had ever heard of the Make A Wish foundation to which she answers “no” lol. Apparently, we forgot to educate her on that little detail while preparing for this surprise ;) So he explained to her what it was and then walked up to the stage and handed her a certificate and told her that she had been selected to receive a wish from MAW.
She spent a couple of weeks thinking about what she might like for her wish and then my little redneck girl settled on wanting a travel trailer lol. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to get one because of limitations of title transfers for our local chapter so she settled on the next best thing- Disney World. To make this trip even more memorable, we chose to go the week of Kylie’s golden birthday (she turned 9 on April 9th) and my dad and step mom were able to surprise us going to Florida as well!
For Kylie’s trip, the Make A Wish Foundation worked with another organization called Give Kids The World which is a resort built just for kids with life threatening conditions. Unfortunately all of the villas in this resort were booked so we were put in a room at the Contemporary Hotel which is pretty much right next to Disney World. When we first arrived in Florida, we were met at the airport by a greeter from the Give Kids The World village and she got us set up with our rental vehicle. We then headed over to the Village to check in and get something to eat before we headed back to our hotel. The next morning we met up with my dad and step mom and went back to the Village for our orientation and breakfast before officially starting our vacation. I knew nothing about GKTW before our trip and the things that I learned that morning just blew me away! Not only was the Village designed especially for children with special needs but GKTW also provides all of the families there with all of their meals, free ice cream in the ice cream parlor (open early in the morning and late into the night), a special celebration every day of the week as well as tickets to all of the theme parks (and other attractions) in the area. The majority of the people working at the village are volunteers and they go out of their way to make sure that the guests are well taken care of and are having a good time. Each day we were in Florida we spent the day sight seeing and exploring all of the great theme parks and other fun places but we always found our way back to the Village for dinner just because we enjoyed it there so much. I can’t even explain what it was like watching all of those children playing and just having fun like any other ‘regular’ kid. It makes your heart happy.
Here is a rundown of what we did during our week of fun-
*After orientation Kylie decided that the first thing she wanted to do was to go to a water park so we headed over to Sea World’s Aquatica water park. We spent the rest of the day there and the girls had so much fun!
*We decided to make Tuesday our big Disney World day so we got there early to see and do as much as possible. We made sure to hit all of the important rides first (like Splash Mountain, Flying Dumbo, Haunted Mansion, etc.) and saved Space Mountain for last. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go on this ride because of my back (stupid degenerative disk disease…) but all 3 girls went on it and little 6 year old Kayla thought it was awesome. I guess it is like a large roller coaster that goes around in a dark room and sickening speeds. Yeah, I was fine on sitting that one out ;)
*Wednesday we went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom which is such a beautiful theme park! We got to see lots of animals, watch an amazing bird show, and the girls got their faces painted beautifully in animal designs. Then for dinner we went to the Rain Forest Café and after walked around Downtown Disney until 11 PM. The girls were WIPED out by time we got them back to the room lol!
*Thursday was beach day (woot!) and my favorite day of our vacation. The girls and I had never been to a real beach that had white sand and clear warm water that you can swim in and we were in love! Matt and I were good about keeping the girls protected with sunblock but forgot to reapply ours so we got a little bit of a burn.
*Friday was our last real day left to sight see so we decided to head over to Sea World so that the girls could see the Shamu show. When we were walking into the stadium to find a seat, one of the workers saw that we were there on a Make A Wish (we all had special buttons to wear) and took us up to the very first row in the middle of the stadium right in front of the main platform where the whales did their tricks! It was absolutely amazing!!!
*Saturday was spent shopping for souvenirs and getting things all packed up and ready to head back home. The girls did such a great job on both the flights to Florida and back home! We got in late Saturday night and as much as we loved and enjoyed Florida, it felt good to sleep in our own beds again.