Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 1: I wish I may, I wish I might..

We have been home from Cami's wish trip for 3 days now and I have been putting off writing this blog.  Only because it is going to be impossible to describe how incredible this experience was.  Yes, I can show you pictures and videos and I can try to explain the magic that seemed to follow us wherever we went, but you wont be able to feel the goosebumps, experience the tears, or see that sparkle that is now so much brighter in our Cami's eyes.  We didn't have to worry about doctor appointments, blood levels, bills, cooking, cleaning or working for 10 days!  Every need was met and every wish was granted.  It was everything we dreamed of and more.

This amazing gift was just what our family needed to heal our shattered hearts and give us a break from fighting the battle for Cami's life.  I will NEVER be able to thank everyone who helped give this gift to our family, there are just too many wonderful people to thank!  I just hope they all know how extremely grateful and humbled we are.
  
Because I have so much to write about and so many pictures I have decided to blog each day separately.  Now, on to day 1...

Our flight left at 10:30AM We had some very excited kids on our hands.


After our long flight, we landed in Orlando where we were greeted by these two sweet volunteers from Give Kids The World.  Jean and Leisa watched our kids while we got our bags, then they escorted us to our car rental pick-up where Cami was told she could choose any car she wanted.  She chose a white minivan because she said it looked like a white carriage.  Jean and Leisa gave us driving directions to Give Kids The World, the all-inclusive resort where most wish families stay.








When we got to Give Kids The World, this is what we pulled up to.  Its called the house of hearts and when we walked in we found out that is exactly what it is.  We were greeted with smiles all around and there was another sweet volunteer bearing gifts for the kids and waiting to take us on a tour and show us our villa for the week.  

Here is our villa and our "carriage".



On our tour we learned that Give Kids The World is centered all around kids.  Everything there is made with the little ones in mind.  After touring our castle/villa (which Cami was in love with by the way) I realized just how centered around kids everything was.  Inside our 2 bedroom villa the "master bedroom" was clearly for the kids.  It had 2 twin beds and a connecting bathroom complete with a jacuzzi tub, gigantic walk in shower and double sinks.  Cami just thought this was the most amazing thing and she made us all ask her permission to use "her" bathroom the rest of the trip.

Next we headed to the adorable Gingerbread house for dinner.  It was staffed by the sweetest volunteers who wouldn't even let us carry our own trays.  Seeing all the people working and volunteering brought tears to my eyes.  They treated us like royalty and did everything to make us feel comfortable, welcome and happy.  The spirit of love and service in the village was so thick you could taste it.  Its something I cant describe and I'm getting goosebumps just writing about it.  Nobody stared at Cami or pointed at her bald head, there was just smiles and hugs all around.

All the tables and chairs were kid size and decorated with peppermints.  All around the top of the room there were thousands of dolls from all around the world.  The kids LOVED the kid buffet which was stocked with grilled cheese, spaghetti, mac-n-cheese, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, pudding, PB&J's, and every other kid-friendly item you could think of.  

Next stop after dinner, the Enchanted Carousel.  Not my favorite way to settle dinner, but this became a tradition and Cami looked forward to her ride after each and every meal...again, its all about the kids in this magical place!
Cami had to ride the unicorn, who she named "Flower-Power".

and Caden loved the lion, he just went around and around saying "RAWR".

After dinner I went to the orientation and Pat took the kids to the amazing pool.

Here is the front of the pool-

This is the splash area-


The pool and pirate ship-


After swimming it was time to go home and soak in their Jacuzzi...

  


At the orientation I was given information about Give Kids The World, the amusement parks, and the Orlando area.  This is where I REALLY fell in love with GKTW.  I learned that over 100,00 wish families have stayed at the village from all around the world.  Each week over 1,500 volunteers donate their time and talent to the Village.  I learned that the village was founded by Henri Landwirth, a holocaust survivor who spent 5 years of his childhood in a concentration camp.  He never wanted another kid to miss out on their childhood again.  He was an amazing man who has made so many kids dreams come true.  


The Give Kids The World experience is all about saying yes to families who all too often hear and have to say no.
Do you want to have ice cream for breakfast? How about Christmas every Thursday and video games and miniature golf as often as you'd like?
Imagine coming to a Village where the answer to these and many other questions is always "yes!" That is exactly what awaits the families of children with life-threatening illnesses who wish to visit all of Central Florida's best-loved attractions.
GKTW story-
The story of Give Kids The World begins with a little girl with a wish and the desire of one man to make that wish come true. 
The little girl's name was Amy. Amy had leukemia and one wish - to visit the theme parks in Orlando. To facilitate Amy's wish, the request of a complimentary stay was made to a respected hotelier. As he had done many times before, the hotelier gladly obliged and Amy's wish was that much closer to being realized. Sadly, the remainder of Amy's travel plans took too long to arrange and her wish was never granted; Amy had passed away. Time simply ran out. 
This unfulfilled wish inspired a man, the hotelier, to make a vow that no child in need would ever be failed again. That man was Henri Landwirth and his desire to ensure that Amy's story would never repeat itself is where the story of Give Kids The World begins.
Landwirth enlisted the support of colleagues in the hospitality industry, including our world-famous theme parks, to assist him in bringing these special families to Central Florida within 24 hours if need be. He called the project “Give Kids The World,” because that is just what he intended to do - provide memorable, magical, cost-free experiences to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. 
As the program expanded and the number of families continued to grow, it was apparent that Give Kids The World would need to create a place that could better serve the special needs of our families. The gates of Give Kids The World Village opened in 1989.

Today the Village is a 70-acre resort complete with over 140 Villa accommodations, entertainment attractions, whimsical venues, and fun specifically designed for children with special needs. 
With the help of many generous individual, corporations and partnering wish-granting organizations, Give Kids The World has welcomed more than 100,000 families from all 50 states and over 70 countries.
GKTW mission-
Give Kids The World is a non-profit organization that exists only to fulfill the wishes of all children with life-threatening illnesses and their families from around the world to experience a memorable, joyful, cost-free visit to the Central Florida attractions, and to enjoy the magic of Give Kids The World Village for as long as there is a need. 


100,000 children have had their dream come true at Give Kids The World. No child in need has ever been turned away – and no child ever will. Give Kids The World is a place where families find joy, laughter, serenity, and a lifetime of memories. Through the tireless support of our volunteers, employees and generous partners, we dedicate each and every day to these special families.

The Village has activities each morning and night.  Some of these include horse back riding, crafts, Disney character meet and greets, Universal character meet and greets, a winter wonderland party, a pirates and princess party, and Mayor Clayton's Birthday party (he is a giant bunny character who runs the town with the help of his bunny wife, Miss Mary).  There is a miniature golf course, a train station, full sized theatre, a butterfly garden of hope, a chapel, Ice cream palace, Castle of miracles, Katies Kitchen, Gingerbread restaurant, An Enchanted Carousel, a gigantic candy-land playground, splash zone and wheelchair accessible pool, fishing pond, and a nature trail.  We were there for 6 days and we STILL didn't even get close to seeing it all!

After teaching us about GKTW and giving us all the information we might need, we were told to open a packet that was filled with amusement park passes, free parking, special service offers, golden tickets, free photo passes, VIP invitations, and wish lounge passes.  Then they told us they had even more free tickets they could offer us if we requested them.  This is where I started to cry again.  So many companies give so generously to wish kids and we are just so beyond grateful.


Here are some pictures so you can see just how storybook this place is.  It really feels like you stepped into a fairytale.  It is a magical place.

The carousel and castle of miracles (Cami's favorite)-

The train (Caden's favorite)-

This is Ol' Elmer, a huge tree that you can hear snoring as you walk past.


The huge candy land playground-

The fishing pond-

The ice cream parlor (which is open from 7:30AM to 9:30PM).  
Can I just say that I highly recommend ice cream for breakfast?!


The inside of the ice cream parlor-

dinosaur miniature golf-


This is Amberville.  It's home to the train station, game room and golf course.




And that's it for day one.. stay tuned for day 2 and beyond!

15 comments:

  1. Simply Amazing! It brought tears to my eyes. So glad you had such a perfect trip. What an incredible guy for starting something like this. Can't wait to hear more about your trip!

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  2. What amazing people to start something so magical!! I am inspired.

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  3. Just day one made me cry. I am so glad that you guys had an amazing time. I had never even heard of Give Kids the World until now but WOW! what an amazing man and way to share with all of the wonderful kids out there:)
    cant wait to hear more.

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  4. I am SO HAPPY for you guys! That looks AmAzInG!!! I can't wait to read more!

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  5. I cant wait..to read more!! This is SOO amazing! Thanks for sharing Chel... Looking at all the pictures, makes us feel like we went with u guys! HOW FUN!! Love and miss u.. Mia says to tell Cami she cant wait to come in visit her this summer ;)
    XOXOXOXO

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  6. What an amazing experience. Thanks to some fabulous people who had the money and the mind to fund this as well as the plethora of volunteers this is truly amazing! Can't wait for the future installments!

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  7. Wow looks like you guys had an amazing day 1! Cant wait to see/read about more! You guys deserved it!
    Love you, Nat

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  8. That's AMAZING! I can't believe that was all in one day! Can't wait to see the pics and read about the rest of your trip. :)

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  9. i loved reading this - it totally brought everything back and made me cry. it is such a magical place! i can truly say that i KNOW how you feel!

    i can't wait to read about the rest of your trip!

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  10. Okay, the tears are running. I am so happy for you and so looking forward to our trip. I can't wait for day #2.

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  11. I hope you post day2 today. I can't wait! It brings back so many wonderful memories. Love you guys and I'm so glad you got to experience this.

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  12. Chelsea- You don't know me, but I am a long time friend of Pat and his family. Pat was in my home ward all growing up, and our families are close. I just want you to know how amazing I think you are. I have read through your blog a few times, and I can't stop crying every time that I do. I see how much hurt you are going through with this sweet little angel being sick all the time, but you still have this amazing outlook on what could be worse, and how YOU are making things better for you guys. You say that you complain alot, but, girl, I would be complaining a HECK of a lot more! I know you must hear this a gajillion times every day/hour/minute, but Heavenly Father really is looking out for your precious little Cami. He is looking out for YOU too, and you need to remember that. Cami is an amazingly strong little girl, but I see that she gets it from you. This may seem weird coming from someone that you don't even know, but I just want you to know that I think that you are amazing. Keep on keepin' on- as they say! You are always in our family's prayers. Know that you don't have to do this alone. Thank you for being such a great example to me of an amazing woman.
    ~Mindy Miles Smith~

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  13. Dennis and I have really been enjoying looking at all of your photos and watching the videos of Cami and Caden...They are both such cutie pies! We are so happy that you guys had an amazing trip...You definitely deserve it! Cami fit right in with all of the princesses because she is a beautiful princess too and seeing the joy on her face is priceless!! <3 : )

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