Mari White, Topeka, Kansas
We have two children with disabilities, so I have always been learning and advocating for both of our sons. Alex is 4 3/4 and Ben is 15 1/2. I recently contacted Dream Factory, a wonderful national organization which grants dreams to children with chronic health problems. Our chapter is located in Kansas City and is a very active chapter. Our almost 5 year old son, Alex, who has Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (a cross of Lou Gehrigs and Cerebral Palsy) was granted a dream to Disneyworld in Orlando and Give Kids The World. All I can say is “WOW”! It was the most splendid, well organized trip we have ever had and we all had a blast. He will always remember “Tinkerbell’s House” in such a wonderful way. We all will. Dream Factory paid for everything and gave us a spending allowance for souvenirs and miscellaneous odds and ends. All we had to do was pack and show up at the airport.
Give Kids The World is one of the best kept secrets in the world. It is a special resort (75 acres) specifically for kids with disabilities and other health needs. It could have been a vacation destination in and of itself. Everything on the resort is free; all the rides, meals, ice-cream, Disney characters, swimming, etc. They have an average of thousands of volunteers all over the place, of all ages, who do everything. They even met us at the airport and got the rental van for us. The villas were 2+ bedrooms with 2 bathrooms and a full size laundry in each room. All rooms are accessible, even the roll in shower. The kitchens are loaded with goodies. Again, I can only say “WOW”! Everyday they had goodies for the kids, toys, games, and neat things to do. We kept busy because the Dream Factory package included tickets to all of the major theme parks in the area.
If you need to go to theme parks, the way to go is through Give Kids The World. With our I.D. we rarely, if ever, waited for rides. We just showed the pass and were escorted to the front of all lines. Food at the theme parks is expensive and so we were able to eat some meals at Give Kids The World (free) and some were bought with the miscellaneous money. The Village gives free video cameras for use during your stay and will put all videos on a disc, free. We were also given 1/2 price passes to a medieval dinner theater located nearby. What a great experience, even for the 4 year old. We saw horse shows and jousting, kings, queens, knights, princesses, and got to eat a great formal meal entirely with our hands. The booing and yeahing for the good knights and bad knights was a blast. The boys were each knighted and we were able to purchase as part of the knighting ceremony a real sword which we can place above the fireplace for memories. It is a custom made steel sword made in Spain. We were hoarse from the screaming and laughing. What made this whole trip so memorable were the volunteers, from the local Topeka nurse who worked with Dream Factory to all the many volunteers who served food, did evening activities, and ran the carousel at Give Kids The World. What was even better is that, since my husband also has Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, Dream Factory allowed my older son’s college age para or PCT to go along, even though he is not direct family. They paid his way too. He was a Godsend when it came to carrying Alex. Alex wears braces but his legs do tire very easily. Emery was able to carry and help supervise, which allowed all of us to enjoy rides that Alex was not necessarily big enough to ride. Upon checking out, we learned that we were given a years pass to many of the amusement parks, internationally. We all get in free, even Emery, to these parks. We also were given a free music C.D. that will be customized not only by name but by personality for Alex. Disney characters come to the Village for photo opportunities all the time. We were there for 6 solid days and could have spent many more. We had a blast. It was a dream trip to be remembered forever. I can’t say enough – my sincere thanks to everyone at Dream Factory and Give Kids The World. In addition to this trip, Dream Factory does many things year round for those kids who receive dreams, including movie premiers, Royals trips, picnics, and fishing trips. They are our angels, forever.