Location: [Home] Rebekah Gets Her Wish
Bekah got her wish! The folks from the Make-a-Wish foundation came by over eighteen months ago to offer her a wish -- but at the age of three and a half, she couldn't think of one. Well, at four and a half she could. She wanted to meet Winnie-the-Pooh, and that got translated into a trip to Disney World in Florida. We went last week, and oh! what a trip!
We flew directly from Bradley International in Windsor Locks, CT to Orlando International on Monday the 18th, where a volunteer named Cecil from Give Kids the World Village met us. He sheperded us through the airport from the gate to the baggage claim to the rental car area, where he persuaded the agency employees to find a convertible for us: a bright red Ford Mustang convertible. He gave us a map and directions to the Give Kids the World Village where we'd be staying, which is not far from Disney World in Kissimmee, FL.
I'm afraid that the parking garage is rather dark, which put the digital camera built into our camcorder to the test. It took rather a lot of work in Photoshop to make faces visible at all!
We drove there and got another surprise. I'd expected a hotel or motel, but GKTW is a non-profit institution that provides housing to children with major illnesses visiting central Florida. Nearly everything gets donated, and that's a lot! We stayed in a "villa," a single-level house with space for two families, each with their own entrance to a two bedroom apartment with living room and full kitchen. The children's bathroom was built with medical concerns in mind: the shower was enormous, and had a wheelchair seat. A separate bathtub had a whirlpool in it (which Brendan really enjoyed), and the whole thing was simply enormous.
We didn't eat in the villa, though. We ate in the Gingerbread House, where the meals were provided by Perkins Restaurants and served by volunteers (over 2000 people volunteer at Give Kids the World). Next to the Gingerbread House the Castle of Miracles had video games, a playroom, and a wonderful carousel. Beyond it the Ice Cream Shop provided Friendly's ice cream, and beyond that the movie theatre showed kids' features twice a day. The Amberville Train Station offered a model railroad to play with, more arcade games, and radio controlled boats to drive, as well as train rides around the building on a small-guage railroad.
Did I mention the handicapped accessible pool, or the water park, or the nature trail?
And the fact that all of this was free?
The Mayor of Give Kids the World Village is a giant rabbit named Clayton -- unlike Harvey, he's quite visible! And he became a favorite with Brendan and Rebekah, too. Both kids received a special gift each day, and their favorite was the farewell present: a small stuffed Clayton.
Staying at GKTW also provided us with three days at Disney World, one at Universal Studios, and one at Sea World. There were other attractions available as well, but we were only going to be there five days... so we went to them all!
Fear not, Rebekah did meet Winnie-the-Pooh, and Piglet, and Eeyore, and Tigger at the Magic Kingdom's Crystal Palace restaurant. This was wonderful: we made reservations when we arrived at the park, and enjoyed an excellent buffet while the four characters made their way from table to table. It was a great way to eat and to encounter those characters. Bekah really enjoyed it.
You can see it in all its wonder, too: our video camera caught the moment, and the wonders of digital video editing have arrived here: watch Rebekah meet Winnie-the-Pooh!
She also likes roller coasters. A lot! Her favorite was the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coaster in the Magic Kingdom, which is one of my favorites, too. A close second was Splash Mountain right beside it, which matches a classic log flume ride with Disney's ability to tell a story: in this case the Uncle Remus stories of Br'er Fox's quest to catch Br'er Rabbit. The big drop (every flume ride has a big drop with a splash at the end) happens when Br'er Fox throws Br'er Rabbit into the briar patch. Wonderful!
I didn't get video of that, as I was too busy riding along with her. I did, however, record the entire Winnie-the-Pooh ride in the Magic Kingdom, for no reason I can think of... I haven't digitized that one.
The kids got autograph books, which over the course of three days were signed by Pluto, Donald, Br'er Fox, and of course, Mickey and Minnie. Meeting Disney characters can be something of a chore. They have set up places to meet them around the parks, and sometimes at the gates (we met Timon and Rafiki outside the ticket booths at Animal Kingdom). The result: lines, particularly for a certain mouse!
We got to meet some of them at Mickey's Toontown Fair in the Magic Kingdom, and then found two days later that they were also visiting Give Kids the World Village! Ah, well. We received a photo of all of us with Mickey and Minnie taken in the Castle of Miracles, which is wonderful. The photo on this page, however, is from Animal Kingdom. We spent the time in line there so that the kids could get Mickey's autograph, which we couldn't do when they visited GKTW.
Other favorites: Brendan liked the Buzz Lightyear ride in Tomorrowland, and everyone enjoyed the Dumbo ride. At Disney/MGM, the Muppet 3D movie was incredibly funny, and they did a superb stage show of the Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney version, of course). The ride of choice at that park was "Star Tours," which gave us a trip through the Star Wars universe. At Animal Kingdom, a ride based on the movie Dinosaur provided lots of thrills (we successfully retrieved a hadrosaur, which was last seen on security cameras wandering around the place). Animal Kingdom also offered a superb raft flume ride, the Kali River Rapids, which we rode twice. It was a hot day, and we could definitely count on that ride to cool off!
We spent one day at Universal Studios and its second park, Islands of Adventure. They had some really neat attractions as well, and I regret that we didn't spend more time in their Dr. Suess area. They had a carousel equipped with Suess animals to ride which looked wonderful, and another ride, not yet open, was labelled "Sneetches In." Some day!
On the last day we went to Sea World, all of us tired. For a low-vision child, this made for some plusses and minuses. They had a stingray touching area, which was neat, but Bekah couldn't see the dark colored rays against the dark sand background. She also liked the idea of petting dolphins, but they weren't cooperating when we arrived. Orcas, fortunately, are very large creatures, but it's hard to see them under water -- and she'd had enough of being splashed by the last day. She did enjoy the sight (and sound, I suspect) of large amounts of water being propelled out of the tank onto the crowd below us!
All the parks had their bright points, but we all came away charmed most by the good ol' Magic Kingdom. Rebekah wore a button from Give Kids the World, and the Disney staff in particular would spot it and be very attentive to us. They also provided a courtesy pass which allowed us to avoid the lines and get seating which would be best for Rebekah's limited vision. They were all great!
Well, now we're home, thoroughly spoiled. We had to buy a new duffelbag at the airport to get all the toys home, and then there's all the videotape. We'll happily bore visitors for quite some time with it all! Among other things, we recorded a tour of Give Kids the World Village. And then there's the 35mm photos that haven't been developed yet!