Championing Children’s Miracle Network in Orlando

After six incredible days spent at Give Kids The World Village on Brenna’s Make-A-Wish Disney vacation, we woke up on a Tuesday morning ready to transition to the second leg of our trip to Orlando… the Children’s Miracle Network champion ambassador finale tour!

When Brenna was first announced as Champion for CMN representing Illinois this past year, we had no idea what was in store for us over the next 12 months, and it’s been a whirlwind of interviews, speaking, corporate events and all kinds of little stuff in between. But all of that work has been bookended by two amazing trips – last June to Washington D.C. and March in Orlando.

Orlando’s CMN tour also included the Momentum conference, so in addition to all of the state champions and their families, there were hundreds of Children’s Miracle Network staff, corporate sponsors and CMN hospital employees from around the country (including a group of four from our own hospital!). We jumped right in when we got to Coronado Springs resort, speaking to the Board of corporate CMN sponsors to share our story and thank them for all they do.

We were just leaving when a man said “Wait a minute, Marie wanted to meet you!” and out comes Marie Osmond, who is one of the founders of Children’s Miracle Network! Marie was so sweet, and we just loved getting to know her and meet her family over the course of the week.

That first afternoon at Coronado Springs, CMN threw a welcome party for all of the families, with lots of activities for the kids hosted by some of the corporate sponsors. Brenna and Connor got their craft on designing airplane wings at Delta’s table.

This week was all about awareness, which meant lots of photos, videos, and especially Facebook Live. Allie Simpson, Australian model and social influencer, was on hand to help run the show.

Brenna got lots of hugs from Marie Osmond. Our dads were a bit jealous.

The second day, we were given a free morning to head to the Disney parks! We chose Hollywood Studios, where we hadn’t been yet with Make-A-Wish. And we got to hang out with Mike Wazowski.

We only had a few hours at Hollywood Studios, so we caught the Disney Jr. Live show (so cute!) and the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show. We also rode the Toy Story Midway Mania ride, which was awesome – definitely one of our favorite family-friendly rides at Disney.

Later that afternoon, CMN announced all of the Champions with a brief bio in front of the crowds of hospital staff and sponsors, and then we had a pin exchange with all of the corporate sponsors. At Disney, it’s a big trend to collect and trade pins, so our hospital designed – with Brenna’s guidance – a pin of purple sneakers. The icing on the cake? They actually turn on and blink flashing lights! Definitely one of the coolest pins there, thanks to the amazing folks at St. John’s who put in a lot of effort creating a pin that was exactly what Brenna wanted!

As if that was not a long enough day, we then headed to downtown Disney Springs for a late dinner at Bongos with our group of CMN hospital staff. The kids did great with our late night, and even though it was a little hard to get up the next morning, the excitement soon won out over the fatigue because we were headed to Epcot for the day!

Children’s Miracle Network sent all of the champion families on a scavenger hunt through Epcot’s FutureLand, and then we also got to explore, ride rides and meet characters…like Daisy! 

We sauntered around Epcot for the afternoon, indulging in some of the food and drink and sights. We rode Soarin’ (one of the BEST rides in all of Disney!), and I took Brenna on Nemo and Friends Underwater Adventure, which she really enjoyed. Then we made a stop in Morocco to see Jasmine. Brenna hasn’t been too interested in the whole princess thing (Ariel has been the only one that has caught her eye), but she fell in love with Jasmine that day and hasn’t stopped talking about her. (see video here!) They discussed how fast they like to go on carpet rides and how Abu the monkey can be very tricky…

We were so excited to have our local CMN staff with us for some of the day at Epcot! (minus one more, who had to leave early unfortunately.) If you look really closely at our Mickey/Minnie ears, you can see the Children’s Miracle Network logo on the right ear…and Brenna’s ears have the Champion designation on the left ear! Between the light-up sneaker pins, the CMN Disney ears, dinner out and much more, our hospital staff really put in a lot of effort to make our trip memorable. We couldn’t be more grateful for their support!

Disney time moves so fast. After a few days at the parks and various Children’s Miracle Network promotions and parties, our last day with CMN was approaching really quickly. But it definitely became a day we will never forget! Our big Children’s Miracle Network finale ceremony day coming next…

My book, A Different Beautiful, is now available for order!

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