In summer 2015, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois called to tell us that Brenna had been referred to receive a Wish.
We initially were very hesitant, because like many people, we held the misconception that Make-A-Wish is for terminal children. But the staff member explained that for children to receive a Wish, they have to have a “life-threatening” condition. “Receiving a Wish is a special event for these children and their family members, a much-needed break from the daily routines of health care and medications, that allows the kids just to be kids,” she told me.
And so, the following year, Wish granters began working with Brenna to figure out her ultimate Wish. It took a while, because she was so young, but eventually, she landed on her dream: a limo ride and breakfast with Minnie Mouse!
On March 15, a long limousine showed up to our door to whisk us to the airport for Disney World!
We settled on mid-March for our trip, because we would already be heading to Orlando for the finale of Brenna’s Champion ambassadorship for Children’s Miracle Network. We figured it would be easier to travel once, so we ended up having a two-part trip… 5 days with CMN and 6 days with Make-A-Wish. It became one of the most unbelievably incredible trips I could imagine for our family!
When you head to Disney World through Make-A-Wish, you stay at the most magical place: Give Kids the World Village. This entire place is meant to make magic come alive for the children, and it was such a privilege to spend our time here.At GKTW, they have a carousel (the mushroom shown above), an arcade, miniature golf, an awesome pool and splash pad, movie theater and more. Most of the people working are volunteers, and since we went in March, there were many groups of college kids volunteering on their spring breaks. GKTW has great meal options in their dining hall and they even deliver pizza …which, as you can imagine, Brenna was pumped about!
We were especially thrilled because my parents made the trip with us and were able to experience all of our kids’ excitement (and, fun perk, offer some extra hands for when Evan and I wanted to steal away to ride Space Mountain!)
Not only is it wonderful to have so much on site at GKTW because none of the attractions were ever crowded, but the Village also brings in characters from all of the Orlando parks to meet the kids here. When we walked in the first morning, it was starry eyes for Connor and Brenna… because, MICKEY.
They gave hugs, Brenna blew kisses, and Mickey signed the foot of Brenna’s stuffed Mickey. It was a spectacular way to start the week.
And then Brenna tried to grab Pluto’s nose 🙂
One of the most special treats at Give Kids the World is the Ice Cream Palace. Ice cream is available from morning until night, even for breakfast if you want! Everyone really loves their ice cream here. Instead of “enjoy your day” or “goodbye,” the common conversation closing is “enjoy your ice cream!”
Each villa here is 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, with a living room and kitchen, and one of those bathrooms is fully handicapped accessible. In contrast to most hotels, it was so convenient to have such a large tub and space to do Brenna’s bath routine while staying here.
The Village hosts all kinds of activities each day. There are games, events at the pool or golf course, character visits, and each week they do a Halloween party, Christmas party with Santa, and a birthday party for the village mayor, Mayor Clayton, who is a giant bunny (and perhaps, as we speculated, some sort of cousin to the Easter Bunny).
On our third day at Disney, we took a day off after two days at the parks and played at Give Kids the World most of the day. The kids went horseback riding, and it was Brenna’s first time riding on a horse.
We also spend some time at Matthew’s Boundless Playground, which is a fully accessible playground here… the best part for us? It has a big covering to protect the playground from the sun! Yea shade! The playground is also home to a life-sized Candy Land game, which we of course had to play.
The pool was warm enough for Brenna, another huge plus since most pools are too cold for her. I can’t get over how adorable her new swimsuit and hat are from SwimZip. Let’s be real: even if she never ventures into the water, she’ll still be the most stylish one at the pool.
Give Kids the World truly gave our family the opportunity to relax and enjoy 6 beautiful days of gorgeous weather with so much to do, see and experience. And eat. (ALL THE ICE CREAM.) What could be better? Tickets to the parks, obviously!
We took advantage of our long stay and all of the assistance provided by GKTW/Make-A-Wish/CMN to experience SeaWorld, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom twice, Epcot twice, the Wide World of Sports, Hollywood Studios, and downtown Disney Springs twice. Coming up next… our park days and breakfast with Minnie and friends!
My book, A Different Beautiful, is now available for order!
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