Where Dreams Come True

Where Dreams Come True

Side Note:  if you don’t want to read my long-winded tendancy style of writing my emotions and details…scroll down to the bottom to see the pictures – it’s long too.

Hope everyone had a blessed Christmas! We had a simple Christmas yesterday with Bob’s dad Drew and his brother, Matt. My folks are out in Phoenix with my brother in his family for the holidays and should be home soon! The kids are super excited to see their grandparents and have yet another Christmas (which means more presents!)
We have actually been celebrating Christmas for a month now! November 26th we embarked on an experience that was most definitely once in a lifetime!
There are just too many emotions and experiences that we had to describe it in words. The best way to describe it is that we felt like celebrities everywhere we went! We were taken care of so very well, ate like kings and the magic of it all…just so unbelievable.
Give Kids the World is like no other place you EVER have been or ever will go. It is completely a fantasy world that you live in, for 7 days. There is so much joy in that place. I have never in my life experienced true joy as I did while we were there. Granted, there have been joyful moments in my life…wedding day, birth of kids and such, but nothing like this. I can’t tell you how many times I was in tears because of the pure joy of the moment.

I would love to write out everything we did and the emotions we experienced, but we would be here for a while! Here are the highlights. I will say I always thought “Disney World, Where Dreams Come True” and “The Happiest Place on Earth” was so cliche. But now I understand it. Dreams do come true there and it is one of the happiest places I have ever been in my life. I don’t know whether it was just Disney World or just all of it. Make-A-Wish, Disney, Universal, Sea World, the Ocean, Shaun Murray, GKTW made it where Kaston’s dreams came true and brought us to one of the most happiest places we have ever been.

Note: Disney World is actually 4 parks – none of which we really understood until we were there and Bob still doesn’t get!
Magic Kingdom = the Castle
Hollywood Studios = the Hat
Animal Kingdom = the Tree
Epcot = the Ball

Day 1 Travel to Florida
Being greeted with a sign with Kaston’s name at the airport
Our villa – it was decorated for Christmas!
Day 2:
ice cream after breakfast
Animal Kingdom – The Lion King (I cried during “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. We played that song during our wedding (a really long time ago!)
Hollywood Studios – Star Tours and Kaston getting to fight Darth Vader during the Jedi Training
ice cream when we got back to the village
Day 3 Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit – 17 stories straight up while Motley Crue is blasting in your head followed by the most awesome roller coaster ride ever!
Kaston got chosen as a volunteer for Animal Actors on Location.
Ice cream at the village
Day 4
Ice cream after lunch
Boggy Creek Boat Ride and Relax at the Village
Saw a bald eagle and alligators in their natural habitat, held a baby gator
The Village…again, no place like it. Kids swam, they did their magic pillows and Kaston did his Castle of Miracles Star, Korah got a manicure and they did tattoos, rode on the carousel, played putt-putt, pool, video games, had Christmas Dinner, ate ice cream, met Santa, got presents, had a parade, made ornaments, cookies, snow cones, played in the snow, danced. I cried, again. To see the joy in the children’s faces and within these families is something I have never experienced. The volunteers that make it happen…so much joy. So many of the kids are in wheelchairs and have obvious physical and mental impairments. But to see the pain released and the outward joy of so many people that struggle every.single.day just to survive is an amazing experience. We are blessed.
Day 5
Eric from Mauiva Air Tours took us flying over Orlando!
It was amazing and Kaston flew the plane most of the time…seriously. We flew over Epcot and the others and then headed to Epcot, which was my favorite park by far. They were all amazing, but Epcot is geared more towards adult in my opinion.
Highlights…Mission Space, Soarin’, the food, margaritas and daquiries, the most amazing fireworks show EVER! Think about the best fireworks show you’ve ever seen. Now, multiply that by 1000. And to watch my kids faces and their smiles…there’s not enough money in the world to ever recreate that magical moment in time. We did not want to leave Epcot. We sat for awhile at the front and just basked in the joy of our hearts. And had our picture taken.
Day 6 Magic Kingdom
It’s nostaligic. We did the nostalgic rides…for me. I wanted the Jungle Cruise experience, the Dumbo experience and the Tea Cup pictures, like you see on the commercial and we have all wondered and dreamt about since we were kids and understood what Disney was. So my family went along with it. And it was fun. Not thrilling fun, but nostalgic fun. We loved Space Mountain and rode it twice. Just being there was fun. It was a little crowded, as they were filming the Disney Christmas Parade and lots of celebrities were there (which we did NOT get to watch yesterday and I forgot to TiVo it…stupid stupid stupid!) but it was so Christmassy, so amazing. Again, such a fabulous fireworks show…it’s called Wishes. How appropriate! Tears for me again. Loved the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster. Only got to ride it once because it was down for part of the day. Would totally love to have rode it again. Hall of Presidents was really neat and I was so proud that my kids new every single president, in order. Unlike the man behind us that didn’t even know who Abraham Lincoln was.

I will say this about Disney. No one, I mean No One, does it like Disney. Their staff (or cast members) are amazing, their facilities are amazing, their attention to detail…amazing. This may seem stupid, but even their bathroom facilities were the best. Every door shut properly, they were always clean, always had toilet paper. More companies and businesses need to take note of how this works. Disney employs over 65,000 people in central Florida! And they do it right.
Another great thing about ALL of the parks we went to was that they treated us like royalty. Kaston was given a GKTW button with his name on it with our village dates. That was the magical button. It gave us special access to wherever we wanted to go. We never waited more than 10 minutes for any ride. We had special seating everywhere we went…front and center. We were IN FRONT of Fast Pass most of the time, or simply ushered to the exit where we were promptly put on a ride. Alot of times, it was, “Right this way, we’ve been waiting for you!” GKTW has an amazing partnership with the Disney, Universal and Sea World corporations and every.single.person we came into contact knew exactly who we were.  Not us as the Snyder’s, but us, as guests of Give Kids the World.  From the parking ticket taker (which of course, we had complimentary and at the very front of every park), to the ticket turnstile workers to the photographers that took tons of pictures of us, complimentary of course.  We were definitely spoiled and it will be hard to go to another theme park again!

Day 7  Departure and Sea World

We didn’t want to leave.   I cried.  Again.  Not because I was sad, but that me and my family got to experience what we did and that so many people volunteered their time, money and hearts to make it happen for us.  Not just us, but for 100,000 children and their families.  We ate breakfast, had 1 last ice cream palace visit and headed out after visiting the House Of Hope.  A place that talks about Henry Landwirth’s amazing story of being a Holocaust survivor.  A place of dedication to the hundreds of companies and individuals that have donated money and hard work and where a hand shake actually meant something.  A place of dedication to the thousands of individuals that volunteer their time, every single week, to make this happen for families like ours.  Although we had to check-out, we will definitely be going back in the future (which we are always welcome to visit at any time since we are now considered alumni) and we will volunteer.  I am already looking forward to it.

After we left, we had to take care of the rental van to extend it to the next week and we headed to Sea World.  It’s Bob’s all-time favorite park.  We had so much fun!  Kaston, FINALLY got the nerve up to ride a big roller coaster, the Manta.  He cried the first few seconds and then it was pure happiness and excitement from there.  We rode it and the other big coaster twice.  The shows are always great, of course.  We got to feed the dolphins and pet the sting rays.  We went on the Polar Express simulator and sat front and center at the Shamu Christmas show, Miracles.  Again, so appropriate.  We weren’t in the splash zone, we were in the SOAKED zone.  Great fireworks show, again, and peppermint hot chocolate. 

We were changing out of our wet clothes in the parking lot trying to decide where to go from there.  We were winging it the rest of the week.  Which, if you know me, kinda freaked me out a little.  It was 10:00 at night, I had no reservations and had no idea where we were going!  So, we decided we wanted to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic so we drove to Cocoa Beach!  We found a great hotel right next to the pier and fell asleep with our balcony door open to the sound of the waves crashing ashore!  My familie’s first ocean experience!

Day 8 Cocoa Beach

Bob arose with the sun and caught his first glimpse of the ocean.  He went to the pier and had coffee and chatted with the fisherman.  He absolutely loved it.  We did breakfast and headed down the A1A (Beach Front Avenue) to find a cooler and go to Ron Jon’s, the largest surf shop in America!  It was our kinda place!  We hung out on the beach all day, played in the surf, the kids did some boogie boarding and Korah & I collected sea shells.  She even found a complete sand dollar.  We went swimming in the heated pool later (the ocean is cold!) and cleaned up for a fabulous seafood dinner on the Pier.

Day 9  Woke up with the sun rising again of the Atlantic.  We wanted to hit the Kennedy Space Center for a few hours before we left the Space Coast for Orlando.  We only had 3 hours there and it was really really cool.  We could have spent all day there but had to get back to Orlando for a 2:00 appointment with professional wake-boarder, Shaun Murray.  I had been emailing his wakeboarding school since we found out we were going to be in Florida.  During the time that we had available, there wasn’t going to be anyone at The Boarding School, so Shaun emailed us and said to just come by his house and we could hang out for awhile and he and Kaston could ride together.  So we headed back to Orlando and found his house.  Of course it was gated, so he rides his skateboard up the drive-way to meet us at the gate and we follow him to the back of his house.  We are sitting in Shuan Murray’s drive-way, staring at his boat dock and lake.  What a very surreal feeling.  His wife, Kerri, and their little girl were waiting outside with professional wake-boarder Emily Copeland Durham and her daughter.  Emily is one of Korah’s favorite riders as well.  It was just so crazy that we were sitting there visiting with these athletes and their families that my kids have pictures and autographs on their walls of.  We headed out to the dock and hopped in Shaun’s ($108k) Nautique.  Aaron Perkins was driving…he’s another big name in wakeboarding and another one of Shaun’s neighbors, as is Emily.  So Shaun went first and was just doing his thing, throwing out tricks like it was nothing!  Tantrums and raleys and backside 180s and half cabs and whirleybird 540s (which he invented along with the bell air, egg roll and tweety bird)  CRAZY!  So then he busts and tells Kaston to come on out in the water with him.  So they ride together for awhile.  He teaches him to deep water start and to switch and is just instructing him out there.  He falls a few times and as we’re passing by he tells us to get our cameras ready…he’s gonna do a Raley over Kaston.  Got the video – got the picture!  Amazing.  They called it quits after that as the water was pretty cool and Kaston was turning blue.  We headed to the dock and he asked if we had plans, of course which we did not – again!  He asked if we wanted to go back out in the boat because he needed to do some filming for a movie he was making.  So he got his RC airplane that was rigged up with a camera and they went out and did some filming.  I stayed on the dock and just took it all in!  Once they were done filming, we just hung out.  I visited with Kerri and his daughter while the kids jumped on the trampoline with Shaun.  We finally figured we needed to head out so Shaun busted out sponsor stickers and autographed some pics.  Which by the way, his sponsors include Nautique, Fox , Jet Pilot life jackets, Hyperlite, Cobian, HDX, Springfree Trampolines, the Boarding School, thisizmystory.com, 2012 Detention, Performance Ski & Surf.  And he has his own line of boards, bindings, ropes, rope handles, boardshorts, clothes, helps design the boats.  He is the Tiger Woods of Wakeboarding.  And we went to his house and rode in his boat and Kaston wakeboarded with him!  This day was a wish in itself (actually, it was Kaston’s back-up wish when Make-A-Wish came to our house!)  So very grateful to Shaun and Kerri and Aaron for making it possible. 

After leaving Shaun’s, we headed to the Gulf of Mexico.  Can you believe you can drive across Florida in 3 hours?  That’s just crazy to me!  We drive 3 hours and are only 1/2 way to Dallas!  Clearwater Beach was our next destination.  We stayed at another hotel on the beach.  We ate at Frenchy’s…on the beach, and it was the best seafood I have ever had in my life!  Don’t know if I’ll ever be able to eat at Red Lobster or Pappadeux ever again!

Day 10 Korah figured out that there was an aquarium at Clearwater and come to find out it happen to be the home of Winter, the dolphin from the movie Dolphin Tale.  So we decided to check it out and it was an extra special unexpected, unplanned treat for us!  Clearwater Marine Aquarium is basically an animal hospital and the place where they filmed Dolphin Tale.  We basically were at the movie set, talked to cast members and saw Winter, up close and personal.  We took a ferry over to another area where they had the props and all the stuff related to the movie.  After that, we did a little shopping and headed to the beach.  Bob went and got snorkeling gear from across the street and Korah snorkelled, looking for sea shells.  It was pretty cold so Kaston snorkelled in the heated pool!  It was a nice relaxing afternoon, except for the sea gulls that attacked me and hit me in the head!  We watched the sunset down by the pier and looked at all the street vendors and entertainers and had yet another amazing dinner.  Back at the hotel, we hung out by the pool, which was on the beach, that had a small outdoor bar.  The kids were swimming and we were sitting on the beach at the bar having a beer – all within 20 yards from each other!  What a life! 

Day 11  We headed back to Orlando and did some shopping and checked into Disney’s All Star Music Resort.  What a fun hotel.  Again, no one does it like Disney!  The kids swam in the piano shaped pool and then the guitar shaped pool.  We headed back to our Rock N Roll hotel room with 2 story guitars on the front of it.  Headed to Downtown Disney for dinner.  We could have spent all day there if we had only known what it was!  They had shopping and dining and boat rides and arcades and live music.  It was great!  We rode a giant hot air balloon, Characters of Flight, that goes up 400 feet in the air.  Kaston wanted to do Disney Quest, the giant arcade with simulators where you can create your own rollercoaster and then ride it, but we didn’t have enough time.  It was a fabulous evening to end our once in a lifetime vacation.

Really, there are no words that can begin to describe what we got to do and experience.  I wanted to tell you all about this because what Make-A-Wish does and what Give Kids the World does is so important.  I simply can not wait to get involved more with these organizations and can only hope that I can be a part of helping a chronically ill child’s wish come true some day.  And I can only hope and wish that one day in the future, we can plan another family vacation to central Florida, and volunteer at Give Kids the World.  So if you ever want to support something, these 2 organizations are at the top of the list (of course, next to Mended Little Hearts!)  They’ve got a good thing going on and we are so very thankful that we have become a part of  and been blessed beyond words by these organizations.   

Without further ado…enjoy!