Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dreams Come True & Give Kids the World

Happy 2015!

It's been quite a while since my last blog post. Now that life is back to normal after the Christmas season, I wanted to share some of our pictures from our recent trip to Orlando. It's a lengthy post but I share lots of pictures :)

Dreams Come True (DCT)

In December, Dreams Come True of Louisiana presented Lily with a Disney vacation so she could meet Mickey Mouse, Olaf, and feed a dolphin (which were her "dreams" she told "Auntie Pam" a Dream-mom during her initial interview). Pam's son Trevor, a former "Dream" child, presented the Disney packet on a pillow with a crown and single red rose to Lily - her personal Prince Charming! Lily had no idea she was going to receive this dream trip so she was a little confused and shy, but Luke was excited enough for the both at the announcement.

Two weeks later we were off to Disney!

Our trip was planned for the week before Christmas (yea, Disney at Christmastime!). But, as our luck would have it, Lily had a mild case of the flu a week before we were to leave. We were all given Tamiflu and soon on our way.

This trip would also be the first time the kids ever flew! My husband and I are not a fan of flying so we were all a little nervous at first. The kids had so much fun viewing the world from above the clouds.

On our way to the airport.
My plane ride face.
Waiting to board our plane.
"There's...someone on the
"It's GOOD."

Enjoying peanuts and Sprite.

We are forever grateful to DCT for accepting Lily as a Dream Child. Please visit the DCT website to learn more about this great organization and how you can help them continue providing a variety of dreams to other children with life-threatening illnesses.

Give Kids the World Village (GKTW)

DCT sends their families to stay at Give Kids the World Village. From the moment we stepped off the plane, Lily was treated like a rock star!

Simply put, GKTW Village is wonderful! We could have spent all week just at the Village enjoying the activities for the kids. The two phrases we heard the entire week were "Welcome Home" and "Eat ice cream for breakfast!" Both, so true. I have never been to a place that is almost entirely run by volunteers from all over the world, who greet you every day with a genuine smile from ear to ear, happy to help, and thanked us for letting them help. We never carried a tray of food to our table. Ice cream scoops were piled to the sky, layered with sprinkles and chocolate syrup. Little gifts were left for the kids by a 'gift fairy' every day. And, the environment was safe, clean, and just adorable.

After a tour of the venues, lunch, and all the ice cream we could eat (yep, they even had lactose-free ice cream for my husband), we were escorted to our villa - our home for the week. Seriously, it was like a little house - 2 BR/2 BA, kitchen, living area, carport, Christmas tree and outdoor Christmas lights. Precious! Every time we drove to our Villa, I was tickled how the Village was setup like a subdivision.

Please visit their website to learn more about the GKTW Village, for a virtual tourand/or how you can help this truly remarkable place:) My bucket list now has a new entry: to volunteer at GKTW!

Lily's Star

GKTW gives a small gold star to every Wish Child who has stayed at the Village. Each child writes their name (or a little drawing) on the star and at night "The Star Fairy" magically places the star on the ceiling of the Castle of Miracles. The next day, the kids are invited back to find where their star was placed. There are literally thousands of stars in the castle - it's really quite beautiful.

Lily wrote her name and drew a flower on her star. The Star Fairy placed her star in one of the circle "galaxies" of the castle tower.

Lily's star is next to her new star-friends.
"Galaxies" of stars in the castle tower (it is very tall).
Thousands of stars on the ceiling and this is just one side of the castle!
Stars flow down columns and wooden flags that hang from the ceiling. 

Other activities at GKTW

The kids enjoyed the many activities offered at GKTW - a little spa treatment to get fingernails painted and airbrushed tattoos, nighttime celebrations, horseback riding, carousel rides, video games, train rides, personal visits from the Disney characters, and so much more!

I just love this picture!

Our Vacation Outside GKTW

Our vacation package graciously included 3-Day WDW Park Hopper pass, 2-Day Universal pass, and a Sea World pass. Needless to say, we were busy and I took a thousand pictures. Here's a few...

Our first day was spent at the Magic Kingdom -- where I believe every Disney vacation should begin! In total Disney-style, we received some extra Magic from a special friend with VIP seating for two parades, a private meet-n-greet with a few of the kids favorite characters, and Lily received TLC at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

We loved our Fairy Godmother in Training.
Time to add some pixie dust!
Even The Queen was sprinkled with pixie dust!
My beautiful princess!

Another unexpected treat we received as part of the GKTW vacation package was a "Genie Wish" pass which basically granted us fast pass access to every ride and character meeting!

I had plans to make this our Christmas card :) 

We did go to EPCOT but that was the "family fight" day -- oh you know, the day when no one can agree on anything and kids are tired because of all the excitement from the first day -- every family has one of those on vacation. LOL! We survived.

The next day we decided to go to the Kennedy Space Center since free admission was given to GKTW families. My son, Luke, is really into space and science so we could not pass up this opportunity for him. As much as I love theme parks, I have to say this day was my favorite. I was so impressed by the history of the center. I honestly could not get enough pictures to show the enormity of the exhibits. It really is a must see!

Mission Control simulation.
This exhibit was ginormous!

What's a vacation without some silly family fun!

We decided to be a brave and daring family and tackle 3 parks in one day - first off Animal Kingdom, then Hollywood Studios, and finally Magic Kingdom to do some things we didn't get to do on the first day. The kids really enjoyed the Animal Kingdom and finding all of the Wilderness Explorers badges. I wish we would have stayed longer knowing that was such a popular activity.

Next, we were off to park #2 of the day - Hollywood Studios.

It's the little details that make
me love Disney so much!

We have a special place in our hearts for Frozone ;)
Seems to be real snow! Ice cold!

Olaf is home :)
We found my cousin who joined us for the rest of the night.

After the viewing The Osborn Family lights (which were relocated since I last saw them 12 years ago), we moved on to park #3 of the day - Magic Kingdom. Once we visited the talking Mickey and Tinkerbell, Lily didn't last much longer...she was out. 

Tinkerbell is too cute.
So pretty!

We spent our last full day at Universal Studios and of course it was the only day it rained. The entire week was gorgeous!

Minions, Bumblebee, and Spongbob - oh my!

Brendon loves his classic cars!
"Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads."

Personally, I was excited to see the new Harry Potter section at Universal. Luke really enjoyed it and I think it spearheaded him to start reading the books now. I'm one proud mama, but that's another post for another day. As far as the new area, well done, again. This is my favorite picture - so awesome.
How do I get to Platform 9 3/4?

Finally, we spent a few hours at Sea World before flying home. Lily got to feed the dolphins! This was a unique experience and the dolphins were so darn cute. We were able to catch a dolphin show and Shamu show where the boys wanted to sit in the "splash zone"...naturally, they got soaked!

Flying home.
I know that we have been extremely blessed to have such a short run with cancer. I truly thank God every day for this when I look at my beautiful daughter. My prayers are even stronger for families with children who are dealing with tougher battles. Through our journey, I've run out of words to express my gratitude for the overwhelming generosity and support we have received. My life has certainly been changed for the better because of this experience.

I have always had a fairly positive attitude towards the heart of humanity in general, but I wish our world can one day be like what we've experienced from St. Jude, Dreams Come True, and Give Kids the World. I think their philosophies of faith, love, and a little pixie dust is the real key to peace.

Again, our heartfelt thanks to DCT and GKTW for giving us these lasting memories - not only granting Lily her dreams but allowing our entire family to share them with her.


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