Five Days of Suspended Reality: Part 1
Five Days of Suspended Reality: Part 1
Kidd Kraddick says that the Kidd's Kids trip offers families five days of "suspended reality." He couldn't be more right.
We returned from our trip Monday evening, November 21 exhausted, but exhilarated. Tired, but thankful. Happy, but...no...just happy. The trip was everything we thought it would be and more. Much more.
It all began last Thursday.
After driving by Dallas Children's--let me emphasize the "driving by" part, no stopping necessary!--we arrived at Southwest Airlines Headquarters near Love Field at 10 a.m., right on time. We parked, pulled our luggage out of the van, and carried it only a few feet before we were greeted by a team of Kidd's Kids volunteers and Southwest employees who warmly welcomed us and began checking our luggage. We didn't see or touch it again until it was delivered directly to our hotel room in Orlando Thursday evening.
And so began our royal treatment.
After our luggage was checked, we were surprised--no, "stunned" is a better word--to see three of our favorite Ronald McDonald House staff--Jill, Norma, and Janet--arriving to help see us off! (Just as Southwest Airlines is a huge supporter of Kidd's Kids, they also are significant donors to the RMHD.) We couldn't have been happier to share the departure event with these three ladies who have been such a wonderful support for our family. Or more touched to know they gave up part of their day to spend it with us.
After taking a couple of pictures, we piled into two golf carts and were driven back to the hangar. As we turned the corner, we saw a beautiful and imposing sight--the chartered plane bearing the Kidd's Kids logo, ready and waiting for us to board. If reality hadn't already set in, it did then. We really were going to Disney World.
But first...the departure event!
When we entered the hangar and saw two statues of "Oscar" and a red carpet, we knew we were in for a special time. The hangar was filled with balloons, people, games, and food. It was a real celebration, and, by the way we were treated, we and the other Kidd's Kids families were the celebrities. We had about an hour to enjoy the festivities before boarding.
And we made the most of it--
...took pictures and chatted with Big Al, J-Si, and Kellie Rasberry, all cast members of the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning radio show;
...played on the Wii game system they had available (Abby won "Just Dance" three times in a row!);
...were briefly interviewed by Mix 93.1, the Tyler radio station which broadcasts Kidd's show in our area;
...ate yummy food provided by El Chico and Ultimate Cupcake (strawberry with cream cheese icing...mmmm!);
...met some of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (pretty sure Ray would call that a highlight);
...were introduced to several Southwest Airlines employees, including the pilot of the plane who we learned also sometimes volunteers at the RMHD;
...enjoyed the antics and banter of the cast as they called out the name of each Kidd's Kid;
....walked back down the red carpet, flanked by an enthusiastic, cheering crowd, to board the plane;
...went through a security protocol designed for the special needs of the children;
...clapped (while I choked back tears) when the Love Field firemen gave us a water salute as we turned toward the runway
...and waved back at the watching crowd, many of whom lined the roof of the Southwest Headquarters building, while we taxied down the runway.
I can't imagine a better or more moving send-off.
The plane ride was great with lots of cheering and excitement in the air. We enjoyed meeting some of the Kidd's Kids volunteer medical staff who all serve in different capacities around the metroplex--doctors, nurses, child life specialists, etc. Just like Camp Moss, Anthony's summer heart camp, Kidd's Kids also provides this mind-easing safety net for the families.
After safely arriving at the Orlando airport, we boarded the buses which would take us to the Swan Hotel. Watching the other families de-board the plane was emotional for me. Like many children on the trip, Anthony's illness is not visibly apparent. But other children's are. Many are unable to walk. It was touching to watch Big Al, Kidd, J-Si, and the doctors gently carrying these children down the steep steps off the plane. A brief, but beautiful snapshot of what this trip is all about.
When we arrived at the hotel we were met by more of the Kidd's Kids staff who gave us a bag filled with the key to our room, a cell phone (preprogrammed with the cell numbers of every other family and the medical staff) to use during our stay, and information about the evening's group event. Another bag was waiting for us when we arrived in our room. This one was filled with four days worth of Kidd's Kids t-shirts, five rain ponchos, and five windbreakers embroidered with the Kidd's Kids and Southwest Airlines logos. (I sure wish we had remembered to bring those ponchos with us to Splash Mountain the next day...)
We had just a few minutes to get settled and freshen up before it was time to walk down to the Atlantic Dance Hall on the Disney Boardwalk for a group dinner event. The resort grounds were beautiful and the weather, perfect. Dinner was a delicious buffet with decadent Mickey Mouse ice cream treats for dessert. While we ate, "Psycho Shanon", one of the KKITM's show staff, deejayed. I think our kids sang along through most of the meal!
After dinner, we stood on the balcony of the dance hall which had a beautiful view of the water, the boardwalk, and the big ball at Epcot. Later, a very talented caricature artist drew a picture of Anthony as a master Jedi with R2D2 and C3PO by his side. A depiction of every 8-year-old boy's dream. At least the dream of our 8-year old boy.
Before the night was over, Kidd welcomed the families and introduced Tim Halperin, a former American Idol contestant, who performed three songs for the families, one of which he wrote specifically for this year's Kidd's Kids trip. Afterwards, Belle and the Beast came out for a dance. It was a lovely evening.
Earlier, while we waited in line for dinner, we talked about how excited we all were, how beautiful everything was, and how wonderful the day had been so far. Suddenly, Anthony, with an impish smile on his face, gestured toward himself and said, "And who do you have to thank?"
We all burst into laughter. Who else but Anthony could put a positive spin on a life-threatening medical condition?!
I hugged him and said, "I wish you didn't have this heart defect, but, you're right, we wouldn't be here without you..."
...and Kidd Kraddick, and Southwest Airlines, and the Kidd's Kids staff, and all the generous donors, and our friend Christy who nominated us, and...
So many people.
And so much for which to be thankful.
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