Miranda’s Make-A-Wish trip 2013

Posted by Karen - March 24th, 2013

Posted by Karen

Our family arrived home late last night from our long-awaited, fantastic, marvelous trip to Florida.  Such a wonderful vacation…  Where to even begin describing it?

Well, how about beginning here…  Our trip was arranged for and funded by the great folks at Make-A-Wish BC & Yukon.  In case you’re not familiar with MAW, it’s a charity devoted to granting special “wishes” for children with life-threatening illnesses.  My daughter Miranda qualified because of her Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva.  Many kids with FOP have been granted wishes by MAW, including my co-blogger Suzanne’s daughter Erin McCloskey a couple of years ago.  FOP qualifies because it does, unfortunately, shorten a person’s lifetime, and in some instances, kids with FOP have passed away before reaching adulthood.  MAW experiences, however, aren’t about facing the reality of FOP or other distressing medical conditions…  They’re about fun, happiness and love.  The child selects a thing they’d particularly like to do, and then MAW makes it happen.  The child and family then get to have the fun of enjoying the wish, whether it involves travel, meeting a celebrity, or some other activity.  In our case, Miranda picked…  A trip to Disney World!

To be more exact, the trip was to a place called Give Kids the World Village on the outskirts of Orlando, Florida.  The idea of GKTW is that you go there for a week and stay in one of their villas, enjoy fun activities at the village and get free passes to Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World and other attractions in the area.  GKTW is itself a charitable organization, and provides accommodation to families through various wish granting charities.

The whole thing started off for us with a great bon voyage party on Friday, March 15 at the White Spot (local British Columbia restaurant chain) on North Road.  Our wish granting volunteer, Carmen, met us there for food, fun and lots of gifts for Miranda and her brother Owen.  It was a great party, complete with Disney themed cake.  :-)

The next day, Saturday, we woke up bright and early and drove to the airport to fly to Florida via connecting flight through Winnipeg.  We flew Westjet, which had given us a bunch of great gifts at our pre-trip party.  The Westjet folks were also super nice and helpful as we got on the plane, Miranda bouncing off the walls with excitement, ha ha.  It was a long trip, during which we also lost 3 hours of time (kind of like a really extreme daylight savings time change, LOL).  But…  At the other end there was a volunteer greater from GKTW, Stephen, who met us, made sure we got to our rental car and made it smoothly on our way to GKTW Village.  At GKTW, we were quickly signed in and directed to our villa, the townhouse-style residence where we stayed for the week.  All this travel stuff went off without a hitch and was as easy as it could have possibly been, thanks to Westjet, MAW and GKTW.

Our villa was great.  It had a small kitchen area, a comfortable living room with TV, 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.  The kids’ bathroom was particularly impressive, with 2 sinks and a big, spacious wheelchair accessible shower and tub with whirlpool jets.  The outside was made to look fun and cartoon-like, with sort of a fairy-tale vibe to it.  For those in the know about GKTW Village, our villa was on the far side of the playground, in the newer area (built about 5 years ago, I understand).  We were very much at home staying there.  One very nice touch was that there was a stuffed Mickey Mouse toy awaiting Miranda at the villa upon our arrival – Miranda was thrilled about this.

Though our villa had a kitchen, we never cooked there.  Instead, all the meals we ate in the village were provided for us by a few different village restaurant options including the Ice Cream Palace, the Gingerbread House and Katie’s Kitchen.  The food there was very good and wholesome, especially the amazing breakfasts at the Gingerbread House.  Many days in a row, Miranda greatly enjoyed eating their specially prepared waffles with whipped cream and sprinkles made to look like Mickey Mouse.  :-)

Gingerbread House from the outside...

...and on the inside. Check out the whimsical decor.

And so, finally, the theme parks…  We did a whirlwind tour, let me tell you.  The first full day, Sunday the 17th, we decided to have a quieter day to ease us into everything.  We spent the morning walking around the GKTW Village and doing fun things there, including 2 games of “dinosaur mini-golf” (perfect for my mini-golf loving kids), some video games and a ride on the carousel.  That afternoon, we went to Gatorland, one of the smaller theme parks in the area devoted to, you guessed it, alligators.  We saw lots, and lots, and lots of gators there….  And Miranda even got a gator painted on her face.

The next day we began our tour of the major parks.  Between Monday and Friday, we did Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Epcot Centre, Universal Studios, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park and Disney’s Magic Kingdom.  We did lots of rides, met lots of characters (and Miranda got autographs in her special book from almost every one), spent time in the sun, bought souvenirs, ate theme park food, etc, etc, etc.  All the parks were amazing, and luckily we had a special pass for people with disabilities which got us past many of the long lines (this was particularly helpful at the uber-crowded Magic Kingdom).  What did Miranda like the best?  She says the Magic Kingdom.  For me though, it was the Typhoon Lagoon water park, which was different from the other days in that it involved water slides, a wave pool and a “lazy river” for floating on inner tubes (ah heaven – and it wasn’t even very crowded that day).

By the silver globe at Epcot


With Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

In front of the famous Disney castle

Miranda was a bundle of energy throughout all this.  Many of our FOP family friends who’ve been on a Florida wish trip recommended getting a stroller/wheelchair to use to preserve the wish child’s strength as they manoeuvre through the very big and tiring parks.  While I think this is very good advice, it wasn’t advice which we needed to follow.  Miranda has an unbelievable amount of stamina for this sort of stuff, and seemed to get by with only a modest amount of rest time.  I often asked her if she wanted to stop and take a break, and she almost NEVER said yes.  She was like the proverbial bunny from the battery commercial, go go go go go.  Frankly, she wore me and her dad out!

On the day we went to Typhoon Lagoon, we met up that evening at GKTW Village with Paula Zamudio and her son Nathan, an 11 year old boy who has FOP like Miranda.  Nathan and his family live in Florida, so it was a good opportunity to meet.  We had a short but sweet visit.  It’s always so great to get together with other FOP families and share our common experiences.

We spent our last full day at the Magic Kingdom.  That’s where Miranda discovered the joy of Disney pin trading.  You see, it turns out that if you buy a pin trader’s starter kit – lanyard with 4 pins attached – you can then trade pins with any Disney staff with a pin collection, and in fact the staff are required to trade with you.  Miranda was ALL OVER that…  She kept an eagle-eye out for Disney “cast members” (as they call them) and engaged in a number of pin trades.

We were scheduled to fly home late in the afternoon of our last day, so there was still time for one more theme park that day.  As such, we went to Sea World, the only place we hadn’t been to.  Though Miranda and her brother are well familiar with ocean animals from our local Vancouver Aquarium, they still really enjoyed seeing sharks, sea lions and all manner of other animals before we left for the airport.

Miranda was very sad to be leaving Florida, and GKTW Village in particular.  She said a number of times that she really wished the trip wasn’t over and that we could stay longer.  But, all good things must come to an end.  Here we are now, back at home and facing a mountain of laundry.  Good thing we have such great memories of our vacation, and a couple of hundred photos to look at and remind us how special and amazing the trip was.



6 Responses to “Miranda’s Make-A-Wish trip 2013”

  1. Saskia says:

    Wow! It really sounds like a wonderful trip! These kind of things really give you the energy to go on. You’ll remember this your entire life! Hope to meet you (again) in November!

  2. Blair says:

    This is so awesome I don’t know where to start. I’m jealous! But not really because I’m glad you guys got to do this :)

  3. Krystle says:

    Sounds like an amazing trip from start to finish!

  4. Paula Zamudio says:

    Karen,Miranda and family. It was such a blessing to meet up with you all, at GKTW. It brought back alot of grreat memories for Nathan and me from wish trip. What a blast we had.I am blown way at the energy Miranda has. Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us on FB and inviting us into you beautiful villa.and your busy and exhausting trip! It sure meant alot! Hope to meet up again. God bless!

  5. Stacy Scoble says:

    Sounds like a great trip, but honestly with MAW & GKTW you can’t go wrong. We went at the same time as the McCloskey’s. Our villa’s were side by side. What an amazing trip. I am so glad Miranda had a blast, she totally deserves it. Love the pictures!


  6. Heather says:

    Hi I’m Heather! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog! LifesABanquet1(at)gmail.com

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