Disney World via Make-A-Wish

Thursday, April 8th, 2010 by

Last week I was given the opportunity to join my niece in receiving her wish from Make-A-Wish Foundation to visit Disney World! As many of you know, Naomi is a survivor of Leukemia, and as a survivor, it was suggested that she wait at least a year beyond being in remission before enjoying her wish so that she could have an optimal experience. My sister asked me to join her, our mother and the kids in Florida, and despite my hectic schedule, I couldn’t imagine not taking part in Naomi’s wish.

I flew to Florida two days before everyone else (the flights were cheaper leaving on a Thursday), and hoped to find a space to practice for my upcoming concert. I was happy to discover that the friend who graciously housed me for 2 days lives very close to a piano store! The owner, Teresa Foster, was friendly and kind, and didn’t hesitate a bit when I asked if I could use one of her pianos to practice. Thank God for her generosity. I was so grateful for those practice hours to review my music. If you’re in Jacksonville, FL, go see Teresa at Teresa’s Piano Gallery and buy your piano from her!

I did manage some down time, visiting the Jacksonville Beach and taking a leisurely walk with friends on the rough sand. My feet got a de-facto pedicure…ouch! lol The little rocks digging into my feet didn’t deter me from taking in the beauty of the ocean. After 2 days in Jacksonville, my friend, her daughters and I drove to Orlando to meet my family. We waited, and waited, and waited, and finally Naomi came skipping down the exit hallway at the airport with a huge grin,

ready to start her adventure.
We left the airport, drove a short distance and checked into the Give Kids the World Village, a magical resort built specifically for children who are or have been dealing with a debilitating disease or health condition. Everything about the village is stunning, from the playful colors on the Wonderland-esque buildings, to the genuine kindness, patience and love displayed by the staff and countless volunteers from around the world. The children were in awe, as were we adults. It’s built so that the children who are too sick to enjoy the theme parks can still have a great time. Read all about GKTW on their website.

Photos from the village:

Saturday night was orientation for the parents, and a party for the kids: hula hoops, dancing to music kids like, bowling games, jump ropes, etc. My sister came back from orientation in a daze, utterly overwhelmed with amazement. We did our best to go to bed early despite the excitement, because the days ahead were going to be packed full of fun!

Sunday – Universal Studios. We arrived at the park just before noon (so much for trying to get there early – have you ever tried wrangling 8 people into being out the door early?? Sigh…) My mom had a couple of falls recently, and had to use a wheelchair, but thanks to our being escorted to the FRONT of every line for rides, shows, character photos, etc., she had a great time along with the rest of us. My nephew is a ride fanatic like me, so we were ride buddies. The faster, the more G-forces, the better! We managed to hit almost every ride in BOTH parks and wore ourselves fully out. However, the buzz was strong enough that we stayed up far too late Sunday night. Before falling asleep I noticed that Naomi’s face was hot. Uh-oh…Yep. Fever. We gave her some tylenol to cut the fever and prayed for the best. By morning, Naomi said she felt better, so we went forward with our plans.

Monday – Disney Animal Kingdom. This particular Disney park didn’t offer an escort to the front of the line, but we were allowed to enter the Fast Pass lanes, which made the wait significantly less than other folks standing in the regular lines, but slowed down our pace enough that we could only see this one park. But we had a blast! We did a safari, rode several rides, and the kids were invited to dance with the cast in the Lion King performance.

We had planned to head back to the village for dinner (3 meals per day per person are provided at the village – gratis), take a nap and then head back to the Magic Kingdom. I’ve always heard that it’s amazing at night. But alas, Naomi was feeling terrible. Nina took her to the clinic and the diagnosis came back: strep throat! That meant that Naomi had to stay in bed all day on Tuesday. Since the fatigue had hit my mother particularly hard (the long flight, sitting all day in a wheel chair, etc.), it was decided that she’d stay at the villa with Naomi while my sister, nephew and I went to Disney Hollywood and Epcot. It was fun, but we missed Naomi and mom…

After lunch at Epcot, I had to go to the airport and fly home. I was only able to spend 3 days with the family because I had a concert on Wednesday at noon with soprano,

Dr. Candace Johnson, at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall. Considering my lack of sleep, jet lag, and insufficient practice time (thanks to being a kid again in Orlando!), the performance went very well. I so love playing “Classical” music.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to witness Naomi’s joy in meeting her most beloved characters, being escorted to the front of every line for rides, participating in a theatrical presentation of the Lion King and just having a grand time. I’ll never forget the smiles on the kids faces. Magical…

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 8th, 2010 at 3:21 am and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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