LEBANON-Eleven-year-old Daniel has many loves that bring a sparkle to his eye. Watching baseball, listening to the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, and playing computer games are just a few. He also enjoys watching the Animal Planet and likes to spend time with his own little dachshund. Although it may seem like Daniel’s life is just like that of any boy, it is quite the opposite. He suffers from severe cerebral palsy that has resulted in physical and mental delays and poor muscle tone. He also has speech delays and hearing loss that force him to rely on a picture board and some sign language to communicate. Occasionally, he must even depend upon a wheelchair. His parents feel that Daniel knows he is different from other children, but that he truly doesn’t know what it is that sets him apart. “He’s just always very happy and is always active,” his mother Debbie said. “He loves to talk to people and make them laugh.”
No matter how different Daniel might be on the surface, deep down he has one thing in common with millions of kids: he loves Mickey Mouse. Debbie said whenever he sees a Disney commercial he yells, “Me, mama, me.” So when Wish Coordinator Terri McConn of Kids Wish Network heard about Daniel and his special wish, Terri quickly got him an invitation to Mickey’s home. Not only would Daniel and his family get to enjoy Disney and other exciting Orlando amusement parks, they would soon be sharing special moments at Give Kids the World in Orlando, Florida, a magical resort full of laughter, joy and hugs, catering to the special needs of families who have children with life threatening illnesses. “It was so much more than we could have dreamed of,” Debbie said.
While at Give Kids the World, Daniel and his family ate at the resort’s whimsical restaurants and he made sure to take advantage of the swimming pools. But his favorite part of all was meeting the Disney characters that visit the kids at the village and also getting to spend time with the village’s rabbit mascot, Mayor Clayton. “He danced with Goofy and Pluto, and if he saw Mayor Clayton while we were at dinner we couldn’t even get him to eat; he was just so excited,” Debbie said.
During their vacation, the family enjoyed a full Orlando experience, visiting Walt Disney World theme parks, Universal Studios and Sea World. “I think Daniel enjoyed meeting all the characters as much as all the rides at the parks,” Debbie said. “They were all just so wonderful to him.” All attractions were compliments of Give Kids the World and Kids Wish Network.
“It was better than we ever expected it to be,” said Debbie of their stay at the village. “There definitely isn’t time there to feel sorry for yourself because there is always something special going on.” She said they felt at home because everyone they met at the village understood what they were going through. “I don’t know if anyone will ever know how grateful we are for everything,” she said. “ We didn’t think there could be a place that wonderful. We cried when it was time to come home because we didn’t want to leave.”
Kids Wish Network is a nationally recognized non-profit organization whose mission is to grant wishes to children who have life-threatening illnesses. If you know of a child between the ages of 3 and 18 who may be in need of Kids Wish Network’s wish granting services, please call (813) 891-9374 or toll free at (888) 918-9004. You can also visit Kids Wish Network’s web site at www.kidswishnetwork.org.