ANCHORAGE-Five-year-olds are supposed to run, jump, and play. At least in a perfect world they are. But young Michael’s world is far from perfect. His life is filled with doctors appointments and uncertainty. Michael has osteopetrosis, a very rare and inherited disease that affects the density of his bones and can cause fractures with even the smallest of traumas. This disease has robbed Michael of his vision and left him legally blind. He must use a walking cane to move around when he is out in public or when he is in unfamiliar surroundings. “He understands some of his condition and that he has to use special equipment, but that’s probably it because of his age,” said his father Mike. But no matter what he must battle each day, he still gets happy when he sees a plane or train video, eats a piece of pizza, or sees anything Disney. “I think just seeing all the cartoons, movies, and Disney commercials started it all,” said Mike.
So when Wish Coordinator Terri McConn of Kids Wish Network was told about Michael and his wish to go to Disney World to meet Mickey Mouse, Terri quickly put together a trip beyond his wildest dreams. Not only would Michael 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 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 great,” Mike said about the village.
While at Give Kids the World, Michael and his family ate at the resort’s whimsical restaurants and he absolutely loved eating at the all day ice cream parlor. “I think he loved the remote controlled boats near our villa the best,” said Mike. “Between that and riding the train around the park, it was hard to get him to leave to go to do anything else. He just didn’t want to leave the village.”
During their vacation, Michael and his family enjoyed a full Orlando experience, visiting Walt Disney World theme parks, Universal Studios and Sea World. The village gives the children special buttons to wear when they visit the parks that identify them to the staff as special guests. “It was so great the way the workers and people just came across and showed him such personal attention,” Mike said. “At Universal he got to privately meet Barney and got the Cat in the Hat to sign autographs for him.” A highlight for Michael came at Magic Kingdom in the Toon Town attraction where he was given a behind the scenes tour of Mickey and Minnie’s House. “They took him back there and called on walkie-talkies, ‘This is Big Cheese 1 to Big Cheese 2.’ Michael just loved it,” Mike said. All attractions were compliments of Give Kids the World and Kids Wish Network.
“The entire trip was so overwhelming,” Mike said. “The whole place, all the people, they would see him and take him in. They showed him a lot of love.” Mike said they spent the entire last day of the trip at the village doing what Michael wanted to do the most, ride the trains and play with the boats. “My favorite thing was watching Michael interact with all the characters. I wasn’t there to ride the rides; I was there to watch my son have fun. I hope Kids Wish Network keeps doing what its doing.”
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.