BIRMINGHAM-The magical world of Disney has cast a spell on little four-year-old Cassandra. Her favorite toy is a Minnie Mouse doll, her favorite song is “When You Wish Upon A Star”, and her favorite movie stars are Cinderella and Minnie Mouse. But no matter how much joy these things bring to her life, they cannot make up for the pain she lives with on a daily basis. Cassandra was born with a severe skin disease called epidermolysis bullosa that results in massive blistering of the skin with even the slightest trauma or temperature change. Just rubbing her skin can cause the blisters to form. These sores also put her at risk for scarring on the mouth and esophagus, which can lead to feeding and swallowing difficulties. But despite all she goes through, she is a very happy and active child. “Nothing really stops her,” said her mother, Melanie. “She’ll keep going until she has blisters on the bottoms of her feet.”
So when Wish Coordinator Kara Stecker of Kids Wish Network heard about Cassandra and her wish to go to Disney World to visit some of the characters that bring her happiness, Kara quickly got her an invitation to their playground in Florida. Not only would Cassandra and her 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 wonderful, everyone was fantastic,” said Melanie.
While at Give Kids the World, Cassandra and her family ate at the resort’s whimsical restaurants, like the all day Ice Cream Parlor with its graham cracker roof. “She loved the ice cream so much I thought she was going to turn into a strawberry ice cream cone,” Melanie said. They also took part in all the fun-filled activities offered to all of its special guests, and Cassandra even got tucked into bed by the park’s rabbit mascot, Mayor Clayton, her self-proclaimed ‘favorite buddy in the whole world’. “The staff really took the time to do special things for the kids,” said Melanie. “They talked to the kids and really got to know them. They were just incredible.”
During their vacation, the family enjoyed a full Orlando experience, visiting Walt Disney World theme parks, Universal Studios and Sea World. But Cassandra’s favorite thing was just meeting all the characters at all the parks, especially Minnie Mouse and Cinderella. “She just wanted to keep going back to them again and again,” Melanie said. “She loved them so much that she asked them to come to our house for a dinner party when we got back home.” All attractions were compliments of Give Kids the World and Kids Wish Network.
“She was treated like a queen by everyone there; they just make the children feel so special and show that they care,” said Melanie. Cassandra’s mother even has her own favorite memory of the entire trip. “I just burst into tears when I saw the excited look on her face when all the characters came out of Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom,” Melanie said. “I knew right then it was the happiest she’s been in her whole life. It was an amazing experience.”
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.