WATERLOO-Daily chemotherapy treatments can physically exhaust even the strongest adult. And it’s even more difficult to imagine a 5-year-old having to face this recurrent agony. But this is exactly what young Jeffery must suffer through because of his acute form of leukemia. In addition to his daily oral dose of chemo, he must receive it internally once a month, and in his spine every three months. This charismatic little boy was also born with Down syndrome. But according to his mother Jackie, Jeffery is the light of his family’s life. “He has an amazing spirit,” she said. “He is so charming and engaging that he makes friends with anyone, anywhere. People and kids just gravitate toward him.”
So when Wish Coordinator Kara Stecker of Kids Wish Network heard about Jeffrey and his wish to go to Disney World to meet all the characters he watches on television, Kara quickly put together a trip beyond his wildest dreams. Not only would Jeffrey 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 delightful resort full of laughter, joy and hugs, catering to the special needs of families who have children with life threatening illnesses. “It was wonderful,” said Jackie. “It was such a magical place.”
While at Give Kids the World, Jeffrey and his family enjoyed all the whimsical attractions at the village and he absolutely loved riding the carousel and meeting all the characters, like Barney, that visit the resort. Jeffrey’s chemo has made him a fussy eater and even with all the wonderful food at the village, his mother said it was hard to find something he would eat. “The head cook heard that the only thing he would eat was buttered noodles, so she made them special for him the whole time,” Jackie said. “All of the people and volunteers at the village were wonderful, just amazing.”
During their vacation, Jeffrey and his family enjoyed a full Orlando experience, visiting Walt Disney World theme parks, Universal Studios and Sea World. Jeffrey’s favorite part was getting to meet Minnie Mouse and Barney. “The staff at all the parks was great and gave special attention to Jeffrey when they saw his button from the village,” said Jackie. “They would move him to the front of the lines and let him go on all the rides again without getting off. It was like being on auto pilot when they saw that button.” All attractions were compliments of Give Kids the World and Kids Wish Network.
“Our daily life with Jeffrey’s care can be very time consuming and we really appreciated a week away from it all,” said Jackie. “It was hard to leave and go back to reality.” Jeffrey was extremely tired at the end of each day, but Jackie said he would kick his energy up to another level just to make sure he didn’t miss doing anything. “Seeing him meet and hug all the characters and even discovering that he likes roller coasters was just so cool and special for us. Getting to see him so happy while he was there still brings tears to my eyes. It was like he had his own personal guardian angel with him.”
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.