QUARRYVILLE-Like so many teenage girls, Tara loves NSYNC, playing on the computer, and talking to her best friend on the phone. In fact this 14-year-old even lists the telephone as one of her favorite hobbies. She seems like any typical teen girl, except for one thing: Tara is confined to a wheelchair. She was born with spina bifida, a very serious condition in which the backbone never closes completely, leaving the spinal cord exposed and in certain cases like Tara’s, causing paralysis. But this extremely intelligent and outgoing young lady doesn’t let it stop her. “She’s never known any different,” said Amy, Tara’s mother. “If there’s something she wants to do, she just does it.”
So when another parent of a child suffering with a life threatening illness told Amy about Kids Wish Network, she contacted the organization about her daughter; soon Wish Coordinator Kara Stecker made Tara’s wish of going to Disney World a dream come true. Not only would Tara 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 such an amazing place,” said Amy. “There was always someone around asking if they could help us or if they could do anything for us. They just amazed us.”
While at Give Kids the World, Tara and her family took part in all the fun-filled activities offered to all of its special guests, and one lucky night, Tara was even tucked into bed by Miss Merry Clayton, one of the park’s rabbit mascots. “That was her absolute favorite part of the village,” said Amy. “She also really liked putting her name on a star that went on the ceiling in the Castle of Miracles. That meant a lot to her.”
During their vacation, the family enjoyed the complete Orlando experience, visiting Walt Disney World theme parks, Universal Studios and Sea World. “It rained for two of the days we were there, but you just don’t care about that when you’re having so much fun,” Amy said. “We just put on ponchos and kept going.” Amy also said the park’s treated Tara wonderfully, always bringing her to the front of the lines and giving her special attention. “But her favorite things at the parks were riding the teacups and sitting in the front car of the monorail,” Amy said. All attractions were compliments of Give Kids the World and Kids Wish Network.
“We wish we had a few extra days just to play at the village,” said Amy. “You just couldn’t have a sad face while you were there. My favorite memory was when we first walked into Give Kids the World and saw how beautiful it was; all of a sudden we just felt a sense of ease. Tara was in tears when we finally had to leave, and we all felt the same way.”
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.