I finally got around to organizing the pics and have been meaning to send this email to you since we got back. Our cruise was amazing and a blessing that refreshed and renewed us as a family. The children are still talking about their experience on the Disney Cruise and it is still unbelievable to us that we went on such a wonderful trip. We can’t thank you/New Hope enough!! Tati was able to meet other wish children, as the Wish Director on the cruise held a party for all the children in different wish programs. It was an uplifting and encouraging moment.
Tati and Elijah were so funny, on the last day of the cruise they were devising ways that they could stay on the ship and asked if they could work as servers. lol! I told them they had to graduate from college first!
I’m attaching a few pictures. The lady in the picture (not shown) was our Disney Wish Coordinator, Bernadette from Hungary, and she did an amazing job making sure we were enjoying ourselves and that everything was taken care of for Tati and her special needs. The dolphin swim was the highlight for Tati…the water was surprisingly cold. brrr! Gussie was the dolphin assigned to our group and Tati fell in love with her.
This will be a memory that we will forever cherish. A blessing that gave Tati a fresh perspective on her condition and hope for the future that God will always take care of her every need. And a blessing for our family during a time of much stress in our lives–it was wonderful to forget about things and relax for a little while. Many thanks again!
Jose knew exactly what to wish for. He’s only 8, but his mind was made up. He wanted to meet his favorite basketball star—Lebron James of the Miami Heat! With the help of some wonderful staff at RDV Sportsplex and our own volunteers, Michele and Steve Chamberland, his wish came true. Jose stood in awe as Lebron approached. In a soft voice of admiration Jose exclaimed, “My Lebron James!” He could barely believe his eyes.
In keeping with this wave of joy, UCF Cornerstone Team, aptly named “King Jose’s Court,” raised enough funds to provide box seats for another Magic Game. They also planned a party and co-hosted it with O’Charley’s Restaurant who generously donated delicious dinners for Jose and his guests. Other donors included Ernst and Young, Kohl’s and other kind members of our community. It offered Jose an opportunity to forget about his illnesses and just enjoy being a kid having fun.
Jazmine is a spirited 7 year old with a rare disease called Klippel Trenaunay Syndrome. She painfully suffers through the majority of the long list of ailments caused by KTS which significantly affect her day to day activities.
Jazmine has already undergone 13 different surgeries plus countless procedures and appointments. Her medical needs often require her family to travel from Lake Mary to Tampa or even as far away as New York. As you can imagine, the travel-related expenses and noncovered medical needs cause a significant financial burden for her family, not to mention the emotional roller coaster they endure. Despite all this, Jazmine, whose favorite color is pink and who wishes to go on a Disney cruise with her favorite character Hook, is an energetic, positive little girl.
UCF Cornerstone team Jazmine’s Genies “adopted” Jazmine to help make her wish come true. They not only raised $2,025 for her cruise, they also combined another $787 plus $3,303 of in-kind donations to host the most incredible tea party in town! The Orlando Sheraton Downtown provided a dinner room and patio complete with twinkling lights for her beautifully decorated tea party, “Jazmine in Wonderland”. It was complete with a chocolate milk “tea” ceremony, scones, cakes and then a full meal. As DJ Cheyenne played music, Jazmine and her friends spontaneously began dancing and singing. It was beyond precious.
Many caring people contributed to this magical evening. Delicious food came from the Sheraton, Tropical Smoothie and Tuscan Pizza, decorations and supplies from Target, a gift bag full of cruise niceties for the whole family from Wal-Mart, face painting by Clown Service, and new hairdos by Jane Ellis at Unique Hair for Mom, Jazmine and her two sisters. The team even provided a date night gift card for mom and dad!
At the conclusion of their class assignment, Jazmine’s Genies shared, “The most meaningful part of the project was feeling the love and appreciation from the Gonzales family.” Now they have everything they need for a fun time on ship Disney Dream!
Jeanmarie is a spirited 8 year old with spina bifida and cerebral palsy, but knowing her, you cannot accurately call her handicapped. Jeanmarie’s wish was to go to the Maile School for Acting and Modeling. Her goal is to be in a real commercial and she had her first “shoot” this summer. Now she’s ready for T.V.!
UCF Cornerstone Team “Living the Dream” chose to help with Jeanmarie’s wish. They raised $1,142 and planned a fun party at Chuck E Cheese where everyone had a grand time enjoying cake, pizza and games.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement, NHFK volunteer Michelle Chamberland arranged for Jeanmarie to be at her favorite team’s game— the Magic! Following that game, Michael Pietrus invited Jeanmarie to come back as his special guest for the April 4th game!
Her mom Jeannette shared, “Wow how exciting!! Jeanmarie is jumping with Joy!! It is amazing and I am surprised! We really appreciate everything…this is a dream come true. Thank you for your support.”
West Wing Limousine drove up to Sydney’s home November 21. She was about to receive the surprise of her life. For months, New Hope for Kids had tried to make Sydney’s wish come true to meet the cast and be in the audience of “So You Think You Can Dance.” Thanks to volunteer Michele Chamberland, Mary Murphy and her assistant, this dream was about to unfold. The limo swept Sydney and her family off to OIA where they caught their flight to Hollywood, California!
Sydney is 14 years old and is an avid fad of the dance show. She has Down syndrome and has been through many trials due to vascular problems including a stroke when she was only 7 years old. Her resiliency is admirable and her enthusiasm is catching. So much so that after the show, Mary Murphy accompanied Sydney and her family out to dinner. Mary took time to get to know Sydney and introduce her to the entire cast. You can see the pure delight in Sydney’s eyes as she posed for a picture with Mary.
Ashlen is 16 years old and suffers from spina bifida, an opening in the spinal column at birth. Although surgery closed the opening, Ashlen deals with other complications including the need for braces to walk short distances and a wheelchair when a lot of walking is required. Despite health challenges, she has a ready smile and enthusiasm for life.
Ashlen’s wish was to be professionally recorded and make a CD of her own renditions of her favorite music. She wrote a letter to New Hope for Kids requesting a wish and sharing from her heart.
Chandler is having a great time on his amazing bike. At 14 kids want to become more independent. Because of cerebral palsy and seizures, that is a difficult thing for Chandler to do. So, his dream was to have a full sized quad bike to replace the small bike he had outgrown. His mother Michelle shared, “Sometimes, for Chandler to enjoy the same activities that everyone else does, it takes an expensive piece of equipment. Insurance and Medicaid often don’t pay for these items as they are deemed ‘not medically necessary.’” This is where New Hope’s Wishes for Kids program stepped in to say, “Chandler, a special needs bike is “wish-worthy” and we can fulfill your dream.
To make Chandler’s wish even more exciting, the UCF Dream Team “adopted” him and raised nearly $3,000 cash to pay for the bike. David’s World Cycle’s expert Edgardo Negron built the bike with a special supportive seat, handlebars and controls, so the entire family can ride together. It’s two tandem bikes made into a quad bike. When the Dream Team held a fun party for Chandler, they also gave him a bike horn and attire fit for a biker! To learn more about Chandler, go to www.Chandlercentral.org.
Team Wishing Well Does Well
Rafael is 17 and has Down syndrome. He’s full of enthusiasm and didn’t hesitate to share that he really wanted an above-ground pool more than anything in the world. He loves to be outside and a pool is the perfect place to be on a hot summer’s day. Recreational Factory Warehouse Altamonte Springs donated a variety of pool toys. The Orlando Science Center added to the fun by giving Rafael and his family a membership worth $250. UCF Team Wishing Well held a pool party for Rafael and his friends. You can share his joy as you view this youtube link. It includes Team Wishing Well’s plans and party for Rafael.
Zion’s Trip to the Village
At 5, Zion is the perfect age to go to Give Kids the World Village. He’s holding Mickey Mouse in the picture to the left. Though spina bifida has caused its limitations, there is no limit on the fun he had at the village and Disney World! Activities were non-stop, and after a day at the theme parks, the pool and specially adapted water park at the village cooled everyone off.
Team Hopetastic added to Zion’s anticipation by giving him a unique brunch with a Scavenger Hunt. The young guests found clues that led them to special prizes. When Zion found his, it was a basket full of gifts including 8 tickets to see SpongeBob Square pants’ show at Nickelodeon Orlando.
At 7 years old, Kacie is confined to a wheelchair unable to run and play like other girls her age. She has cerebral palsy and every day is a challenge. One of Kacie’s favorite things to do is to watch Disney movies. She likes to pretend she is a princess like Cinderella and Snow White; and she is a little princess. New Hope for Kids granted Kacie’s wish to go on a Disney family cruise this summer. It was a big wish that could not be fulfilled without the help of our community. A UCF Cornerstone Knights for Hope team raised nearly $3,000 to help make Kacie’s wish come true. One of the best parts was celebrating Kacie’s wish with her family and friends in her school classroom.
At 13, Robert would love to play sports like other youngsters his age, but due to spina bifida, his mobility is limited. New Hope for Kids wants to give Robert something special to look forward to—a trip to Peru with his mother and sister to see his grandparents and homeland. It has been years since he saw his family there, and Robert’s eyes lit up with anticipation when he asked if that could be his wish. The Dreamers and Achievers Team helped to grant Robert’s wish by raising nearly $3,000! The spirit of the team has been an inspiration. Robert was also honored with an invitation to attend one of UCF’s games with them. They went “beyond the call of duty” to make sure he has a celebration that he will never forget. This is in keeping with New Hope for Kid’s goal to make every wish a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Ben Rides the Polar Express
Ben is only 4 ½ years old and he’s had a rough time due to M-CMTC, initials for a medical condition that causes blockages in the brain, seizures and asthma. Ben loves cars, planes and trucks, but especially trains. Since he read Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express he has longed to be a part of its great adventure. This heartwarming story is about the power of belief! It resonates across generations and has touched the hearts of many children and adults. Ben’s faith that dreams can come true was rewarded by a trip to ride on the real Polar Express–a journey he won’t soon forget! New Hope for Kids granted Ben’s wish in December. In addition to riding the Polar Express train through the Smoky Mountains with family and friends, they enjoyed the Aquarium in Gatlinburg, Dollywood, and the train museum.
Ben’s mom Ann shared, “The Polar Express was magical! We were treated like royalty. They sang the hot chocolate song while serving it and Ben danced in the aisle. Ben loved singing and dancing to songs from the movie and meeting Santa. His favorite part was when the engineer let him blow the train’s whistle! Ben said, ‘Can YOU believe it? It’s the Polar Express!’ His face was pure happiness. Sometimes we wonder, ‘why us?’ Others reach out to us and we begin to learn the lesson. Special people like Ben teach us so much about human kindness.”
New Hope for Kids had help granting Ben’s wish from UCF’s Cornerstone Strictly Business Team. Comprised of 7 business majors, they raised $2000 for Ben’s wish. Ben charmed his way into their hearts as he showed them his collection of trains, planes and trucks and was obviously delighted with the team’s attention. Strictly Business didn’t waste any time in planning a Publix fundraiser, Hip Hop Showcase, and a golf tournament. Greenway Ford also participated and donated a Mustang for a hole-in-one prize. These events provided learning experiences applicable to their future business career. They also planned a memorable party at Ben’s school. In addition to raising funds for Ben’s wish, Strictly Business was also able to obtain free tickets for the Polar Express ride and discounted accommodations. They’ve made a difference in Ben and his family’s lives and New Hope for Kids.
At 17, Elyse is learning to become more independent, but there are many challenges for her. She has Down syndrome, an extra 21st chromosome that causes learning and growth problems as well as increased health risks and shortened life expectancy. Elyse shines in spite of these challenges. She is social and vibrant. Her wish was to go to New York City, see Broadway shows,shop and taste the Big Apple! UCF’s Cornerstone Team, Angels In the Outfield, did an outstanding job to raise $2,600 plus $1,800 in-kind donation of Hotel W discount on accommodations for Elyse’s wish. They also hosted a wish celebration for Elyse at Amigo’s, her favorite restaurant. As you can see from the picture above, Elyse’s appreciation is written across her face in a big smile!