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our mission: Established in 2002, Bert’s Big Adventure is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides a magical, all-expenses-paid, five-day journey to Walt Disney World® for children with chronic and terminal illnesses and their families. To qualify for Bert’s Big Adventure, children must be between the ages of 5 and 12, live in “The Bert Show” radio listening area, prove financial need and have never been to Walt Disney World®. Following the annual trip, Bert’s Big Adventure provides year-round support through initiatives such as the Reunion Adventures, the Fairy Godparent volunteer program and additional charitable services. The trip and programs create a community of families that establish lasting friendships with others facing similar challenges.

Bert Weiss Founder Stacey Weiss Founder & Executive Director Molly Parrish-Darby Program Director Melanie Wilson Development Director Erin Steele Volunteer Services Manager Natalie Brown Program Assistant


reunionadventures An insider’s look at some of the most memorable events of 2012

Michael Birchall/Troika Studio Marketing/Creative Director

magical moments Publisher Stacey Weiss Editor-in-Chief Melanie Wilson Art Director Michael Birchall/Troika Studio Graphic Design Jerry Carter/Troika Studio Amanda Fox/Troika Studio Staff Photographers Erika Leigh Photography Rustic White Photography Zach Thomas Photography Contributing Writers David Crawford Anita J. Finkelstein P.O. Box 420917 Atlanta, GA 30342 404.303.8312

All printing and distribution of Magical Moments magazine donated by

ProGraphics Communications, LLC 5664 New Peachtree Road Atlanta, GA 30341 678.597.1050


parent’sperspective A letter from Noah’s mom, Tara, about their experience with Bert’s Big Adventure

about QR codes

In this magazine you will find small coded squares called QR codes that you can scan with your phone using the appropriate app. These will link you through to videos, websites and more.


Will Asbell��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������5 Breanna Blackburn������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������9 Linda Ceron����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������13 Brianna Elder����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������17 Gabe Landis-Aguirre���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������21 Megan Madden���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������25 Noah Malone�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������29 Elizabeth Odom�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������33 jainah roberson�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������37 jordan strong���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������41 marie suprenant����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������45 hunter watson��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������49 • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh




rue, Bert’s Big Adventure is a magical trip to Walt Disney World. It’s also true that Bert’s Big Adventure throws memorable reunions and parties for all of our families. But when you dig deeper, the heart of Bert’s Big Adventure is about connections families connecting during stressful times, newly introduced families connecting with each other for long lasting relationships and children connecting with other children that truly understand what it’s like to live with special needs. It’s about understanding the idea that, while life might be difficult, it’s much easier to do with somebody else. Our entire organization is about connections. We’re eternally grateful that you see and understand the power of connections and that you support Bert’s Big Adventure each year.  With gratitude,

Bert Weiss Founder, Bert’s Big Adventure

When we know ourselves to be connected to all others, acting compassionately is simply the natural thing to do. 


- Rachel Naomi Remen • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh

In the moment…


think it is something we all strive to do in our lives, to live in the moment. It is one of the most challenging things to do for any human, but especially for the Bert’s Big Adventure families. The world they live in constantly bombards them with daily challenges that most of us could not comprehend. The opportunity for them to live in the moment is nearly impossible. For the last 10 years, the supporters of Bert’s Big Adventure have given 110 families the chance to live in the moment during our five-day, magical journey to Walt Disney World, at our quarterly Reunion Adventures and through our Fairy Godparent Volunteer Program. Being in the moment for a Bert’s Big Adventure parent means letting go of the stress and uncertainty, and crying tears of joy. For a Bert’s Big Adventure sibling, being in the moment means letting others make them feel like the favorite; and for a Bert’s Big Adventure child, it means forgetting about their sickness and feeling limitless. On behalf of the entire Bert’s Big Adventure staff, I want to thank you for your support over the last decade and for allowing these families the opportunity to live in the moment. It would not be possible without your selfless acts and generosity. With great appreciation,

Stacey Weiss Founder & Executive Director, Bert’s Big Adventure • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


5 • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


One of the things that always makes me smile is his wild imagination...


- RESA asbell

The Power of Laughter by David crawford


e has the most incredible way to make people laugh and smile, which always touches me,” says Resa Asbell, mother of her 5-year-old son, Will. “I’m so proud of him and of his strength through everything he’s been through in his short life. He’s such a wonderful boy.” When he was just 7 months old, Will was diagnosed with an Optic Pathway Glioma brain tumor, one that arises in or around the optic nerve and sometimes results in blindness. After a surgical tumor resection followed by two years of chemotherapy protocols, the Asbells were told his tumor was continuing to grow. For young Will to still share his innate ability to make others laugh and smile exemplifies the genuine nature of his heart and soul. “One of the things that always makes me smile is his wild imagination – he always talks about being a police officer, a fireman, an electrical man and a trash man – all at the same time. He’s going to get the bad guys one way or another.” Will’s mother didn’t really know much about Bert’s Big Adventure. Nor did she think such a miracle would ever

present itself as an opportunity. “Being a single mom, I know I wouldn’t ever be able to afford five days at Disney and all the activities we were fortunate to be part of…so I was thrilled when Bert called me one morning to tell us we were chosen.” Along with his mom and older brother Chandler, Will couldn’t get enough of the five-day Bert’s Big Adventure extravaganza in Walt Disney World. What he loved more than anything, though, was getting to hang out with all the characters, especially Captain Hook. “When we were on the trip, his favorite character was Captain Hook, because he had a sword. Well, Will had to have a sword or whatever he could find to protect all of us from the bad guys on the trip. He always has a story about catching the bad guys and keeping everyone else from getting hurt. He speaks with a very ‘country’ sounding accent and usually when he’s talking, people are listening and laughing.” Armed with the need to fight bad guys, from Captain Hook to his own brain tumor, and the ability to make those surrounding him laugh, Will quickly became and always will be an integral member of the Bert’s Big Adventure family. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh



This is the most fun I’ve ever had at a fundraiser! 

a run for fun and funding By Melanie Wilson

- Bert Weiss



speedo run

“Wear a little, give a lot!” 7

In December 2011, more than 200 Atlantans hit the streets for a 1.5-mile run wearing speedos and other festive holiday attire for the third annual Atlanta Santa Speedo Run. This event, which began in 2009, raised $128,000 for Bert’s Big Adventure, the largest one-time donation the organization has received to date. Each participant was asked to raise a minimum of $250 to be a part of the run, but many went above and beyond, raising thousands of dollars on their own. The support of the Atlanta community was astounding, and was truly what made the event a success. While the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run is a spectacular sight to see, it was even more exciting for the participants. Even Bert bared it all and

ran in the December weather, saying, “This is the most fun I’ve ever had at a fundraiser!” There were a handful of Santa costumes, plenty of garland and tinsel, and even one costume made entirely of gift bows. Onlookers lined the streets to watch and laugh at the participants as they ran by in their hilariously revealing attire. When interviewed at the Bert’s Big Adventure send-off event in February, Tom Jung, an Atlanta Santa Speedo Run board member, spoke proudly of the check, saying, “This is the biggest check I’ve ever been able to give out.” Along with the rest of the board in attendance at the send-off, Tom was happy to meet some of the kids and said, “This is really the first time we’ve ever been able to see the organization in action and where the money is going, so it’s really exciting to be a part of this.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


We pride ourselves on the fact that we treat the families like celebrity guests, leaving no detail unattended. 

Sheraton Gateway Hotel Atlanta Airport Sending Bert’s Big Adventure off in style By Melanie Wilson Every February, the new Bert’s Big Adventure families are picked up from their homes in Cooper Global limousines and brought to the Sheraton Gateway Hotel Atlanta Airport to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Here, they enjoy VIP treatment from the moment they arrive on the red carpet. The hotel is lined with drum lines, cheerleaders, photographers and more. Later they enjoy a private welcome dinner and a good night’s sleep in the hotel’s comfortable rooms. The next morning, before the group leaves for Walt Disney World, Bert’s

Big Adventure attempts to give its top supporters a glimpse inside the trip by inviting them to attend the send-off event at the Sheraton. “The Bert Show” broadcasts live during the exciting event and the organization’s guests have a chance to interact with the kids before they leave for Orlando. The Sheraton donates the hotel rooms and the ballrooms, as well as the send-off breakfast. The hotel’s staff truly goes above and beyond each year for Bert’s Big Adventure. Jared Travis, Director of Sales & Marketing, says, “It’s been such an honor to host the Bert’s Big Adventure families over the past four years! We pride ourselves on the fact that we treat the families like celebrity guests, leaving no detail unattended.” Jared and his employees truly

– jared travis

appreciate the service of the organization. He explains, “All of the hard work pays off when we see the smiles on the children’s faces and the glimmer of hope in the parents’ eyes. It’s a very emotional experience for all of the staff and we look forward to it year after year.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


9 • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


What a lot of people don’t see is what the magic does to the insides of a little body that fights to stay healthy...


- Amanda blackburn


blac k bur n

Just breathe by Melanie wilson


efore Breanna was even born, her parents knew she had a tough battle ahead of her. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when her mother, Amanda, was 12 weeks pregnant, Breanna has been through far more than the average 6-year-old girl. Cystic fibrosis is a congenital lung disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract, and other parts of the body, making it difficult to breathe. Living with this disorder requires Breanna to take over 30 pills every day and she is regularly admitted to the hospital for treatment. Despite her daily struggles, Breanna maintains a positive outlook on life. She is usually the center of attention, and she seems to like it that way. Upon arriving at the send-off party before the trip in February, she said, “I can’t even believe my eyes! We’re the luckiest family of all.” Then she hopped right out of the limo and strutted her stuff on the red carpet.

Along with her brothers, Brandon and Jared, and her mom and dad, Amanda and Randy, Breanna made the most out of the trip to Walt Disney World. Amanda said, “It was the trip of a lifetime… a whole week to just breathe.” Breanna’s favorite part was her visit to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where she was magically transformed into Tinkerbelle, wearing fairy wings and all. This moment was especially magical for Amanda because before the trip, Breanna repeatedly asked her if she could become a real Disney princess. When Amanda was asked about how the trip to Walt Disney World affected her daughter, she said, “What a lot of people don’t see is what the magic does to the insides of a little body that fights to stay healthy. Since we have come back from the trip, Breanna’s pulmonary function is the best it’s been in years! It’s like they hold on to that magic. I believe that place gave her a piece of hope.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


Each year, the Country Club of Roswell hosts the pool party reunion for the Bert’s Big Adventure families at their beautiful facilities. In addition, they raised another $15,000 for Bert’s Big Adventure in 2011.

reunion adventures bert’s big adventure

Following the annual trip, Bert’s Big Adventure strives to further strengthen its established community and friendships by hosting Reunion Adventures. Also known as family reunions, the exclusive and unique events provide the families with year-round opportunities to enjoy more VIP experiences and intimate family time away from doctor visits and hospital stays.

11 • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh

Madison and Brayden, both from the 2010 Bert’s Big Adventure trip, enjoyed the fall reunion at Medieval Times.

Brandon and Denzel got a chance to hang out at the holiday reunion where the kids watched Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Breanna and Jainah had a blast splashing around at the pool party reunion in June.

The holiday reunion, sponsored by Broadway Across America, included a meet and greet with The Grinch himself. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh



Seeing our daughter so happy and watching her become a star was priceless.


- claudia ceron

ie wilson

elan e in by m v ie l e b o ething t



fter hearing about Bert’s Big Adventure through the nurses at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Claudia and Carlos Ceron couldn’t wait to apply for the trip. they hoped that their daughter, linda, would finally get a break from the physical and emotional suffering she has experienced in her 11 years. Linda was born with spina bifida, which primarily leads to disabilities affecting the use of her legs. In the first month after she was born, Linda went through three surgeries. Since then, she has developed orthopedic malformations such as club feet and hip dislocation, and severe neuromuscular scoliosis caused by the scarring after her surgeries. In total, Linda has undergone 16 surgeries, with more to come. Needless to say, being treated like a VIP on a five-day trip to Walt Disney World with Bert’s Big Adventure was just what the Ceron family needed. Linda especially enjoyed the visit to Cinderella’s castle, and all of the presents and souvenirs she received. “Seeing our daughter so happy and watching her become a star was priceless,” says Claudia. “Not worrying


about Linda’s condition, or the next surgery was awesome.” The Cerons got one very special surprise at the send-off party before the trip. With no wheelchair accessible vehicle, Linda and her mother were typically left stranded at home, unless Carlos was there to help lift the heavy wheelchair into the car. After hearing about their dilemma, Bert’s Big Adventure presented them with a van, fully equipped with a wheelchair lift to make life just a little bit easier for them. “Without programs like Bert’s Big Adventure, low-income families like ours may never get a chance to experience the VIP treatment and all the wonderful people we met,” says Claudia. “Bert’s Big Adventure gives our children something to believe in that will help them endure hospitalizations and surgeries.” While on the trip, Bert’s Big Adventure does everything in its power to remove some of the stresses of having a child with special needs. Claudia explains that they truly felt the love, “It’s hard to be seen differently for having a child with disabilities, but on the trip everyone is the same. We all go through the same things. We understand each other. We are one.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh



It’s important for our people to be able to wrap their arms around a cause that

we can all believe in and be touched by. 

- kate modolo

hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to disney we go By Molly Parrish-Darby ExpressJet has supported Bert’s Big Adventure’s annual trip as the official airline sponsor to Walt Disney World for the past five years. As the world’s first super-regional airline, giving back to its hometown headquarters in Atlanta is an integral part of the corporate culture. In fact, it’s so ingrained in the corporate culture, that when Bert’s Big Adventure announces the dates for its annual trip, the staff at ExpressJet jumps at the chance to get involved. In order to choose the lucky captain, co-pilot and flight attendants that fly the families to Orlando and back, a competition is launched in which employees are asked to write an essay explaining why they should


have the opportunity to be on the Bert’s Big Adventure flight. “It’s important for our people to be able to wrap their arms around a cause that we can all believe in and be touched by. Nearly half of our 10,000 employees live within The Bert Show’s listening area. They can tune in to hear all of the family stories and are compelled to actively participate in the day-to-day needs of the nonprofit,” says Kate Modolo, Express Jet’s Director of Corporate Communications & Culture. ExpressJet employee Charlotte Belt secured her role as a flight attendant when she wrote in her essay that she, too, had a child and several family members that had special needs. Following the trip, Charlotte asked if there was a way to get more involved – a true testament to her experience with Bert’s Big Adventure. Now, Charlotte is a

Fairy Godparent volunteer and donates her time to visit Bert’s Big Adventure children when they are admitted into a partner hospital. “Her character embodies the spirit of the foundation. We were thrilled to hear she wanted to come on board as a volunteer,” said Stacey Weiss, Executive Director of Bert’s Big Adventure. In addition to providing the complimentary flight, fuel, crew and in-flight meals, ExpressJet creates a one-of-a-kind party in its private hangar to send off the families and to welcome them back home. Nearly 500 employees donning Mickey Mouse ears and well-wishing signs line the edges of a red carpet walkway. Bert’s Big Adventure will take its 11th annual trip to Walt Disney World in February of 2013, traveling via ExpressJet, of course. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


As a local charitable

GOODNESS GROWS: Bert’s Big Adventure and Carter’s Children’s Wear by Anita J. Finkelstein “Our employees love what Bert’s Big Adventure stands for,” explains Tanya Coventry-Strader, the Director of Philanthropic Strategy for Carter’s. Three years ago, the 148-year-old children’s wear company signed on as a “Magic Maker” sponsor and has raised the bar each year with its donations to the organization. “The minute we were asked to work with Bert’s Big Adventure, we signed on,” says Tanya. “As a local charitable organization that brings a little sunshine to children with chronic illnesses and their families, they were a perfect fit for us.” She says the relationship between Carter’s and Bert’s Big Adventure is evolving and growing. Today, it’s not only about providing funds for the trip and clothing to the children, but also incorporates 25 Atlanta-based Carter’s employees who are committed to volunteering for all Bert’s Big Adventure events through the Carter’s Cares Club. In addition, this year Carter’s stepped up to the plate by delivering some extra special gifts to the families.

For example, the company wrote the Suprenant family a check that helped them purchase a shiny, new orange mini van after they found out that both of their vehicles were totaled. Carter’s also hosted a “Designer for a Day” internship for Jainah, a Bert’s Big Adventure child who expressed an interest in becoming a fashion designer when she grows up. According to Tanya, it’s knowing that they are helping children in very personal ways that matters most to the Carter’s family. “The Fairy Godparent program is one that is really close to our hearts,” she says. While the company helped start the program and provides all the funding, Bert’s Big Adventure runs the program, and the application process is very competitive by design. “It takes a special person to take on the responsibilities,” says Tanya. “This program was Stacey’s vision and we were thrilled she asked us to help bring it to life.” Tanya says the company is excited about the possibility of other cities getting involved with Bert’s Big Adventure in new markets of “The Bert Show.” “It’s a great way for us to get our employees all over the country involved with a cause that we really believe in.”

organization that brings a little sunshine to Kids with chronic illnesses and their families, they were a perfect fit for us.

- Tanya coventry-strader • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


17 • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


It was so unbelievable watching Brianna open up and come out of her little shell...


- pam elder

Brianna Elder Breaking the shell by david crawford


t was a day at the end of August 2008 when we noticed a small knot come up on the left side of her temple,” explains Pam Elder, mother of 6-year-old Bert’s Big Adventure child, Brianna. “At first we thought she had just bumped her head on a shelf we have in our bathroom. I took her to the pediatrician but they didn’t seem worried about it. That was a Tuesday. Thursday when I picked her up from daycare the teacher told me I needed to look at her eye. Brianna had her back to me and turned around upon hearing my voice. My jaw dropped when I saw her eye swollen shut. I immediately rushed her to the hospital.” Doctors discovered tumors behind her left eye and in her abdomen, diagnosing a then 2-year-old Brianna with stage 4 Neuroblastoma cancer. Although she proved to be a trooper throughout her treatments, Brianna did experience some setbacks, even

ending up in a full-body cast at one point. That being said, nothing could keep the ear-to-ear grin off young Brianna’s face during Bert’s Big Adventure’s annual trip to Walt Disney World, especially while riding the “Toy Story” ride. “Brianna has never really been much into social events or meeting new people. She still hasn’t even gotten used to my in-laws, which are her grandparents, or her aunts and uncles,” Pam explains. “If we go visit or they come to the house, she usually runs and hides. Even with her doctors she’s the same way, and she’s been seeing them since she was 2.” Luckily for Brianna, a bashful attitude is not lost on the Bert’s Big Adventure trip. She opened up to her whole new family of friends, especially to radio personalities Jeff Dauler and Kristin Klingshirn from “The Bert Show.” “Bert’s Big Adventure is amazing. They provide the greatest opportunity to just be a family. It was so unbelievable watching Brianna open up and come out of her little shell,” says Pam. “It meant so much to everyone. It’s a moment in time that’s irreplaceable and I will cherish forever.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


12 by the numbers...

families on the trip

72 5 5 228 28 1,800 (PEOPLE ON THE TRIP)



bert’s big adventure


deluxe hotel rooms worn on the trip


(TOTAL NUMBER OF SMILES ON OUR TRIP) • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


22,354 TRIP 1hr 25minutes TH

this was our


photographs taken


(length of the flight to Orlando)



of unedited video footage

buses transported us around Disney

makeovers at the bibbidi bobbidi boutique

21-25 • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh




Light in the Tunnel by david crawford


had many complications while pregnant with Gabe…he wasn’t even supposed to be born,” explained Lynn McArthur, Gabe’s mother. “He was born on Christmas Eve of 2000. At 2 months old, The doctors told me to take him home and love him now, because he would die tomorrow.” Diagnosed at birth with Alpha One, a chronic disease of the liver, Gabe needed to count on his strong heart and will to live to lead him through a series of setbacks which would change his life. Just last year his liver failed him and, after several failed blood transfusions, doctors told the McArthur family he wouldn’t make it through the night. Lynn called in their pastor to anoint and pray over her son. “Gabe looked at me and grabbed my hand and said, ‘you know what Mama, I am never going to give up… God has gotten me this far, he is not going to leave me now.’ The doctor came back in and showed me the before and the after pictures of the inside of my son’s stomach. She explained that there wasn’t a spot of blood to be found on his body anymore, and told me I’d just witnessed a miracle.”


Gabe has since fought and survived both liver rejection and a form of lymphoma. News that they were invited to the Bert’s Big Adventure trip came while at his grandmother’s funeral. “We were so upset from having just been to the wake when we got the call. Gabe started jumping up and down on the hotel bed screaming, ‘YES! YES!’ Bert’s Big Adventure became a light in a very dark tunnel.” Lynn and her husband, Cesar, along with Gabe’s brother and sister, Aaron and Gwyndolyn, loved seeing Gabe finally get to meet his favorite Disney character, Woody from Toy Story. But, even on a trip where ‘yes’ is always the answer to your dreams, for his mother, nothing could compare to the community her family was now a part of: the Bert’s Big Adventure family. “It was a blessing to see Gabe feel like he wasn’t the only one with an illness. He told me he didn’t feel alone anymore. He has a smile that comes with the mention of ‘Bert’ that is unlike any other smile we have ever seen. Bert and Stacey have become new heroes to Gabe.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


Bert’s Big Adventure was a light in a very dark tunnel.


- lynn mcarthur • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh



We take pleasure in

Big Subs, Big Hearts By Molly Parrish-Darby


even bigger supporters of Bert’s Big Adventure,” said Steve Minnich, Jersey Mike’s area developer for Atlanta, and owner of four area franchises. “We take pleasure in making sure the magical moments continue for this charity. It’s with the big hearts of our customers and the hard work from our team, that we are able to continue making dreams come true.” In addition to the tempting deals that turned customers into supporters and donors, Jersey Mike’s also used their monthly budget for advertising to help raise awareness about Bert’s Big Adventure. “Everywhere I turned there were Jersey Mike’s billboards, commercials and emails with information about Bert’s Big Adventure,” said Stacey Weiss, co-founder of Bert’s Big Adventure. Stacey also noted that while the money goes a long way in changing the lives of families, the company’s enthusiasm to create more

Jersey Mike’s Subs, a Bert’s Big Adventure Magic Maker sponsor of three years, has supported the organization once again by raising and donating nearly $33,000 through the Jersey Mike’s Subs “Month of Giving” program. For the entire month of March, all 30 Jersey Mike’s Atlanta restaurants joined forces for a fundraising effort. Each store sold gift cards that offered consumers a deal on tasty subs and benefitted Bert’s Big Adventure. Amazingly, the majority of the funds were raised in a single day, when each store donated 50 percent of all sales back to the charity. Their various deals and promotions raised nearly enough money to send three families on this year’s Bert’s Big Adventure trip to Walt Disney World, scheduled for February 2013. “We are fans of ‘The Bert Show’ and

making sure the magical moments continue for this charity. 

- steve minnich

awareness of these children and their families could be just as valuable. “It’s such a blessing to have a sponsor who is willing to use every tool at their disposal to help,” Stacey continued. “Whether they are donating 10 sandwiches for one of our events or covering the city with our logo, they always go above and beyond to make the Bert’s Big Adventure kids feel like the most important people in the world.” Giving has been a part of the Jersey Mike’s culture for over 55 years. The company helps to raise money and awareness for great local causes throughout the country. Right here in Atlanta, they support Bert’s Big Adventure in a big way! • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


this is one of the most

could ask for.

fulfilling jobs we

- michael birchall

By Melanie Wilson When Bert’s Big Adventure teamed up with Troika Studio in 2009, neither organization had any idea they would become so closely intertwined. While Troika Studio, based in St. Augustine, FL, manages all creative direction and brand identity for Bert’s Big Adventure, their role extends much further. The boutique graphic design firm, led by Founder/Creative Director, Michael Birchall, also provides all of the videography and creative staff to support the annual trip to Walt Disney World and the year-round programs that follow. Specializing in client-driven collaborative projects, Troika Studio prides itself on working with clients that prefer to have a say in how they market themselves. That is exactly why Birchall and his staff work so well with Bert’s Big Adventure. From the website to the magazine, Troika and Bert’s Big Adventure work handin-hand to make sure the end result truly represents how the organization helps the children it serves. Birchall says of the partnership, “This is one of the most fulfilling jobs we could ask for. The opportunity we’ve been granted to touch these kids’ lives is one in a million. I feel extremely privileged and inspired to be affiliated with Bert’s Big Adventure.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh



Seeing Megan feel free from hospitals and needles and doctors and all the worry was like going to heaven.


- tammy madden

megan madden Dancing the night away by david crawford


ometimes in the Bert’s Big Adventure world, as is the case with 9-year-old princess, Megan Madden, royalty demands the red carpet treatment. That is exactly why the Bert’s Big Adventure crew wasted no time making sure Walt Disney World’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique adorned this princess in proper attire. Like any great princess, Megan’s story doesn’t begin without experiencing some lifealtering adversity. At just 14 months old, Megan was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a heart condition requiring her to have a heart transplant. Three days before receiving her heart transplant, she went into cardiac arrest and had a stroke, leaving her with a serious brain injury. Doctors told her mother, Tammy, she would be a vegetable for the rest of her life. Since then, Megan has continued to defy those doctors as she continues to improve. A friend of Tammy suggested she apply for Bert’s Big Adventure’s trip to Walt Disney World. She looked it up online, realized it was the last day and faxed an application.


And then Bert called back with the news. “I was crying so hard I didn’t know what to say! It was the most amazing thing ever,” said Tammy. It didn’t take long for the Madden family to learn that receiving their golden ticket into Bert’s Big Adventure gets you much more than the trip of a lifetime. “Bert’s Big Adventure is not just an organization that helps a sick child. It is real people that love us and continue to love us even after the trip is over,” explains Tammy. “The trip meant so much to us as a family. Seeing Megan feel free from hospitals and needles and doctors and all the worry was like going to heaven.” But the highlight of the entire trip came the night of the surprise dance party with everyone’s favorite Disney characters. “Our Megan is just now starting to walk and it is her dream to dance,” says Tammy. “She usually needs help and no one ever thought twice about helping her while she danced for hours! My husband and I cried tears of joy watching her dance the night away.” The trip to Walt Disney World was a perfect reminder that every now and again, you have to make sure a princess receives the royal treatment she deserves. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


then and

now Catching up with Summer Sexton – A Bert’s Big Adventure child from the first trip in 2003 By Melanie Wilson Suffering from Retinoblastoma, a rare, cancerous tumor of the retina, Summer was only 5 years old when she went on Bert’s Big Adventure’s inaugural trip to Walt Disney World in 2003. Summer has come a long way since then and still participates in Bert’s Big Adventure’s events. Q: What do you remember most about the trip to Walt Disney World in 2003? A: The one thing I remember most was meeting Cinderella. When I met her and when she signed and kissed my autograph book, I was so ecstatic! But the one thing I will never forget was meeting Charlie Maybry. Charlie and I were glued at the hip the entire trip and I remember how much fun we had.  Q: What are you up to now? A: Since 2003, I haven’t had any more eye surgeries. My school career has led me to fine arts. In my freshman year I was on color guard in marching band and I was also in the spring musical production of “The Wiz”. I turned 15 this year and got my driving permit. I have entered my sophomore year of high school and I’m continuing marching band as a color guard


member. In addition, I am doing a balancing act of advanced placement and honors classes. Q: What’s next for you? A: I am helping out with some costumes for my high school, which helped me decide what I want to do with my life after I graduate. I want to attend New York School of Acting to study theater and major in costume and makeup so that I can work on Broadway.  Q: How have you stayed involved with Bert’s Big Adventure? A: I have stayed involved with Bert’s Big Adventure by going to the events when I can, but it’s a bit of a balancing act with school and everything right now. Q: What does Bert’s Big Adventure mean to you? A: Bert’s Big Adventure means that even though you have a medical issue or disease you can still have fun and be a kid, because every kid deserves to be a kid for as long as possible. It’s about making friends that will last forever. Everyone can enjoy Disney World and being a kid around the Bert’s Big Adventure family. I’ve had a lot of fun with these events and watching Bert and the gang giving these other kids a chance to have as much fun, maybe even more, as I did when I got to go to Disney World. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh

parent’sperspective was impeccable. The trip was a new beginning for us. It’s as if we had all healed and then the trip happened and only gave us added strength to move forward. It’s hard not to grow and become better when exposed to such fine people, all being so kind to us. The five days we spent with Bert’s Big Adventure were the best of my life. It wasn’t just a trip but more of a magical journey that will provide a lifetime of warm, loving memories for my family. The boys’ smiles were constant and I was humbled at the continued generosity that poured out toward all of the children. I witnessed disabled children dancing and trying to do things they aren’t technically “supposed” to be able to do. Bert’s Big Adventure just pushes on with perseverance to make these children so happy that they are moved to do the impossible. At the heart of Bert’s Big Adventure’s success is a purpose to provide these kids something they wouldn’t be able to obtain elsewhere. This is achieved with the sincerest of intentions by a staff that is always willing to be their personal best. This overwhelmed me because the greatest gifts a child can receive are to be heard, to be listened to and to be loved. I’m convinced that each staff member has an angelic heart

to provide these gifts as generously as they did. Too many typical people in our everyday world ignore these kids regularly if by simply not knowing or understanding a better way. The staff of Bert’s Big Adventure set the bar as they so quickly love with selfless hearts and continue to not just talk to these kids, but become attentive and genuinely love them, as it should be. That was my favorite part. God Bless you all, always. May the love you feel for these children be returned to you tenfold. And thank you, for doing all that you do. I only ask that you please continue. I wish the world were filled with more of you. Sincerely, Tara, Proud mom of Caleb, Sam & Noah Malone

The five days we spent with Bert’s Big Adventure were the best of my life. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


rom the moment Bert first called me, I was honored just to speak to him. I have followed “The Bert Show” through the years introducing precious families of extraordinary children to their listening audience. I really appreciate the awareness he offers and the love toward these kids he encourages. Little did I know that my boys and I would be chosen as one of these fortunate families. It is such an honor and I don’t feel deserving of it, as I am just one of many who take care of their children as best they can. I have three beautiful sons, but each of them has had their challenges. Noah has had constant medical struggles and has Down syndrome, but I believe that makes him a superhero as he carries an extra chromosome in his genes. My 7-year-old son, Sam, has recently overcome his struggle with a rare anxiety disorder-- trauma induced selective mutism. Caleb has dealt with his parents divorce but he still proves to be my steady rock at only 10 years old! I am so proud of my sons, and though I know my boys are extraordinary, I just want to help them grow to be fine men. It is so important for me that you know how much I appreciate the gifts Bert’s Big Adventure presented to us. The timing of this honor, being chosen as a Bert’s Big Adventure family,

- Tara malone


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the room but made me feel almost as if my heart would burst from my body.



Noah’s smiles not only lit up

- tara malone

NOAH Malone an inspiration to others by melanie wilson


oah, now 5 years old, was diagnosed with Down syndrome a week after he was born. He also has an Atrioventricular canal Defect, which is a congenital heart problem that occurs in only two out of every 10,000 births. However, Noah and his family do not let these struggles define him. Instead, his mother Tara says she sees his extra chromosome as what has empowered him to make a positive difference in this world. Noah seems to have done that more in his five years than what most people do in a lifetime. In fact, on the application for the trip, all of the children are asked what they want to be when they grow up. Most of the responses are careers like “football player” or “doctor.” Noah’s answer was “an inspiration to others.” Noah is a ball of energy that lights up the lives of those he encounters. He and his brothers, Sam and Caleb, are very close. The three of them do a great

job of keeping Tara, a single mom, busy. When asked how she manages everything that comes along with raising three boys, Tara says, “I’m simply a woman that decided to have children and I take care of them no matter what challenges arise.” While at the Saturday night dance party in Walt Disney World, the entire Bert’s Big Adventure group watched with joy as Noah danced with Mickey Mouse. Many of Noah’s most memorable experiences on the trip dealt with Mickey Mouse, from seeing him scuba dive at Living Seas in Epcot, to watching the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” live performance in Hollywood Studios. In a letter to the Bert’s Big Adventure staff, Tara said, “I witnessed the animated heroes of my children’s world come to life within mere inches of them. They danced with us! Noah’s smiles not only lit up the room but made me feel almost as if my heart would burst from my body.” From Noah’s heartwarming smile to Tara’s unyielding determination, the Malones are a wonderful example of how strong the Bert’s Big Adventure families are, despite the challenges they face every day. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh



Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry Through the Smiles for Life program, the Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry raised $15,000 for Bert’s Big Adventure leading up to the 2012 trip. Dr. Debra King and her husband, Dan, have run the practice since 1987 and have raised over $130,000 for charity. They also assisted in providing a Bert’s Big Adventure child with some much-needed orthodontic care.


Cooper Global One of the most exciting experiences for the Bert’s Big Adventure children is the VIP limousine ride from their house to the hotel before the trip to Walt Disney World and take them home when the trip is over. Cooper Global has generously donated this special transportation for the families for several years. Their drivers make the experience incredibly special for the children, and whether it’s loading a wheelchair or retrieving forgotten luggage, they always go above and beyond for Bert’s Big Adventure.

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Aaron’s While the Aaron’s Lucky Dog was a big hit at the send-off event in February, his appearance was just a bonus to the $15,000 donation Aaron’s made to Bert’s Big Adventure right before the trip. Aaron’s was so excited to be a sponsor, and truly wrapped their hearts around the programs Bert’s Big Adventure provides for children with chronic and terminal illnesses.



Tin Lizzy’s Cantina Until Tin Lizzy’s came on board, Bert’s Big Adventure was operating out of staff members’ basements and home offices. In April 2011, Tin Lizzy’s generously offered Bert’s Big Adventure a donated space inside their corporate offices in Atlanta, GA. Now Bert’s Big Adventure can operate more efficiently and effectively in a real workspace. Not to mention--who doesn’t love tacos? • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh



Elizabeth pretends to be a princess all the time. I knew a trip to Disney was perfect for her.


- Holly odom

Elizabeth Odom PRINCESS ELIZABETH by david crawford


lizabeth odom’s Mother, Holly, says she’ll never forget her daughter’s excitement and disbelief when she first caught sight of Cinderella’s castle. “I watched her as she looked down Main Street to see the castle for the first time. I asked her what she saw, and she took my face in her hands, turned me toward the street and said, ‘Just look, Mama, it’s the castle…it’s right there.” Even though she’s only 5 years old, it goes without saying that Elizabeth and her family walked the long road to Walk Disney World’s iconic castle. In October 2008, Holly noticed her daughter’s eye twitching as she watched TV. After a series of visits with progressively specialized doctors, Elizabeth was diagnosed with Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma. The tumor can’t be removed due to its precarious position between the brain and the pituitary gland, over the carotid artery, and pressing on the optic nerve. Because of this, Elizabeth had a surgical biopsy on December 3, 2008. “The day your child has surgery is a day you know God is real,” explained Holly. “I gave my baby to a complete stranger and let her carry my child away from me, not knowing if I would get her back in the same condition. Then I prayed with family and friends


while a surgeon had his hands in my child’s brain.” Years later, after many more biopsies and chemotherapy treatments, an answered prayer came in a phone call from Bert Weiss, host of “The Bert Show” and co-founder of Bert’s Big Adventure. “He said, ‘I’ll tell you what, for five days, you won’t have to worry about words like protocol chemo or anything because you’re coming with us.’ I just started to cry…Elizabeth pretends to be a princess all the time. I knew a trip to Disney was perfect for her.” How right both Bert and Holly turned out to be. Elizabeth couldn’t get enough of life as a princess, even getting a private tour of the exclusive guest suite atop Cinderella’s castle. Her mother elaborated on how special the trip was. “Besides watching Elizabeth actually get to be a kid, I loved watching the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique transform her into a princess. She wasted no time choosing her hairstyle and Belle gown. The look on her face as they turned her toward the mirror was priceless. She loves that dress. She wore it every day we were on the trip… everyone called her Princess Elizabeth, the princess she has always been inside.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh



a first for everything A 1ST YEAR PERSPECTIVE by KristIn Klingshirn

Living out this experience with these kids is a memory I will

a lifetime. 


treasure for

- kristIn klingshirn

There’s a first for everything. Maybe that’s why we tend to take our firsts for granted. I realize now, more than ever, we should never forget the beauty and the excitement of the first time we got to do something extraordinary that may now seem ordinary. When was the last time you thought about your first step? Your first word? Your first day of school? Or better yet, your first love? These are considered milestones in our life, and my first Bert’s Big Adventure will be added to my list of milestones. The 10th Anniversary of Bert’s Big Adventure was full of love, laughter and camaraderie among the families that many said they had never seen before-- yet another first. As with any first, there was a level of fear, as I had no clue what to expect or what the families expected of me. That’s exactly what is going to set this trip apart from

others. I made so many memories on this trip thanks to Brianna and Will’s families. Living out this experience with these kids is a memory I will treasure for a lifetime. The beauty of Bert’s Big Adventure is that I get to live out these firsts with a new set of families every year. For some, it will be the first time they will set foot on an airplane. I will once again get to witness the first time the kids meet Mickey and Minnie. The first time they get to set eyes on Cinderella’s castle. I think it’s fair to say that every now and then we must stop, take a deep breath, and remember what’s important. Remember what we take for granted. Remember how blessed we were to experience those firsts. This of course doesn’t make me any less excited for my future Bert’s Big Adventure trips. It just makes me appreciate this one that much more. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


a decade of memories A 10th YEAR PERSPECTIVE by Dr. Michelle Presley

do remember are specific events, moments, expressions and emotions that are burned into my memory forever. I continue to be a part of Bert’s Big Adventure, first and foremost, because of the kids. I’ve had the privilege of watching kids from our early trips grow into adulthood. They are and will continue to be my heroes. I greatly miss the kids that we have lost. Even so, the pain of their passing is softened by memories I have of their laughter, smiles and joy while at Walt Disney World. In spite of their differences, on Bert’s Big Adventure our kids are just like any other child on a Disney vacation. That is the magic of Bert’s Big Adventure. I look forward to another decade of working with Bert and Stacey, the incredible volunteer medical staff, and the dedicated Bert’s Big Adventure staff and volunteers who keep things running smoothly on a daily basis. I am also thankful for each of you who help make Bert’s Big Adventure a reality each and every year.

What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others

I have been a part of Bert’s Big Adventure for 10 years, a full decade. Contemplating that statement made me start thinking about how this organization has stayed the same, yet changed, and what it means to me, the families it serves and the community that supports it. I vividly remember that first trip, aboard the Atlanta Hawks’ plane for a bumpy ride to Orlando, not sure what to expect. That day I met six families who opened my eyes to the daily challenges of living with a child with a chronic or terminal illness. Along with those families came seven amazing kids who showed me what it means to face each day with anticipation, an open heart and perseverance no matter what challenges or obstacles are placed in your path. Bert’s Big Adventure now includes more than 100 children and their families, all teaching me those same lessons again, year after year. Ten years later, it is difficult to remember individual trips. What I

and the world remains and is immortal. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh

- Albert Pine


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I have always been touched by what Bert’s Big Adventure does for these kids and their families.


- marla roberson

Jainah Roberson The Power of Positivity By Melanie Wilson


performer at heart, Jainah is always entertaining those around her. Thanks to her positive attitude, you’d never know by looking at her that she battles systemic lupus erythematosus, an extremely rare condition for a 9-year-old to have. She was diagnosed with the disease about three weeks after her sixth birthday after experiencing severe pain in her joints. Despite her struggle, Jainah stays positive and proudly wears purple, The Color for lupus AWARENESS, almost everyday to represent her courageous fight. Steroids are the most effective way of getting the lupus symptoms under control during a flare-up, so that’s what Jainah was prescribed to treat her lupus. Once she adjusted to the medication, her doctors started lowering the dosage. Although the symptoms of lupus can still cause

Jainah to feel tired and achy, she has been off of steroids since April 2011, which classifies her as being in remission. Jainah has a great love for fashion and dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Carter’s helped make that happen by allowing Jainah to come intern for a day with the design team at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta. She even got to design a t-shirt while hanging out with some of the staff. Jainah enjoyed the trip to Walt Disney World with her parents, Marla and Christopher, her brother, Zachory, and her grandmother, Jackie. Marla says, “I have listened to ‘The Bert Show’ since the beginning. I have always been touched by what Bert’s Big Adventure does for these kids and their families. I never expected to be in a position where we would be part of this group.” Marla remains appreciative of the organization even after the trip, saying, “I still have a hard time describing the trip to people. Any words I use just don’t seem to be enough. What Bert’s Big Adventure gave to our family was truly amazing! To have the chance to experience Disney World through my kids’ eyes was such a wonderful thing!” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


bigreveals bert’s big adventure

Every year, Bert’s Big Adventure brings in a new group of incredibly deserving families. In a few of them, Bert’s Big Adventure finds a specific need or dream the organization is able to fill. That’s where the big reveals come in. From a chance to dance in “The Nutcracker” to a new vehicle, the big reveals help provide hope for the families facing some extremely challenging situations.

Megan, who aspires to become a veterinarian, got a rare, behind-thescenes look inside the animal hospital in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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With both of their cars beyond repair, Marie’s moms, Michele and Laura, desperately needed help, so Carter’s surprised them with the money needed to purchase a new vehicle.

Down in Walt Disney World, Lynn and Cesar finally got to say their vows after calling off their wedding, due to the hospitalization of their son, Gabe.

Team Automotive gave Linda’s family a new van, fully equipped with a wheelchair lift thanks to the Fragile Kids Foundation and Handicapped Driver Services. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh



Jordan was able to feel genuinely special for the amazing boy he is, and not have anyone ask him why he was different. - jordan strong, sr.

the strength of the strong family by melanie wilson


hen Jordan Strong, Sr. and his wife, Elizabeth, heard the news from Bert that Jordan Jr. had been chosen for Bert’s Big Adventure, they were at the doctor’s office for 5-year-old Jordan’s muscular dystrophy checkup. The Strong family immediately started screaming and crying, for the journey to walt Disney World was just what they needed. Jordan Sr. explains that his son, “slowly gains muscle but his body grows faster than his muscles can keep up with, causing more damage than good. He is slowly losing all walking abilities and now requires a wheelchair for long distances.” Down in Orlando, Jordan, his parents and his little brother, Elijah, escaped from reality as they enjoyed fireworks, safaris, stunt car shows and more. Jordan’s dad clearly remembers one of the very magical things that happened that week. “Our favorite moment from the trip was when


they had a surprise dance party with a bunch of Disney characters. Jordan took off without his walker and got his groove on.” With tremendous strength and willpower, the Strongs live up to their name as they face Jordan’s ongoing struggle with muscular dystrophy. Using every bit of strength that he had, Jordan pushed through any pain or exhaustion he might have felt, and took full advantage of being given such a magical experience in Walt Disney World. The expression of pure joy and excitement never left his face on that trip, and it was an inspiring sight to see. “We feel eternally grateful for this opportunity,” says Jordan Sr. “Jordan was able to feel genuinely special for the amazing boy he is, and not have anyone ask him why he was different. Bert’s Big Adventure changes the lives of the families involved forever, and makes every one of us want to be a better person and help others. We now have a huge extended family we love.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh

[ • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


bert’s big adventure

fashions of the trip

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Photo Booth: Strike a pose! • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


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Marie got to be surrounded by loving people and families who really understand having a chronic illness and trying to be a kid.


- michele suprenant

suprenant A Modern-Day Cinderella Story By Melanie Wilson


arely does one hear a true Cinderella story quite like that of 5-year-old Marie Suprenant. As a result of being born into a family of severe abuse and neglect, Marie was left paralyzed from the waist down, also suffering from neuromuscular scoliosis and a neurogenic bladder. At 8 months old, Marie was taken away from her biological parents and put into foster care. Not very much time passed before Michele and Laura, her foster parents, decided to adopt her and give her the life she truly deserved. While Marie’s life has been tumultuous, to say the least, she definitely does not let it define her. A princess at heart, Marie was a perfect candidate to join Bert’s Big Adventure on the trip to Walt Disney World. She showed up at the family orientation in January before the trip decked out in full princess attire, tiara and all. During the trip, Marie had the opportunity to spend some quality time with Bert Weiss, host of “The Bert Show”

and co-founder of Bert’s Big Adventure. The two of them immediately hit it off, and now Marie secretly calls Bert her boyfriend. Her mother, Michele, says that when they’re in the car, Marie always asks to hear “Bertie-Bert-Bert” and lights up when her request is met. She even prepares for weeks in advance for her next opportunity to challenge him to a dance-off, which she always wins. In fact, one of the highlights of the trip for everyone was the surprise dance party with Mickey Mouse and friends. Many were surprised to see that the little girl with no use of her legs was really the best dancer on the trip. She loved dancing with Bert, who would get on the floor with her and dance using only his arms, just like her. When reflecting on the trip, Michele says, “For me, what was special about that week was that Marie got to be surrounded by loving people and families who really understand having a chronic illness and trying to be a kid. Now that the trip is over, it serves as a reminder of how loving, caring people can make a difference in a child’s life.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh



HÄagen-Dazs Shops Everybody loves ice cream, especially the mouth-watering flavors served at Häagen-Dazs. Through the sale of their delicious desserts, Häagen-Dazs helped raise $10,000 for Bert’s Big Adventure. They also served up some yummy sundaes at the family dinner the night before the send-off event, which were a big hit with the kids.


rustic white photography Robert and Tiffany Peterson, husband and wife turned photographers, started Rustic White Photography in 2010. They have shown incredible support of Bert’s Big Adventure, providing photography for not only the trip, but also the Reunions Adventures, fundraisers and many other events. Their kind hearts and incredible talent are what make them an asset to Bert’s Big Adventure.

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PROGRAPHICS As an essential partner to Bert’s Big Adventure, Prographics prints all of the organization’s marketing materials free of charge. From business cards to the annual Magical Moments magazine you’re reading now, Prographics donates every piece of immaculately printed material to help keep Bert’s Big Adventure up and running.


Georgia’s Own This year, Georgia’s Own Credit Union reached out to Bert’s Big Adventure hoping to help support the families as they made their journey to Walt Disney World. Not only did they give each family some spending money to use during or after the trip, but they also donated $20,000 towards the organization’s annual programs. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


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It has been said to us time and time again that there is no medical explanation as to how he is here today.


- jennifer watson

HU NTER WATSON miracle man by david crawford


ennifer Watson wakes up each morning counting her blessings to still be able to spend time with her 12-year-old son, Hunter, who is a living, breathing miracle. She actually spent months wondering if she’d ever get to meet him. Life has been a struggle for young Hunter since conception, as he shared fluid in the womb with an identical twin brother that, tragically, didn’t survive after the pair was born 13 weeks early. Hunter spent at least eight months in the hospital during each of his first eight years of life, seemingly encountering roadblocks at every turn. After more than 60 major procedures, Hunter feeds only through a feeding tube and is still very fragile, but has shown major improvement. Jennifer explains that when Hunter was 8 years old, she and her husband, Eric, were told that Hunter would be in a comatose state the rest of his life and that he wouldn’t develop any further. “The doctors later diagnosed him with cerebral palsy, mental retardation, bronchopulmonary dysplasia and Dandy Walker malformation, just to name a few.”

A faithful family of five, the Watsons have sent countless prayers and praises to God as they’ve witnessed the miracles of Hunter’s survival. “He baffles all of his doctors for he has only a shell of a brain. The entire interior portion of his brain was destroyed by brain hemorrhages shortly after birth. The portion of the brain that you and I use for major organ functions, he doesn’t even have. It has been said to us time and time again that there is no medical explanation as to how he is here today.” Friends of the Watsons nominated the family for Bert’s Big Adventure in November 2011. Months later they were chosen to attend the magical stay in Walt Disney World, inexplicably changing the Watson family forever. “It has now been five months since our amazing trip and I still can’t talk of it without falling to pieces. You see, with all the heartache and sickness Hunter has been through, I would give the world just to see him smile. He has the most amazing smile. I never knew just how much a smile meant until we embarked on this amazing trip.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


become a fairy godparent The Bert’s Big Adventure Fairy Godparent Volunteer Program supports the organization’s families when a Bert’s Big Adventure child is admitted to a partner hospital. The Fairy Godparent volunteers visit the children daily and provide magical moments during a trying time. This program is generously sponsored by Carter’s | OshKosh B’Gosh If you are interested in becoming a Fairy Godparent volunteer, please visit: for more information.

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it’s so rewarding to see their eyes feeling I get is priceless. 

light up, the

- Juan clavell

Three Cheers for Juan Clavell


sk Juan Clavell why he volunteers for Bert’s Big Adventure and he’ll take you back to a time when he was a young boy. It was 1964, and he and his family had traveled from San Juan, Puerto Rico to go to the New York World’s Fair. He says he still remembers going on the “It’s a Small World” ride and how much fun he and all of the other kids had. “The hope and happiness I felt left a lasting impression on me,” he says. He explains further, “When you’re a young kid, you’re not jaded, you still believe that fantasies can become realities.” He believes it’s one of the reasons he chose to volunteer with kids. “I want them to feel the way I did on that ride. I can see the hope in

By Anita J. Finkelstein

their eyes when we’re doing fun stuff. They forget about being sick, forget their limitations and forget all the bad stuff. I really think it gives them the hope that keeps them fighting.” Juan, who works as a technical designer in the boy’s division of Carter’s Children’s Wear, started volunteering for Bert’s Big Adventure through their Carter’s Cares Club about two years ago. When the first request came by email, he was one of the first employees to sign up. “A part of me is still a kid, and volunteering for Bert’s Big Adventure lets me be child-like without being childish,” says Juan. It’s obvious just from watching him at any Bert’s Big Adventure event that kids can sense

his warmth and friendliness–they seem instantly attracted to his energy and flock to him. While he’s done everything from entertaining at the send-off party to prepping food at a fashion show to acting as a chauffeur at fancy fundraisers, he says his favorite thing is just hanging out and talking to the kids. “They really just want someone to listen, give them a little attention and a hug – and it’s so rewarding to see their eyes light up, the feeling I get is priceless,” he explains, pointing out that he didn’t plan for his life to be one focused on making clothes for children and helping children. “No, I didn’t really choose this world of children – it kind of chose me.” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


Posh Tot Events created a send-off party fit for the stars in the ballroom of the Sheraton Gateway Hotel Atlanta Airport.

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The kids loved jumping in the inflatable bounce house provided by Amusement Masters.

Imagine It! Children’s Museum of Atlanta had plenty of hands-on activities for the kids.

Ken Scott put on a magical show for all of the guests.

In addition to their financial contribution, Balance Salon provided hair and makeup at the event.

The Carter’s booth included a movie screening, arts and crafts and a face-painting clown.



First Trip - February 2003 Seven children and their families joined Bert’s Big Adventure for the inaugural trip to Walt Disney World

third Trip - February 2005 10 more kids journeyed to Orlando for the experience of a lifetime





sixth Trip - February 2008 13 children escaped from the struggles of their daily lives for five days of fun







second Trip - February 2004 Bert and Stacey added eight new kids to the group, all with the support of “The Bert Show” listeners and the Atlanta community



fourth Trip - February 2006 Bert’s Big Adventure decided to expand in 2006, and took 12 families to Walt Disney World


reunion adventures program launch - july 2008 Bert’s Big Adventure began hosting Reunion Adventures to allow the families to stay connected


fifth Trip - February 2007 Along with their families, 14 more children with special needs experienced the magic of Bert’s Big Adventure


seventh trip february 2009 On the seventh trip, Bert’s Big Adventure treated 14 new children and their families to a VIP experience • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh

2003 - 2012 9

11 fairy godparent

First magazine January 2010 The first issue of Magical Moments magazine, an annual publication, was presented to the families as a way to remember the trip

volunteer program launch - may 2010 Sponsored by Carter’s|OshKosh B’Gosh, the Fairy Godparent volunteer program started small, but has grown to include more than 50 volunteers

10 eighth trip - february 2010

12 carter’s cares club

launch - january 2011 Employees of the children’s wear company, headquartered in Atlanta, volunteer for Bert’s Big Adventure events through the Carter’s Cares Club

After rebranding the organization, Bert’s Big Adventure took 13 more kids to Orlando

13 ninth trip - february 2011 13 children, including a set of twins, traveled with their families to meet Mickey Mouse

14 bert’s big adventure gets

an office - april 2011 Thanks to Tin Lizzy’s Cantina, Bert’s Big Adventure has its own office space in Atlanta, GA

15 10-year anniversary trip -

february 2012 12 deserving families got a top-of-the-line vacation to Walt Disney World, also marking the 10th anniversary of Bert’s Big Adventure









16 announcement of expansion into other markets - february 2012 Bert announced that Bert’s Big Adventure would be expanding into the other syndicated markets of “The Bert Show” • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh



Bayada Pediatrics Many of the children involved with Bert’s Big Adventure require home health care, which is exactly why Bayada Pediatrics is such a good fit as a Bert’s Big Adventure sponsor. Bayada provides clinical care and support services at home for children and adults of all ages. Along with a $5,000 donation, the Atlanta-area Bayada team offered informational support to assist the Bert’s Big Adventure staff and families in times of need.


PGi PGi, a global leader in virtual meetings, contributed $5,000 to Bert’s Big Adventure before the 2012 trip. They also gave the organization’s staff free access and training on their iMeet product, which allows the team to communicate through video conferencing. A few members of their Atlanta team even came to the send-off party wearing “iMeet loves Bert’s Big Adventure” t-shirts.

57 • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh

sponsorthankyou MAGIC MAKERS ExpressJet Carter’s | OshKosh B’Gosh Jersey Mike’s Subs Atlanta Santa Speedo Run Sheraton Gateway Hotel Atlanta Airport Posh Tot Events Troika Studio Prographics Rustic White Photography 360 Media WISH GRANTERS Country Club of Roswell Cooper Global Transportation Services Zach Thomas Photography Erika Leigh Photography Supercuts Aaron’s Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry DREAM BUILDERS Tin Lizzy’s Cantina Haagen-Dazs Shops Mercury Insurance Group Lake Lanier Canopy Tours Broadway Across America Imagine It! Children’s Museum of Atlanta Speedway Children’s Charities Sutherland Balance Salon Resurgens Charitable Foundation Physicians’ Alliance of America Kevin & Cindy Powers Bayada Nurses PGi Havana Club • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


bert’s big adventure


dreams come true

Jainah relished in the moment while touring Cinderella’s guest suite.


most people will never experience a trip to Walt disney world like the one with Bert’s Big ADventure. the families are exposed to some of the most exclusive parts of the parks, and this year was the most VIP yet. The families were invited to tour Cinderella’s guest suite in the top of the iconic castle. Other special events included a dance party with Mickey Mouse, breakfast with Lilo and Stitch and princess makeovers at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh

Shown here with Jordan, Mickey Mouse made a surprise underwater appearance at Living Seas.

At the private pool party, Linda bonded with Jenn, co-host of “The Bert Show.”

Things got competitive when Gabe and Bert got a football game started at the beach breakfast.

Breanna’s transformation into Tinkerbelle was just one of the magical moments at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


things you While there are many behind-thescenes moments leading up to Bert’s Big Adventure’s annual trip to Walt Disney World, these were some of this year’s most memorable. ABOVE: Lake Lanier Canopy Tours committed $10,000 to Bert’s Big Adventure, but it was their staff that truly stood out. Some of their zip line guides donated their tips to the cause as well, which truly showed the company’s overall commitment to the organization. RIGHT: Michael Clendenin, a Bert’s Big Adventure child from the 2009 trip, raised money on his own this year and gave each of the 2012 families a gift card to use in Walt Disney World. His dedication to the organization is a truly wonderful example of paying it forward.

LEFT: One of Bert’s Big Adventure’s long-time supporters and volunteers, Cindy Powers, outdoes herself each year at the send-off party in February. To help get the kids excited, she brings an entire group of volunteers dressed in Disney costumes she has purchased.


helping Whether it’s giving a helpful piece of advice to the staff or assisting the Bert’s Big Adventure families, many Atlanta charities help Bert’s Big Adventure in a big way. Many local organizations serve the same families, so it’s wonderful when everyone stays in touch and works together to help them. Here are some of the organizations that have shown their support. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


what’s in the familybin

3 Mom Bags Swoozie’s donated personalized tote bags for each mom on the trip, which was later filled with everything from umbrellas to lip balm.

4 3

Upon returning from Walt Disney World each year, the Bert’s Big Adventure families and staff start saying their goodbyes after five days of funfilled experiences, and it’s really a bittersweet moment for everyone. However, in true Bert’s Big Adventure style, there is one more surprise for each family, a huge bin filled with goodies for them to take home. Bert’s Big Adventure supporters donate everything in the bins based on a wish list on the website. Here are just a few of the items in the bins:

1 Build-a-Bears As a fun way to support the Bert’s Big Adventure children, Unitive donated Build-a-Bears, created to match the interests of each child. These were a big hit!

5 1


4 Disney Gear Each bin is filled with a variety of Disney toys, books, movies, coloring books and other memorabilia, just in case they didn’t get enough of their favorite characters in Walt Disney World.

2 Backpacks 5 Scrapbook Each family receives a Disney-themed Bert’s Big Adventure’s airline partner, Creative Memories scrapbook, ExpressJet, donated backpacks for donated by Tracy McDonald, a Fairy each of the kids, which were then Godparent volunteer, to fill with all of embroidered with the child’s name and their favorite photos and memories filled with coloring books, games and from the trip. other goodies.



6 Yahoo Swag Bag This year, Yahoo generously donated a nice tote bag for each family filled with a variety of items, including a blanket, headphones, a slinky, an umbrella and more. • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh

be part of the

magic This all-expenses-paid trip would not be possible without the support of “The Bert Show” listening community. Donations and financial support by various organizations and individuals are essential in continuing not just the Bert’s Big Adventure Walt Disney World trip, but the many additional ways the organization assists the selected children and their families.

Nominate a Bert’s Big Adventure Child Children may be nominated for the Bert’s Big Adventure trip via a confidential application. Bert’s Big Adventure serves children between the ages of 5 and 12 who live in “The Bert Show” radio listening area, prove financial need and have never been to Walt Disney World®. Applications are available on the organization’s website,

Make a Donation to Bert’s Big Adventure Contributions can be either monetary or through fulfillments of the Bert’s Big Adventure “Wish List.” Information on both can be found at

Become a Sponsor Bert’s Big Adventure has multiple sponsorship and marketing opportunities available. Organizations wishing to participate should contact Bert’s Big Adventure at 404.303.8312 or email • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh


magical moments









magical memories...

photo: Ben Rose Photography

Gunner Mitchell (1998-2011) Bert’s Big Adventure 2007 “It’s with sad hearts that we announce that Gunner Mitchell, of the 2007 Bert’s Big Adventure trip, lost his battle with Pulmonary Hypertension on Wednesday, October 12, 2011. Gunner loved Goofy! The Bert’s Big Adventure staff will miss this kind, gentle little boy. Our hearts go out to Gunner’s family and friends.” – Stacey Weiss

73 • magical moments magazine 2012 • sponsored by carter’s | oshkosh b’gosh

Bert’s Big Adventure

2013 FEBRUARY 21-25 Now Serving Atlanta, Nashville & Indianapolis

We are proud to support Bert’s Big Adventure and The Fairy Godparent Volunteer Program and

Magical Moments - 2012