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www.bertsbigadventure.org

2010 ISSUE


Thank you, Q100/Cumulus Radio, for your continued support of Bert’s Big Adventure. Since the beginning, your dedication to the cause, on-air support, and many staff hours has helped BBA become the organization that it is today.

With much appreciation,

– Bert Weiss

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www.bertsbigadventure.org • 404.303.8312 ‘magical moments’ magazine • 2009


bba sendoff soirée

staff BERT’S BIG ADVENTURE Bert Weiss Co-Founder Stacey Weiss Co-Founder & Executive Director Amy Moosbrugger Program Director Chris Kappy Development Director Molly Parrish Social Media & Marketing Director Michael Birchall/Troika Studio Inc. Creative Director

MAGICAL MOMENTS Stacey Weiss Publisher Molly Parrish Editor-In-Chief Amy Moosbrugger Managing Editor Emily Foley Copy Editor Michael Birchall/Troika Studio, Inc. Art Director

P.O. Box 420917 • Atlanta, GA, 30342 404.303.8312 • BertsBigAdventure.org All photos courtesy of Stacey Bode Photography & Zach Thomas Photography

All printing and distribution of Magical Moments magazine donated by

ProGraphics Communications, LLC 5664 New Peachtree Road Atlanta, GA 30341 O: 678.597.1050 F: 678.597.1051 PGC-ATL.com

a look through the lens of Stacey Bode as she captured some of the many magical moments that took place!

23 be a part of the magic

find out how you too, can help make magical moments a reality for these children

39 c.h.o.a.

children’s hospital of atlanta opens new room thanks to carter’s/oshkosh b’gosh

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contents Dominic Alexander..............................................................................................5 Samin Badiei..............................................................................................................9 A’nya BennetT..................................................................................................... 13 Kayci Clemmons................................................................................................. 17 Louis Cushnie...................................................................................................... 21 Stephen Hobson............................................................................................... 25 Riley Koboldt...................................................................................................... 29 Brayden Plemons............................................................................................. 33 Caleigh Prisk....................................................................................................... 37 Hunter Pruett................................................................................................... 41 Madison Shipley................................................................................................ 45 Tremayne Walter............................................................................................. 49 Angel Williams................................................................................................... 53

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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While the five day journey to Walt Disney World will always be at our core, Bert’s Big Adventure has evolved into an organization that focuses on togetherness; not escape. -Bert Weiss

our vision...

A Message from Bert Weiss, co-Founder

Y

ears ago when Stacey and I started Bert’s Big Adventure (BBA) we had one focus; escort children with chronic and terminal illnesses and their families to Walt Disney World for a magical escape. Escape from doctors appointments. Escape from needles and x-rays. Escape from words like chemotherapy and transfusions; an escape from reality. While the five-day journey to Walt Disney World will always be at our core, BBA has evolved into an organization that focuses on togetherness; not escape. Stacey and I never envisioned the sense of intimacy and community that our BBA families would experience on the trip and long after we’re back from Orlando. This has really become our purpose. The harsh realities families with children who have chronic and terminal illnesses experience every day cannot totally be understood by those of us that have healthy children. There is no routine. There is no “easy” day. There is no time to breathe and give up control. That’s why I believe when BBA families meet, there is an instant acceptance, immediate bond and willingness to form meaningful friendships.

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A few years ago one BBA family member had been carrying a child around that needed assistance for two straight days. I was shocked when I found out that the child belonged to a different BBA family! This is what you, the donor, have supplied for BBA families; togetherness. Not just a trip to Walt Disney World. Each dollar you give allows us to establish togetherness within families that live in a world that doesn’t understand what it’s like to live each day with enormous risk and insecurity.

So thank you so much for not only allowing us to smile and laugh for five straight days in Walt Disney World but for also supplying something far more important when we get back. A Community!

Bert Weiss

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


what is bba? ONCE UPON A TIME...

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n 1996, Atlanta morning radio personality Bert Weiss’ life changed when he took a trip to Walt Disney World® with 100 children with chronic or terminal illnesses as part of Kidd’s Kids, an organization based in Dallas, Texas. “It took me a weekend at Walt Disney World with these kids to realize how blessed my life had been,” said Weiss. “Most of these kids had never lived a day in their life that wasn’t a struggle.” Weiss, who came to Atlanta in 2001 to host The Bert Show on All the Hits Q100 (99.7 FM), was inspired by his previous experience and launched a similar organization of his own. His goal was to provide an unforgettable event for Atlanta-area children stricken with chronic and/or terminal illnesses and their families. In 2002, Weiss and his wife, Stacey, established Bert’s Big Adventure as an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Their mission was to organize an annual trip to Orlando for those whose special needs may otherwise hinder such a trip, covering the expenses of all travel, accommodations, meals and admission to Walt Disney World. In March 2003, Bert’s Big Adventure made its inaugural trip to Walt Disney World with seven children and their families. Since then, the organization has grown considerably. Annually, families are chosen for this trip of a lifetime and continue to benefit from Bert’s Big Adventure’s charitable contribution.

our MISSION... Bert’s Big Adventure is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides a spectacular five day journey to Walt Disney World for children with a chronic and/or terminal illness and their families. This trip and the year round programs that follow each adventure allow participants to… • • •

Establish lasting friendships with others facing similar challenges, Experience events and venues that otherwise could not be afforded Enjoy the gift of intimate family time together where the focus turns from living with an illness to making magical moments

Bert’s Big Adventure serves children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old, live in The Bert Show radio listening area (All the Hits Q100, 99.7 FM) in metro Atlanta, prove financial need and have never been to Walt Disney World. Once a family has been chosen for Bert’s Big Adventure they are a Bert’s Big Adventure family for life. In addition to the trip and year round programs, Bert’s Big Adventure provides certain additional charitable services that are necessary to the fulfillment of its charitable purpose. For example, and new in 2010, Bert’s Big Adventure is giving an opportunity to selected volunteers with The Fairy Godmother/Godfather Volunteer Program. The program, sponsored by Carter’s, Inc., the Atlanta-based marketer of the Carter’s and OshKosh B’gosh childrenswear brands, will allow Bert’s Big Adventure families to be visited on a daily basis when their child is admitted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA). Even in the hospital, magical moments can still occur. Although the program can’t turn pumpkins into carriages, the goal is to turn difficult and stressful situations into positive and comfortable experiences.

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Headshot

CALLOUT QUOTE GOES HERE. THIS COPY IS FOR POSITION ONLY. IT The Amerson Family IS NOT MEANT TO BE

READ. -PARENT’S NAME

trials are just good

Dear Jonah, things as bad. …I will always remember thedisguised day you met Buzz Lightyear. I will tell you the story of this day as They can bad things many times as you want to hearbecome it, in case there are ever parts you forget as you grow up. I will orinfinity good things, always love you “to and beyond.” and only you

can decide. I love you so much, Mom – cara alexander

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


For four short days, I was given permission to be a “normal” mom. I was allowed to relax and enjoy my children for who they are. -CHERIE BAXTER

by: clay crutchfield

dominic

by: anna bentley

THE ALEXANDER FAMILY AMERSON FAMILY

Untesequuntvolum Untesequunt volum volestia volestia nusam nusam in essequide in essequide officiisofet expe aped estisaped sit estion rerae vollati doficiis eatem et expe eatem estisrepudam sit estion repudam relupta tatatat atiorpotatatat rerfera tectorrum ipsum facidi quam THE rae vollati ALEXANDER dolupta FAMILY atiorpo rerfera tectorrum voluptatur, te sustio. Nam enest aut magnatium que coipsum facidi voluptatur, sustio. NamAlexanenest n his briefquam five years on this te earth, Dominic nectatio. Nequam eos sinto et et offictem ilit quae venider has become not only a survivor of Polycystic Kidaut magnatium que conectatio. Nequam eos sinto et magnis quis quam et odiam, cum nus et undebineysolum Disorder, but he also serves as que an inspiration and et offictem ilit quae venimagnis solum quis quam et tat ius volendi doluptas comnimpore del isto temoluptam encouragement to everyone around him. When this odiam, cum que nus et undebitat ius volendi dolupque mi, sunt facestrum num temoluptam acerione enihil et, ium strong and selfless boy a room with his ever-present tas comnimpore del enters isto que mi, quias sunt dit ut unt ut illantio dunt moluptas minias esto maxime lismile, things just seem to brighten, which is probably facestrum num acerione enihil et, ium quias ditwhy ut tendi doloremporem rereri re doluptat eos sam quam nimus his parents, Jake and Cara, describe him as “a light.” Domiunt ut illantio dunt moluptas minias esto maxime linectio molupient alique coribus veles poratus sitatur, unt nic’s genetic disorder causes life-threatening cysts form tendi doloremporem rereri re doluptat eos samtoquam audaescid estiassum et most offic totaeratur si berfern in his liver, which have forced him and his family to face nimus nectio molupient alique coribus veles poratus aturio estiur? challenges such as feeding tubes, dialysis, andoffic eventotaea kidsitatur, unt audaescid estiassum et most Igni nobit in estrum acearci molupti te nonsequ iderrov itaney transplant. The Alexander’s don’t just manage to meet ratur si berfern aturio estiur? tus eaquo te doloreptatus et quam quid quunt volorites and overcome these hardships on a daily basis; they do it Igni nobit in estrum acearci molupti te nonsequ idersusdandit adistrum ium sequibus suntio temolor ehendunti together; loving and supporting each other the entire way. rov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus et quam quid quunt resto velitBert’s voles Big por Adventure audiae as sunto riatemp When gave Dominic and hiserchifamvolorites susdandit adistrum ium explabo sequibus suntio teciatthe quam quae num serum que none qui omni aliqui ily opportunity to enjoy some quality time together at molor ehendunti resto velit voles pordolorest audiae as sunto samus quatem dolumque ea sit quis estiusae rerfera dem. Walt Disney World, they turned thatet gift right around explabo riatemp erchiciat quam quae numback serum que Officil ipiderit reniae niscition porupid ut fugiam, volorlove soby offering the BBAomni volunteers a trueet example ofdolumque what none qui dolorest aliqui samus quatem luptisitiduciet lacipsa peliquuntis utdem. haribus di con porrore looks like. perspective on overcoming obstacles left ea quisTheir et estiusae rerfera Officil ipiderit revoluptasped quam ut velecullam enet volor facepres accab ipa lasting impression. As Cara says, “trialssolupti areutjust good niae niscition porupid et ut fugiam, iduciet samet es as nesequae quocan toreptiusda verum natiam things disguised as bad. They become bad things or lacipsa peliquuntis utporum haribus di con porrore voluptashilit venisque quivelecullam sunt. good things,ut and only you can decide.” Cara and Jake have ped quam enet facepres ut accab ipOptat fugit litataqui bearum eostheir sundant liquid miniworked to set a toneommo of optimism for family that has samet es as nesequae porum quo toreptiusda verum hit molum arivenisque cum vendaep ellesecum erum illuptatur abortaught all of their children, including Dominic’s older sister natiam hilit qui sunt. rum ut fugit laut evel ma quia sant, id quid quae qui Hailee, and younger sister andbearum brother Traci and Gavin,liquid how Optat litataqui ommo eos poreiumquid sundant voloria imus. to use spellab life’s challenges stress ellesecum to draw closer to illupeach minihit molum ari cumand vendaep erum Et poreaborrum plisthat re alitatur si quam et, solendit as siidquo blaborro other, and by so, they can not only survive any tatur ut doing laut evel ma quia sant, quid quae te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum non plat laboria ecsituation, but they can thrive–no matter what comes their poreiumquid qui voloria spellab imus. tiusdae. Ut prorporum nis imet por atem haris quideserum way. That attitude was evident as the family navigated Et pore plis re alitatur si quam et, solendit as si quo quam sus. chaotic Walt Disney World and corrum kindnessnon toblaborro te pellate siniaswith autpatience quam eum Seque porecte plab il ius molorum quae eum quunt labor siward not only each other but also everyone around them. plat laboria ectiusdae. Ut prorporum nis imet por atem met doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi quas mos sit Dominic even showed kindness to the infamous Captain haris quideserum quam sus. omnimus ciasperitium iurinto maan cusandunt dis quunt rerum Hook asporecte he was transformed honorary pirate–a very Seque plab aut il ius molorum quaequi eum ulpa alitisti con et volut molor sinis ne excestis doles nos prestigious honor for the enthusiastic little guy. labor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi voloreptatur atus sumquod issequam comniae struntis auDominic, who is “like a little man” according to Bert Weiss, quas mos sit omnimus ciasperitium aut iur ma cusanddigenim explibus aut molupta assint quia ditiis et arum verae knows no stranger and possesses sociability beyond his unt qui dis rerum ulpa alitisti con et volut molor sinis soluptatus dolestr umenist, cupta consequi aspelit atiores years. The highlight of his Adventure was getting to walk ne excestis doles nos voloreptatur atus sumquod issetotame explabore, ullo idundi tem facest fuga. Atis idi tem right up to his favorite Disney characters like aut Mickey and quam comniae struntis audigenim explibus molupfaccusa voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum volorro riGoofy for face-to-face meetings. ta assint quia ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr busam solore dolor aut et The most incredible thing about the deserving Alexanumenist, cupta consequi aspelit atiores totame explaSeque porecte plab il ius molorum quae eum laborthe sider family is that through BBA, they were not only bore, ullo idundi tem facest fuga. Atis idi quunt tem given faccusa met doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi quas mos sit opportunity to make lasting memories together; they also voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum volorro ribusomnimus ciasperitium aut iur ma cusandunt qui dis rerum enriched the livesaut of those around them with their dynamic am solore dolor et

i

ulpa alitisti con et volut devotion to each other in molor return.sinis ne excestis doles nos

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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NEW IN 2010:

fairy godmother& By: Ashley Hesseltine

fairy

godfather t here’s nothing quite like seeing the joy on a child’s face and knowing that you’ve just brightened their day…especially when it’s a child in need. This year, Bert’s Big Adventure embarked on a new endeavor and decided to give that opportunity to selected volunteers with The Fairy Godmother/Godfather Volunteer Program. With 85 Bert’s Big Adventure kids, it was time to call in additional help and create the organization’s very first volunteer program. Sponsored by Carter’s, Inc., the Atlanta-based marketer of the Carter’s and OshKosh B’gosh childrenswear brands, the program will allow Bert’s Big Adventure families to be visited on a daily basis when their child is admitted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta–proving that even in the hospital, magical mo-

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volunteer program:

ments can still occur. Although the program can’t turn pumpkins into carriages, the goal is to turn difficult and stressful situations into positive and comfortable experiences. “We appreciate the opportunity to support Bert’s Big Adventure’s Fairy Godmother/Godfather Program,” said Mike Casey, Chief Executive Officer of Carter’s, Inc. “We believe this extension of Bert’s Big Adventure will provide much needed help to families who have children with chronic or terminal illnesses.” So, how does it work? A team will be put into place so that when the organization is notified that a Bert’s Big Adventure child has been admitted to the hospital, the Fairy Godmother/ Godfather team leader will schedule volunteer visits throughout the child’s stay. BBA will provide each volunteer

with resources so that any necessities can be provided, as well as surprises to brighten the child’s stay. And, with the exuberant volunteers that have been selected, the surprises are sure to be memories that will last a lifetime. “We know how hard it must be for these children to be in the hospital day after day,” says Tanya Conventry, Director of Brand Strategy for OshKosh B’gosh. “We feel lucky to have helped put a program in place that is going to brighten their days.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


NEW IN 2010: By: Anita Finkelstein

Pure Fun!

W

hat do you get when you mix the great kids of BBA with an organization called Pure Fashion that focuses on empowering teen girls? A fabulous fashion show and party for kids! Which was exactly what BBA cofounder Stacey Weiss envisioned when she created the Peace, Love & Pure Fashion Show. Held on April 25 at the Opera event facility in Midtown Atlanta, the event was such a huge success that it is now slated to become an annual fundraiser for BBA. “I wanted to create a charity event that would raise money for BBA, but wouldn’t be like a ‘typical’ benefit where adults go and have a fancy dinner,” explains Stacey. “This organization is all about helping kids, so I wanted kids to be a part of it.” The idea came together when Stacey was introduced to Pure Fashion, a faith-based organization that focuses on guiding young women ages 14 to 18 to become confident, competent leaders who live the virtues of modesty and purity in their schools and communities. Members of Pure Fashion go through an eight-month training program and as part of their ‘graduation’ they are given the opportunity to participate in a fashion show. Says Stacey, “I loved their message, and the idea of featuring a kid-friendly fashion show. Pure Fashion loved the idea of turning their fashion show into a benefit for BBA, so it just worked perfectly.” More than 400 people attended

the event, which, in addition to the fashion show hosted by Stacey and CBS’s “Better Mornings Atlanta” lifestyle and entertainment reporter Corinna Allen, also featured a live performance by Christian musician Jonny Diaz. The weather was perfect on the spring Sunday afternoon and everyone–parents, kids and teen girls alike–had a blast. During the hourlong reception, moms and teens got to shop for handbags and jewelry from various mobile boutiques while dads hung out on the cool, Miamiinspired patio noshing on snacks provided by Tin Lizzy’s Cantina and Dogwood. There was a buzz in the air as kids ran around in excitement, and guests were thrilled at the opportunity to meet Bert’s Big Adventure Founder Bert Weiss who was also on hand for the festivities. The energy and excitement had reached a fever pitch by show time, when the focus shifted to watching more than 45 girls on the runway in trendy yet modest juniors fashions exclusively from JCPenney. As an extra treat, six BBA kids got to march down the runway in Carter’s children’s wear–and when they did, the audience went wild. After the fashion show and a fabulous performance by Diaz, there wasn’t a face in the room that didn’t bear a smile. Perhaps five-year-old A’nya Bennett (BBA 2010) summed up the experience best: “Can we come back here?” she asked her mother as they left the building.

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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Headshot

The Amerson Family

For kids like Samin

in countries like my country…people think that these kids Dear Jonah,

…I will always remember the day you met Buzz are useless, sothe they Lightyear. I will tell you story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there don’t payyou attention are ever parts forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.”

as much to them. I love you so much, –Mom Jila Ali badiei

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


For four short days, I was given permission to be a “normal” mom. I was allowed to relax and enjoy my children for who they are. -CHERIE BAXTER

by: anna bentley

samin

by: anna bentley

THE AMERSON FAMILY

Untesequunt volum volestia nusam in essequide officiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam rerae vollati dolupta tatatat atiorpo rerfera tectorrum ipsum facidi quam voluptatur, te sustio. Nam enest aut magnatium que conectatio. Nequam eos sinto et et offictem ilit quae venimagnis solum quis quam et odiam, cum que nus et undebitat ius volendi doluptas comnimpore del isto temoluptam que mi, sunt facestrum num acerione enihil et, ium quias dit ut THE unt utBADIEI illantio dunt FAMILY moluptas minias esto maxime litendi doloremporem amin Badiei may rereri bere small doluptat in stature, eos sam but quam when it comes to courage, she’s largerveles than life. She nimus nectio molupient alique coribus poratus conquered the Tower of Terror at Disney’s Holsitatur, unt audaescid estiassum et most offic totaelywood aturio Studios with a smile, while others ratur si berfern estiur? screamed in horror. For a child that hastebeen through all Igni nobit in estrum acearci molupti nonsequ iderthat Samin has, the Tower of Terror might as well be a rov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus et quam quid quunt cakewalk. So needless to say, her during volorites susdandit adistrum iumbeaming sequibussmile suntio tethe ride was no surprise to hervoles parents and John, and molor ehendunti resto velit porJila audiae as sunto little sister, Sahba.erchiciat They sayquam she’squae fearless. explabo riatemp num serum que Luckily for Samin, fearlessness seems to run dolumque in the famnone qui dolorest omni aliqui samus quatem ily. Tenquis years her parents made the difficult decision ea sit etago, estiusae rerfera dem. Officil ipiderit reto leave their home country of Iran tovolor find solupti better medical niae niscition porupid et ut fugiam, iduciet treatment for Samin,utwho was di born a skin disorder lacipsa peliquuntis haribus conwith porrore voluptascalled epidermolysis bullosaenet that facepres makes herut skin suscepped quam ut velecullam accab iptible to es injury mild friction pressure. Her condition samet as from nesequae porumorquo toreptiusda verum results blisters or wounds all over her body from the natiam in hilit venisque qui sunt. slightest injury. Sometimes, doingeos hersundant homework can Optat fugit litataqui ommoeven bearum liquid leave blisters between fingers. ellesecum erum illupminihit molum ari cumher vendaep “Foraborrum kids like Samin countries like my country…people tatur ut lautinevel ma quia sant, id quid quae think that these kids are useless, so they don’t pay attenporeiumquid qui voloria spellab imus. tion as much to them,” says her mother, Jila. Et pore plis re alitatur si quam et, solendit “But as sihere, quo there are lots of opportunities for everybody, even if they blaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum non have special ectiusdae. needs like my plat laboria Utdaughter.” prorporum nis imet por atem Thequideserum BBA trip offered haris quam the sus.Badieis a chance to forget about their daily stresses andmolorum enjoy eachquae othereum as a family, Seque porecte plab il ius quunt but they also received another important, unexpected gift labor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi in the process: A sense of community, which is something quas mos sit omnimus ciasperitium aut iur ma cusandthey have missed leaving Iran. unt qui dis rerumdearly ulpa since alitisti con et volut molor sinis As Jila recalls the high points of the trip, her happiest ne excestis doles nos voloreptatur atus sumquod issememory is not a moment, but a message. “[The trip] sent quam comniae struntis audigenim explibus aut molupthe message to my daughter that it was because of her ta assint quia ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr that we enjoyed the whole five days,” she explains. “All of umenist, cupta consequi aspelit atiores totame explathose kids that are suffering from all of the medical experibore, ullo idundi tem facest fuga. Atis idi tem faccusa ences thatnimin they nimusam have…thatipsam, trip gave [them]volorro the message voluptae exerum ribusthat it’s just because of you; all of these joys are just beam solore dolor aut et

” S

cause of you.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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magicmaker... by Anita J. Finkelstein

The thing about Carter’s and BBA is that both of us are committed to the same mission – we want to make life better for kids and see them smile. –jill wilson

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


BBA & Carter’s: A Growing Connection

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hile the relationship between Atlanta-based Carter’s Children’s Wear and Bert’s Big Adventure is less than a year old, it’s already strong, and growing stronger every day. “We want to grow with BBA as they grow,” explains Jill Wilson, Vice President of Human Resources for Carter’s and the director of the Carter’s Cares program, which oversees the charitable activities of the company. “We believe what they do in our community is really important.”

Carter’s was first introduced to BBA early in 2009 by Jacquelyn Pentecost, an HR manager who listens to The Bert Show every morning. “Every time I would hear them talk about BBA, I would think, “Carter’s needs to get involved in this.” It seemed like a great fit to me – a local charity focused on kids – it just made sense.” She finally took action in January after hearing The Bert Show crew talking about the annual trip. “I think everyone cries when they hear these children’s stories,” expressed Jacquelyn. Within weeks Jacquelyn had contacted BBA and arranged a meeting between Stacey Weiss, co-founder of BBA and Carter’s President Mike Casey. The pair ended up talking for almost two hours about the history and the mission of BBA and how the organization is evolving. Casey says he was immediately impressed. “Once I heard how BBA is helping these kids and their families and the extent of what they do – I knew there was something special about BBA.” He adds that he also likes the fact that choosing BBA as a corporate cause allows them to give back to Atlanta, since it is now headquarters for the 145+ year old company. “I consider them our neighbor, and helping your neighbor is the right thing to do.” Wilson explained that one of the things that is important to Carter’s is that the company do more for their charities of choice than just give them money. With BBA being right in Carter’s backyard, the company is able to accomplish that goal. “Our employees can really get involved and be a part of the cause. They can volunteer, raise funds and go to events. This hands-on opportunity with the BBA kids creates a more powerful experience.” Nowadays Jacquelyn can listen to The Bert Show in the morning knowing she was the catalyst that created a very special partnership. As a “Fairy Godmother” in the BBA program, she can also see just how much Carter’s participation means to the BBA families. Says Wilson, “The thing about Carter’s and BBA is that both of us are committed to the same mission – we want to make life better for kids and see them smile.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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Headshot

The Amerson Family

Dear Jonah, …I will always remember the day you met Buzz Lightyear. I will tell you the story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there are ever parts you forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.” I love you so much, Mom

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


by: blair branch

For four short

days, I was given Seeing her out

permission to be of the hospital,

having fun on this

trip showed me how far we’ve come this past year. – crystal bennett

anya

by: anna bentley

THE AMERSON FAMILY

Untesequunt volum volestia nusam in essequide officiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam reTHE rae vollati bennett dolupta FAMILY tatatat atiorpo rerfera tectorrum ipsum t’s been facidiquite quam a year voluptatur, for five-year-old te sustio. A’nya Nam Bennett. enest began attending school inNequam January,eos wassinto named aut She magnatium que conectatio. et Student of Month in May and recently et offictem ilitthe quae venimagnis solum quiscelebrated quam et her cum kindergarten while she battled odiam, que nus graduation–all et undebitat ius volendi dolupAcute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. tas comnimpore del isto temoluptam que mi, sunt Diagnosednum in May 2009, A’nya lives with a condition facestrum acerione enihil et, ium quias ditthat ut wreaked havoc on her immune system, resulting in lengthy unt ut illantio dunt moluptas minias esto maxime liICU stays and weeklyrereri trips re to doluptat the hospital for several tendi doloremporem eos sam quam months.nectio Even a simple fever had to be treated profesnimus molupient alique coribus velesbyporatus sionals at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and for a time, sitatur, unt audaescid estiassum et most offic totaeattending school was out of the question. ratur si berfern aturio estiur? A’nya’s immuneacearci systemmolupti so depressed, her mother, IgniWith nobit in estrum te nonsequ iderCrystal, never thought about nominating the family for rov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus et quam quid quunt Bert’s Big Adventure. Fortunately forsequibus the Bennetts, a famvolorites susdandit adistrum ium suntio teily friend did thinkresto of exactly that. por A’nya was still in the molor ehendunti velit voles audiae as sunto hospital receiving treatmentquam whenquae Bert num calledserum to deliver explabo riatemp erchiciat que the news himself. omni aliqui samus quatem dolumque none qui dolorest trip to Walt Disney World started off a rebit ea Though sit quisA’nya’s et estiusae rerfera dem. Officil ipiderit rocky,niscition Crystal porupid describesetitut as, “a truevolor joy.” solupti Upon arrival in niae fugiam, iduciet Orlando,peliquuntis A’nya was feeling so ill she could barelyvoluptaswalk, and lacipsa ut haribus di con porrore Crystal thought for a moment that they’d have to return ped quam ut velecullam enet facepres ut accab iphome immediately. But everything whenverum A’nya samet es as nesequae porum quochanged toreptiusda saw thehilit hotel room. “She really lit up,” says Crystal. “We natiam venisque qui sunt. haven’tfugit beenlitataqui on vacation since she became sick, so she Optat ommo bearum eos sundant liquid was so happy just see vendaep the hotel room. She was climbing minihit molum aritocum ellesecum erum illupall over everything!” Asevel greatma asquia A’nyasant, thought the quae room tatur aborrum ut laut id quid was, outside those walls was the magic of Walt Disney poreiumquid qui voloria spellab imus. World. of her favorite of the experience Et poreAnd, plis one re alitatur si quamparts et, solendit as si quo therein was dressing up as Snow White, complete with a blaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum non wig of thick black hair–a truly special element since A’nya plat laboria ectiusdae. Ut prorporum nis imet por atem lost allquideserum of her hair during haris quamchemo sus. treatments. Crystal says the trip was great family experience for Seque porecte plab il ius amolorum quae eum quunt not just A’nya and herself, but for A’nya’s brother and falabor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi ther as well: “It was so wonderful to see everyone enjoying quas mos sit omnimus ciasperitium aut iur ma cusandthemselves. Thanksulpa to the doctors and staff, A’nya unt qui dis rerum alitisti con etmedical volut molor sinis had no worries. It was so good to see her like a ‘normal’ kid.” ne excestis doles nos voloreptatur atus sumquod isseAlthough life has been a rocky journey for A’nya since quam comniae struntis audigenim explibus aut molupsheassint was first she has been in remission since ta quiadiagnosed, ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr November of 2009, and continues to get healthier every umenist, cupta consequi aspelit atiores totame expladay. Even her hair is starting to grow back. Crystal also bore, ullo idundi tem facest fuga. Atis idi tem faccusa notes that since the trip, A’nya has been a “ball of joy.” She voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum volorro ribussays, “Seeing her out of the hospital, having fun on this trip am solore dolor aut et

i

showed me how far we’ve come this past year.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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60 by the numbers... Deluxe

83X3X5= 1,245 Hotel Rooms

(PEOPLE ON THE TRIP)

(SMILES PER DAY)

(DAYS)

(TOTAL NUMBER OF SMILES ON OUR TRIP)

1,500 gigabytes

of hd space used for media

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www.bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine; 2010 trip

the number of times Bert rode a roller coaster

D F


BBA DATES

=FOR

MEDIA

distributed

5

16

press releases

TV ALERTS WHICH REACHED MORE THAN

595.4

NEXT YEAR:

F E B R UA RY

17-21

million PEOPLE!

10,000 pictures taken

www.bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine; 2010 trip

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Headshot

The Amerson Family

My favorite memory was the smile on my baby’s face everyday of the trip, and seeing her dressed up like Cinderella was the sweetest. –Dear Chiquita Jonah,clemmons

…I will always remember the day you met Buzz Lightyear. I will tell you the story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there are ever parts you forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.” I love you so much, Mom

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


For four short days, I was given permission to be a “normal” mom. I was allowed to relax and enjoy my children for who they are. -CHERIE BAXTER

by: brittney mckenna

kayci THE AMERSON FAMILY

Untesequunt volum volestia nusam in essequide officiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam rerae vollati dolupta tatatat atiorpo rerfera tectorrum ipsum facidi quam voluptatur, te sustio. Nam enest aut magnatium que conectatio. Nequam eos sinto et et offictem ilit quae venimagnis solum quis quam et THE odiam,clemmons cum que nus FAMILY et undebitat ius volendi doluptas comnimpore istoClemmons temoluptam mi, loves sunt ix year olddel Kayci is all que girl: she thenum coloracerione pink, dancing, all of the Disney facestrum enihil and et, ium quias dit ut princesses, especially minias Cinderella. Thanks to unt ut illantio dunt moluptas esto maxime liBert’s Big Adventure, Kayci was able to have a tendi doloremporem rereri re doluptat eos sam quam Cinderella story of her very own. nimus nectio molupient alique coribus veles poratus Kayci unt was audaescid diagnosed with both epilepsy, sitatur, estiassum et mostwhich offic causes totaeher to have seizures due to unusual electrical activity in ratur si berfern aturio estiur? her brain, Rasmussen’s syndrome, a rare disorder ofiderthe Igni nobitand in estrum acearci molupti te nonsequ central nervous system that causes inflammation on one rov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus et quam quid quunt side of thesusdandit brain. Rasmussen’s causes Kayci potential blindvolorites adistrum ium sequibus suntio teness, loss of speech andvelit further riskpor for audiae seizures. hemimolor ehendunti resto voles asAsunto spherectomy (A surgery to remove affected part ofque the explabo riatemp erchiciat quam the quae num serum brain) qui Kayci had in omni September 2008 lessened chance none dolorest aliqui samus quatemthe dolumque for these seizures, but alsorerfera left Kayci in need of speech ea sit quis et estiusae dem. Officil ipideritand revisionniscition therapies indefinitely. niae porupid et ut fugiam, volor solupti iduciet Kathypeliquuntis Braden, Kayci’s social worker, told Kayci’s mom, lacipsa ut haribus di con porrore voluptasChiquita, about a special organization that ut made magic ped quam ut velecullam enet facepres accab iphappen es for as kids like Kayci.porum quo toreptiusda verum samet nesequae “Mrs. hilit Kathy Braden qui came to us and said, ‘I have some natiam venisque sunt. resources forlitataqui a really nice foundation takes kidsliquid with Optat fugit ommo bearum that eos sundant illnessesmolum and their to Walt ellesecum Disney World,’” Chiquita minihit ari families cum vendaep erum illupsaid. “She gave me application. I didn’t fill itidout because tatur aborrum ut an laut evel ma quia sant, quid quae Iporeiumquid thought we didn’t have a chance. She kept sending emails qui voloria spellab imus. andpore afterplis the re third email Isifilled it out. got a callas from Et alitatur quam et, I solendit si Bert quo one day at work and the rest is history.” blaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum non Kayci and ectiusdae. Chiquita were on their Walt Displat laboria Uthappily prorporum nisway imettopor atem ney World, and little did they know that the best surprise haris quideserum quam sus. was yetporecte to come:plab Kayci going to live hereum dream and Seque il was ius molorum quae quunt become Cinderella for the day. labor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi “Mymos favorite memory ciasperitium was the smileaut on iur myma baby’s face quas sit omnimus cusandeveryday of the trip, and seeing her dressed up like Cinderunt qui dis rerum ulpa alitisti con et volut molor sinis ellaexcestis was the sweetest,” Chiquita said. atus sumquod issene doles nos voloreptatur “Bert’s Big Adventure impacted our family aut in the best quam comniae struntis audigenim explibus molupway.” Kayci’s mother Chiquita said. “It allowed us to free ta assint quia ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr our minds and live for the now. It’s not just a foundation, umenist, cupta consequi aspelit atiores totame explaits a family. They tem reallyfacest love and careAtis for you. Sometimes bore, ullo idundi fuga. idi tem faccusa you just need somebody to understand what you’re going voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum volorro ribusthrough. They embraced us in such a way that having fun am solore dolor aut et

S

with them was so easy.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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B

STAFFspotlight

assistant broadcast engineer for q100

Frankie Torchia

T

All their worries are taken care of for the entire time we are out at the parks. This means any and everything they want to do, we do it, and have a blast all the while! – FRANKIE TORCHIA

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By Carly Felton wo years ago, when Bert’s Big Adventure Co-Founders Bert and Stacey Weiss came to Frankie Torchia, an assistant broadcast engineer for Q100, and asked him to be a part of the organization’s annual trip, he was thrilled. He had seen the positive change Bert’s Big Adventure had on the lives of the families involved and wanted to share in the magic. Fast forward two years, and Frankie takes his role as a chaperon seriously— and seriously means having as much fun with the BBA families as possible and making sure they literally have the time of their lives. “My goal is to make sure the family [I’m walking around with each day] enjoys everything Walt Disney World has to offer, and to make sure that they take this time to enjoy the experience with their family, as a family,” he says. “All their worries are taken care of for the entire time we are out at the parks. This means any and everything they want to do, we do it, and have a blast all the while!”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

A self-described softy, Frankie must put all of his effort into holding back tears when he sees the overwhelming excitement of all the BBA children upon arrival at the Walt Disney World parks. He truly values the ability to share this experience with the BBA families—an experience they would never have without the organization—and being a part of how much closer it brings the children and parents as a family. “There are two memories that will stand out in my mind forever: The first one is watching every child’s face light up when the fireworks light up in the sky over Cinderella’s Castle. The second is the final morning broadcast from the ESPN Club in EPCOT when each family reads a letter to their child. It is at that moment that you see how much Bert’s Big Adventure has forever changed the lives of each of the families,” Frankie says. “It’s a huge rush to be a part of something that makes such a positive impact on so many people’s lives.”


BEHIND the lens troika studio

i came on this trip as a videographer with the sole purpose of capturing magical moments of these kids. it was the magical moments & the kids that captured me. – michael birchall

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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Headshot

We all still talk about that trip of

The Amerson Family

a lifetime;

our fantastic voyage. – orvia cushnie

Dear Jonah, …I will always remember the day you met Buzz Lightyear. I will tell you the story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there are ever parts you forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.” I love you so much, Mom

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


For four short days, I was given permission to be a “normal” mom. I was allowed to relax and enjoy my children for who they are. -CHERIE BAXTER

by: whitney brennon

louis THE AMERSON FAMILY

Untesequunt volum volestia nusam in essequide officiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam rerae vollati dolupta tatatat atiorpo rerfera tectorrum ipsum facidi quam voluptatur, te sustio. Nam enest aut magnatium que conectatio. Nequam eos sinto et et offictem ilit quae venimagnis solum quis quam et odiam, cum que nus et undebitat ius volendi dolupTHE tas comnimpore cushniedel FAMILY isto temoluptam que mi, sunt facestrum he day num Orvia acerione Cushnie enihilfound et, ium out quias herdit oneut son Louis had spinal unt ut year-old illantio dunt moluptas minias estomuscular maxime liatrophy, she rereri couldn’t find her tendi doloremporem re doluptat eosway samhome. quam “It was a route I had driven every day, nimus nectio molupient alique coribus veles poratus twice a day, and I was lost,” she says. sitatur, unt audaescid estiassum et most offic totaeSpinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disorder in ratur si berfern aturio estiur? which loss of spinal cord nerve cells results in progressive Igni nobit in estrum acearci molupti te nonsequ idermuscle weakness and atrophy, and the now rov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus et quamfive-year-old quid quunt Louis was susdandit born with the condition. Orvia realized somevolorites adistrum ium sequibus suntio tething was wrong when having troubleas with momolor ehendunti restoLouis velitwas voles por audiae sunto bility, including taking his first steps. Louis now also explabo riatemp erchiciat quam quae numhas serum que developed scoliosis,omni or a spinal respiratory probnone qui dolorest aliqui curve, samusand quatem dolumque lems to et SMA. ea sitdue quis estiusae rerfera dem. Officil ipiderit reOrvia says porupid that although her family wasn’t given any niae niscition et ut fugiam, volor solupti iduciet hope about Louis’s diagnosis, shedirefused to accept a grim lacipsa peliquuntis ut haribus con porrore voluptasoutlook. As ut Louis endured multiple procedures and came ped quam velecullam enet facepres ut accab ipout stronger time, Orvia learned have expectations samet es aseach nesequae porum quoto toreptiusda verum for her son, the expectation that he will live a long natiam hilitincluding venisque qui sunt. time. “If people don’t share this mindset, then they can’t be Optat fugit litataqui ommo bearum eos sundant liquid in our lives,” sheari says. 23-year-old sister Ericaillupalso minihit molum cumLouis’s vendaep ellesecum erum offers aborrum solid support, having hardsant, to learn about the tatur ut laut evelworked ma quia id quid quae intricacies of her brother’s care. poreiumquid qui voloria spellab imus. of both mother sisteras have unEt The porestrong plis respirits alitatur si quam et, and solendit si quo doubtedly helped shape Louis. The happy-go-lucky boy blaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum non loveslaboria to cook, conduct science experiments, hangpor outatem with plat ectiusdae. Ut prorporum nis imet friends and tell jokes and stories, particularly about his trip haris quideserum quam sus. to Walt Disney World with Bert’s Big Adventure. Enthused Seque porecte plab il ius molorum quae eum quunt about simet his first plane ride,aut Louis excitedly called friends in labor doluptatur ipiet eumquas aut evendi Atlanta soon after landing in Florida to tell them all about quas mos sit omnimus ciasperitium aut iur ma cusandit. He thrilled of molor his favorite unt quialso diswas rerum ulpaabout alitistimeeting con et two volut sinis characters, Goofy and Lightning McQueen. ne excestis doles nos voloreptatur atus sumquod isseWhen asked about when her family learned had quam comniae struntis audigenim explibus autthey molupbeen chosen for the Adventure, Orvia recalls, “I had just ta assint quia ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr found out cupta that a consequi friend’s medically had passed umenist, aspelit fragile atioreschild totame expla[away] when [BBA’s program director] Amy called. I will be bore, ullo idundi tem facest fuga. Atis idi tem faccusa forever grateful. She brought me back from volorro a place Iribusdidn’t voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum need to go. We all still talk about that trip of a lifetime; our am solore dolor aut et

t

fantastic voyage.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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sendoff soirée... bert’s big adventure 2010

Top – Madison enjoys the Krispy Kreme fondue station. Bottom – Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta brings music and smiles to the send off! Main Picture – Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo! Stylists from Salon 124 transform into Disney Characters.

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


this was the best party i have ever been to in my life! thanks so much to the sheraton gateway atlanta airport ! – molly parrish

Top – The College Park Police Department provide a VIP escort to the hangar. Middle L – Magician, Ken Scott, creating magical moments.

Middle R – Applause for Kids brings down the house! Bottom L-R – Aura Hair and Make Up, Authentic Beauty, Ice Box

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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Headshot

The Amerson Family

Dear Jonah, …I will always remember the day you met Buzz Lightyear. I will tell you the story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there are ever parts you forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.” I love you so much, Mom

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


For four short days, I was given permission to be a “normal” mom. I To was allowed to us, it’s simple relax and enjoy to describe Bert’s my for Bigchildren Adventure, who they‘hope’. are. It means -CHERIE – sandra BAXTER hobson

” ”

By Ashley Hesseltine

“ “

stephen THE AMERSON FAMILY

Untesequunt volum volestia nusam in essequide officiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam reTHE rae vollati hobson doluptaFAMILY tatatat atiorpo rerfera tectorrum ipsum facidi quam voluptatur, te sustio. Nam enest n 2009, the Hobson family seemed to be falling apart. was Nequam suffering eos emotionally aut Twelve-year-old magnatium queStephen conectatio. sinto et and physically, his older sister was diagnosed with an et offictem ilit quae venimagnis solum quis quam et autoimmune disease and had to undergo chemotherodiam, cum que nus et undebitat ius volendi dolupapy, comnimpore and the familydel lostisto their home. “Our lives just sunt shut tas temoluptam que mi, down,” says Sandra Hobson, Stephen’s mother. facestrum num acerione enihil et, ium quias dit ut they got selected for Bert’s Big Adventure. “It was untThen, ut illantio dunt moluptas minias esto maxime lisomething so good and wonderful that came at the tail end tendi doloremporem rereri re doluptat eos sam quam of so much devastation,” Sandra. “Little by little, evnimus nectio molupientsays alique coribus veles poratus erything began to get better, and it all started at the hands sitatur, unt audaescid estiassum et most offic totaeof strangers.” The family was selected for BBA because ratur si berfern aturio estiur? Stephen has Spina Bifida with a neural idertube Igni nobit in estrum acearciHydrocephalus, molupti te nonsequ defect that has caused permanent weakness in his body rov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus et quam quid quunt and deformation of his legs fromium thesequibus knees down (he istein volorites susdandit adistrum suntio a wheelchair half of the time). In hispor mother’s “the molor ehendunti resto velit voles audiaewords, as sunto simplest tasks, likeerchiciat getting off the couch getserum a snack, or explabo riatemp quam quae to num que getting of the tub are a source of quatem difficultydolumque and hardnone quiout dolorest omni aliqui samus shipsit forquis him.”etBecause of the Hydrocephalus (which means ea estiusae rerfera dem. Officil ipiderit re“water in the brain”), Stephen also has learning disabilities niae niscition porupid et ut fugiam, volor solupti iduciet and emotional delays,utsoharibus he relates better to younger chillacipsa peliquuntis di con porrore voluptasdren but “they know what think of him,” says Sanped quam ut don’t velecullam enettofacepres ut accab ipdra. “So, he’s caughtporum in the quo middle, because the kids samet esthen as nesequae toreptiusda verum his age don’t accept him. At age 10, he became painfully natiam hilit venisque qui sunt. aware of thislitataqui fact.” Sandra states. “Heeos was never happy.” Optat fugit ommo bearum sundant liquid Until a certain Waltvendaep Disney World. minihit molumtrip aritocum ellesecum erum illupWhile at WaltutDisney World, feltidincluded for tatur aborrum laut evel maStephen quia sant, quid quae the first time in his life. “He had this male companionship poreiumquid qui voloria spellab imus. andpore people really liked and accepted him,” as says Et plisthat re alitatur si quam et, solendit si Sanquo dra. “And, he didn’t feel like they were doing it out of blaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum pity.” non Stephen, who also has excessive fears,nis even rode roller plat laboria ectiusdae. Ut prorporum imet poraatem coaster for the veryquam first time. haris quideserum sus. “He started out crying, but pulled in laughing,” recalls Sandra. Yet, quae it wasn’t thequunt roller Seque porecte plab il ius molorum eum coaster that was Stephen’s favorite moment of the trip. “It labor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi was the moments when the group was together that were quas mos sit omnimus ciasperitium aut iur ma cusandhis favorite. It was the when feltmolor like ‘one of unt qui dis rerum ulpatimes alitisti conhe etjust volut sinis the guys.’” ne excestis doles nos voloreptatur atus sumquod isseAfter the family arrived home from Disney,aut everything quam comniae struntis audigenim explibus molupbegan to change. Stephen started to make friends at ta assint quia ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr school and in his neighborhood. Sandra landed a great job umenist, cupta consequi aspelit atiores totame expla(after ullo beingidundi a stay-at-home mom for Atis years), family bore, tem facest fuga. idi and temthe faccusa found a new home in a great neighborhood. voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum volorro ribusus, it’s simple am“To solore dolor auttoetdescribe Bert’s Big Adventure,” says

i

Sandra. “It means ‘hope’.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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prepping4takeoff... By: Ashley Cameron

Orvia Cushnie’s first time behind the wheel of her new van.

Stephen Hobson marvels at the sight of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s racecar.

27

Jenny and Bobby react to finding out that their wedding has been taken care of.

E

ach year, some of the most magical Bert’s Big Adventure moments are created before the families even step foot on the plane to Walt Disney World. This year, the BBA staff, together with the help of key sponsors in the community, arranged for several send-off surprises at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel Atlanta Airport. “These families are struggling with so much,” says Bert Weiss. “If there’s anything we can do–great or small–to make the trip a little more memorable, or their everyday lives a little bit easier, we’re thrilled to help out and find that our BBA partners are just as eager to contribute.” Twelve-year-old Stephen Hobson is a huge NASCAR fan, but up until recently, he’d never even been inside the pits at a racetrack. But at the BBA send-off, he got a one-of-a-kind sneak peek behind the wheel of an actual car when Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s number 88 racecar pulled up to surprise him. “This is a dream come true,” Stephen gushed at the time. “It looks so amazing. I can’t believe they drove it here from Atlanta Motor Speedway!” Stephen got a chance to sit in the driver’s seat and check out the car’s details up close–a unique opportunity that only added more magic to his BBA experience. The Cushnie family also received a special gift at the BBA send-off, and it made a dramatic difference in their day-to-day lives. Their five-year-old son Louis uses a power wheelchair to stay mobile, but his mother, Orvia, did not have a proper vehicle to transport it. Instead, she would have to carry Louis back and forth to the car and fold and unfold his manual chair to store it in the trunk. When the BBA staff surprised the family with a new van donated by Jim Ellis Volkswagon that was completely wheelchair accessible and included a lift with controls to operate it from both the driver’s seat and remotely, Orvia was shocked. “You got me!” she said. “I am totally speechless.” Ten-year-old Riley Koboldt’s mother was engaged to be married at the time of the BBA send-off, but with the financial strain that comes with massive medical bills, she was struggling to plan a proper wedding. The BBA team surprised the whole family with donations from a host of sponsors to give Jennifer and her fiancé, Bobby, the wedding of their dreams. The Georgia Bridal Show and Carl House put together a fantasy package with the best wedding service providers in Atlanta including Savvi Formalwear, Sarah Eubanks photography, Sugar Kneads and more. The couple was overwhelmed and grateful for the chance to create yet another special moment for their family even after the BBA journey ended. And that’s what Bert’s Big Adventure is all about–creating not only once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for families, but also giving them opportunities for a lifetime.


mickey

by whitney brennAn

disco... surprise disco party-finale brings the house down.... even the castle!

W

hen the Bert’s Big Adventure families arrived at Disney’s We can’t Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, they expected a nice, quiet cure the dinner. What they got, however, was the surprise party of their lives. “Few of disease, but our staff even knew about it,” says BBA program director Amy Moosbrugger. “We we can help wanted it to be a huge surprise.” The families were told to gather for a final heal souls. dinner to wrap up the adventure before heading home, but about 15 minutes into the meal, –amy moosbrugger booming music could be heard next door. Then, a man named Oswald, dressed in a Mickey Mouse-style suit, walked in and apologized for the noise and said his boss would like to offer a gift. Trays of juice drinks accented with lighted ice cubes were offered along with a numbered Mickey Mouse print for each family and another profuse apology. Finally, Oswald excitedly invited the families to join the party. Then, the walls of the private dining room dropped back to reveal a ballroom where lights were flashing, a disco ball was spinning and music was blasting. “I will never forget the look on her face,” says Jessica Montour, whose daughter Madison was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth. “She was in awe. The whole experience was just beyond anything I could have ever dreamed up.” The families hit the dance floor—with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy, of course—and it didn’t matter that many of the kids were in wheelchairs. “To see the Disney characters holding the hands of the kids in chairs and moving all over that dance floor…it was just amazing,” says Amy. But the party wasn’t the end of the surprise. As a finale to the night, the families were escorted onto the marina to enjoy a fireworks display over Cinderella’s castle. “We try to offer an unbelievable VIP experience so families have these amazing memories to hold onto,” says Amy. “We can’t cure the disease, but we can help heal souls.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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Every doctor I took him

Headshot

to thought I was overreacting; they couldn’t find anything wrong with him. – jenny sims

The Amerson Family

Dear Jonah, …I will always remember the day you met Buzz Lightyear. I will tell you the story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there are ever parts you forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.” I love you so much, Mom

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


For four short days, I was given permission to be a “normal” mom. I was allowed to relax and enjoy my children for who they are. -CHERIE BAXTER

by: anita finkelstein

riley THE koboldt FAMILY

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ecember 18, 2009 started out just like every other day for ten-year-old Riley. His mom, Jenny Sims, woke him up that morning and helped him put on his THE AMERSON FAMILY leg braces, which that day, only nusam ran frominhis ankles to ofhis Untesequunt volum volestia essequide knees. On other days, Riley uses braces that run the entire ficiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam relength of hisdolupta legs or all the wayatiorpo to his waist to work various rae vollati tatatat rerfera tectorrum muscles. She also, as always, helped him get dressed and ipsum facidi quam voluptatur, te sustio. Nam enest after performing the requisite mom duties for her three aut magnatium que conectatio. Nequam eos sinto et other children, himvenimagnis off to school.solum It wasn’t hours et offictem ilitsent quae quisuntil quam et later, after Jenny received a call from Bert Weiss, that the odiam, cum que nus et undebitat ius volendi dolupvice comnimpore principal got on intercom and announced the tas delthe isto temoluptam que mi,tosunt entire school that Riley was going to Walt Disney World facestrum num acerione enihil et, ium quias dit ut withut Bert’s Big dunt Adventure. “I was surprised, but didn’t unt illantio moluptas minias esto maxime liknow what to expect, so I didn’t get crazy excited,” Riley tendi doloremporem rereri re doluptat eos sam quam explains. “When we got [toalique Walt Disney World] though, the nimus nectio molupient coribus veles poratus first thing I saw was Fantasmic (the evening light show) sitatur, unt audaescid estiassum et most offic totaeand I thought, ‘Wow, I amestiur? really going to like this place!’” ratur si berfern aturio And was he ever right! Riley loved te Disney, especially Igni nobit in estrum acearci molupti nonsequ iderSpace Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. For rov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus et quam quid quunt three straight days, Riley ran around his brothers, volorites susdandit adistrum ium with sequibus suntio Sultelivan, 8,ehendunti Hudson, 6 resto and Catcher, 4, hispor mom and her molor velit voles audiae as fiancé, sunto Bobby. Heriatemp also bonded with one of the BBA photographers, explabo erchiciat quam quae num serum que Michael Birchall. “Heomni was aliqui fun to samus hang out with,” says Riley. none qui dolorest quatem dolumque his boundless energy anddem. gigantic smile, it’s hard ea With sit quis et estiusae rerfera Officil ipiderit reto believe thatporupid Riley was completely paralyzed as iduciet a baby, niae niscition et ut fugiam, volor solupti and without the assistance of his still today is lacipsa peliquuntis ut haribus di leg conbraces, porrore voluptasonly able to crawl. Riley suffers from a rare condition called ped quam ut velecullam enet facepres ut accab iptransverse myelitis (TM), an inflammation of the insulating samet es as nesequae porum quo toreptiusda verum materialhilit across the spinal natiam venisque quicord sunt.that interrupts the communicationfugit between the spinal and the of the liquid body. Optat litataqui ommocord bearum eosrest sundant Jenny first noticed was wrong when her normally minihit molum arisomething cum vendaep ellesecum erum illuprambunctious three-month old turned lethargic almost overtatur aborrum ut laut evel ma quia sant, id quid quae night. “Every doctor I took him to thought I was over-reactporeiumquid qui voloria spellab imus. ing;pore they couldn’t find anything wrong him,” she Et plis re alitatur si quam et,with solendit as shares. si quo “Finally, Dr. Michelle Presley from Children’s Healthcare blaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum non sensed something was really wrong. Shenis saved life.” Afplat laboria ectiusdae. Ut prorporum imethis por atem ter staying close for years, eventually Jenny and Dr. Presley haris quideserum quam sus. lost touch, so imagine surprise in discovering Dr. Presley Seque porecte plab her il ius molorum quae eum quunt was BBA’s personal doctor! “I was overjoyed when I found labor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi out Dr.mos Presley was the doctor on the BBA trip,” shares. quas sit omnimus ciasperitium aut iurJenny ma cusandRiley says the trip was “the most fun I’ve ever had my unt qui dis rerum ulpa alitisti con et volut molor in sinis life.” And while he can offer a long list of all the great souvene excestis doles nos voloreptatur atus sumquod issenirs he comniae brought home, he says his favorite memory the quam struntis audigenim explibus autfrom moluptrip was swimming in the hotel pool every night. ta assint quia ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr There’scupta no cure for TM, instead focustotame is on symptom umenist, consequi aspelitthe atiores explamanagement along with physical therapy to teach nerves bore, ullo idundi tem facest fuga. Atis idi tem faccusa and muscles to compensate for the ones thatvolorro don’t commuvoluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum ribusnicate. “It’s a bit of a hassle,” says Riley cheerfully, “but I am am solore dolor aut et just happy to be able to walk around my house.”

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bba partners... sheraton gateway hotel atlanta airport

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hen providing donations, it is often just a contribution made to an organization. But with BBA, it is much deeper. “This is a way to be involved,” says Jared Travis, director of sales and marketing at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel. A silver-level sponsor that has been involved with BBA since 2008, the Sheraton Gateway provides a night of luxury for families the night before the trip and hosts the send-off festivities the following morning. BBA and the Sheraton Gateway team work together for months in advance to plan every last detail for the BBA festivities, which Jared says gives “much more of an emotional connection to every aspect of the event.” And all the planning is worth it. “Being involved with BBA makes you appreciate all of the fortunes most of us are lucky enough to enjoy day in and day out, and we all realize how much we take for granted,” he says. The Sheraton Gateway is teaming with BBA to give BBA supporters another way to donate by posting its best online rates on the BBA website. By placing reservations through the BBA portal, BBA supporters allow the Sheraton Gateway to raise more funds for next year’s event and show appreciation to an important sponsor.

Sheraton Gateway

Cooper-Atlanta Transportation Services

S

ilver-level sponsor Cooper-Atlanta Transportation Services (CATS) has been the ground transportation provider for BBA families since 2008. CATS drivers, who have shown such enthusiasm about the trip that there’s now a waiting list of willing participants, pick up each family at home and drive them to the Sheraton Gateway Hotel the night before the trip. When the families return from Orlando, CATS drivers and their shiny limousines are waiting at the airport–sometimes with roses–to take each exhausted family back home again. “The most fulfilling part is knowing that the families that are picked every year deserve every bit of the treatment they get from BBA,” says Peggy Ewing, CATS marketing director. “The families are so grateful for everything; it feels really good to pull up and see the big smiles on their faces. We really like to think that we are making their lives a little easier if only for that one weekend.” “We have relationships with the BBA team that can’t be replaced. They are an organization that we consider our partners, but also our friends. CATS is honored to work with an organization that has so much class.”

Cooper Transportation

Speedway Children’s Charities

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peedway Children’s Charities (SCC), a non-profit organization founded by Speedway Motorsports chairman Bruton Smith, is devoted to ensuring that “every child in need be given the tools to build a better, brighter and healthy future.” The Atlanta chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities has accomplished this goal by naming Bert’s Big Adventure a grant recipient for the past three years. SCC also hosts various events for BBA families, including a holiday reunion party at Atlanta Motor Speedway complete with a visit from Santa and pace car rides around the track. Speedway Children’s Charities also brings special surprises to the send-off broadcast. “This year, we were able to supply the pace car and assist in obtaining a Dale Earnhardt Jr. NASCAR for the families to see,” says Atlanta Chapter Director Shaun Birindelli. “Just seeing the excitement that those cars brought to the children was a blessing.”

Speedway Charities

Imagine It! the children ’s museum of atlanta

I

magine It! has participated in Bert’s Big Adventure since 2004. The staff doesn’t hesitate to tell you about their experiences on BBA’s family orientation night, where Imagine It! serves as a meeting location for all the families, giving them a fun place to get to know each other. Staff from Imagine It! also join the BBA families during the send-off party, where they provide crafts and entertainment, and help fill the room with smiles. Jerry G. White, one of the museum’s “Imaginators,” has participated in Bert’s Big Adventure since 2004. “The joy that I get from seeing the anticipation in the children’s faces for their upcoming trip to Disney is only matched by the look on the parents’ faces. How do I ever really say thank you to Bert’s Big Adventure?” he shares. Imagine It!

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parent’s perspective magic moments

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here are moments that seem to last forever…when time either slows its spinning or just stands still. All else melts away. You are truly in the moment. Focused. Experiencing nothing else besides what is actually happening: Finding out we were having a baby. Hearing Louis’ first cry when he was born. Waiting for news as they poked and prodded; tested and evaluated. Receiving a diagnosis of Spinal Muscular Atrophy at 4:30 p.m on August 18, 2005. Each and every time Louis heads into surgery. When we have to manage Louis’ lungs because he’s not able to do so. When we pray and hope, hold our breath and wait for Louis to turn the corner and begin feeling better.

Good or bad, there are moments in our life that will stay forever etched inside our minds. It was one Friday afternoon before Christmas. A normal day. Louis was in school. Time to talk to Louis’ medical team, do chores, grocery shop, participate in the kindergarten holiday party, stop by the pharmacy and get home before the school bus arrives. In the car, headed home, there was the moment. “Hello, Orvia. It’s Bert’s Big Adventure, and we are calling to welcome you to the BBA family.” There was a tiny, cautious moment of excitement; grateful for whatever comes our way. It continued to happen over the next two months. We met Bert, Stacey and

By Orvia Cushnie the rest of the BBA family. Even with encouragement to let go and let the team handle everything, we worried all the while. We worried that our needs might be too great, and it would be necessary to take another family in our place. We worried that we might make it difficult for other families with similar medical concerns to be selected. We worried about transporting Louis and his wheelchair on the airplane. But most importantly, we worried that Louis’ lungs might become unstable, and that we wouldn’t make the trip. As the amazing individuals at BBA set about tending to all our needs, we were constantly reassured that there wasn’t anything that the team had not encountered before. Less worry; greater moments of excitement and awe. This was so different. Louis’s lungs are holding. We have medical clearance. Every need and concern was taken care of. They have a plan for whatever may come our way. Our bags are packed. The driver is at the door. It’s happening! Worry? What worry? Caution? Not right now. We’re going to Disney World! “Hello Cushnie Family! Sit back, enjoy the ride,” encouraged Bert from the DVD player in the limo as we set off on our big adventure. Hours jam packed with countless moments of real, pure happiness. Reserved delirium. With open minds and open hearts, Louis, Erica and I got in the moment and experienced everything BBA had in store for us. We were blessed with the gift of mobility and accessibility. It was breath-taking and humbling. We were pampered and preened. We lived large and partied like rock stars. Louis and his power chair traveled by air, water, rail and land. He now believes the only way to fly is by private jet. With new wheelchair technology, Louis led a conga line, navigated various terrains and a sea of people. He went on

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

rides and experienced attractions. Ever the statesman, Louis conversed with newfound friends–from the couple wanting to know about Bert’s Big Adventure and why we were at Disney, to Master Lo Gon Sing of the Jedi Training Academy who is now a pen pal. You see, Louis caught Master Sing’s attention when he refused to go over to the dark side to take on Darth Vader. The powerful lesson for that afternoon was that ‘the way of the force is within you and always with you.’ Regardless of the struggle. Regardless of the adversity. Magic. Louis’s medical condition is progressive and increasingly unstable. Life’s typical and crippling struggles are still there. But, for five magnificent days, it happened: Our family experienced magic moments in amazing ways we won’t forget. We had magic moments that made time stand still. Magic moments that will last forever. Total happiness. – O.C.

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Headshot

The Amerson Family

Dear Jonah, …I will always remember the day you met Buzz Lightyear. I will tell you the story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there are ever parts you forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.” I love you so much, Mom

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For four short There was not one days, I was given person that was on permission to be this trip that did not a “normal” mom. make us all truly I was allowed to feel special and like relax and enjoy nothing was wrong my children for with any of us. who they are. – becky sullins -CHERIE BAXTER

””

by: anna bentley

““

brayden THE AMERSON FAMILY

Untesequunt volum volestia nusam in essequide officiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam rerae vollati dolupta tatatat atiorpo rerfera tectorrum ipsum facidi quam voluptatur, te sustio. Nam enest THE aut magnatium plemons queFAMILY conectatio. Nequam eos sinto et et offictem quae venimagnis quisnever quam et ou ilit might look at Braydensolum Plemons, realizing what heet has been through. Hiding behind odiam, cum que nus undebitat ius volendi dolupround glasses andtemoluptam sweet smile, is a young boy tas comnimpore del isto que mi, sunt who spent more days seeing doctors last year facestrum num acerione enihil et, ium quias dit ut thanut seeing his dunt teachers and friends. But, seeing Mickey unt illantio moluptas minias esto maxime liMouse seemed to make all those memories of hospital tendi doloremporem rereri re doluptat eos sam quam visits and medicines fade, alique only tocoribus be replaced with many nimus nectio molupient veles poratus magical moments while at Walt Disney World. sitatur, unt audaescid estiassum et most offic totaeBorn weeks early with a hole in his heart, Brayden ratur si three berfern aturio estiur? stumped doctors for the first molupti four years his life iderwith Igni nobit in estrum acearci te of nonsequ near-constant sinus infections and bouts with pneumonia. rov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus et quam quid quunt It wasn’t until a genetics specialist broughtsuntio in last Auvolorites susdandit adistrum iumwas sequibus tegust that he received diagnosis: velocardiofacial synmolor ehendunti restohisvelit voles por audiae as sunto drome (VCFS). VCFS, the second-most genetic explabo riatemp erchiciat quam quae common num serum que disorder Down syndrome, is characterized by a comnone quibehind dolorest omni aliqui samus quatem dolumque bination of heart defects,rerfera immune deficiencies and facial ea sit quis et estiusae dem. Officil ipiderit redeformities. Brayden’s case translates to asolupti compromised niae niscition porupid et ut fugiam, volor iduciet immune peliquuntis system, cleft calcium and dilacipsa utpalate, haribus di condeficiencies porrore voluptasgestive problems. The result being that last alone, ped quam ut velecullam enet facepres utyear accab ipBraydenes had doctors’ appointments. samet as70 nesequae porum quo toreptiusda verum “We were going through one of the worst times ever,” natiam hilit venisque qui sunt. recalls fugit Brayden’s mother, Becky Sullins, of sundant when sheliquid was Optat litataqui ommo bearum eos notified molum of his BBA “When Bert called, I was like minihit ariacceptance. cum vendaep ellesecum erum illup‘Now I get to tell him he gets to go to Walt Disney World.’” tatur aborrum ut laut evel ma quia sant, id quid quae For Brayden, and Brayden’s poreiumquid quiBecky, voloria spellab imus.13-year-old brother Taylor, the trip was a welcome break their usual Et pore plis re alitatur si quam et,from solendit as si hosquo pital-centric routine. Brayden met galactic space defender blaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum non Buzzlaboria Lightyear; Taylor met Atlanta Braves pitcher plat ectiusdae. Ut prorporum nis imet por Derek atem Lowe, quideserum and Becky got to see haris quam sus.her kids just being kids. “The last day that we were there...we were in the park ourSeque porecte plab il ius molorum quae eum by quunt selves, walking through the Magic Kingdom, and the parade labor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi came mos by. Brayden was walking in frontaut of us quas sit omnimus ciasperitium iurjust masnapping cusandhis fingers and bopping back and forth. He was just so sinis hapunt qui dis rerum ulpa alitisti con et volut molor py, clapping his hands.” ne excestis doles nos voloreptatur atus sumquod isseHowever magical this experience for Becky’s family, quam comniae struntis audigenimwas explibus aut molupshe acknowledges that its success is a direct reflection of ta assint quia ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr those involved. “[The people] that they took on the trip with umenist, cupta consequi aspelit atiores totame explaus were some of the most awesome I have met,” bore, ullo idundi tem facest fuga.people Atis idi temever faccusa she says. “There was not one person that was on this trip voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum volorro ribusthat did not make us all truly feel special and like nothing am solore dolor aut et

Y

was wrong with any of us. They were truly God-sent angels.”

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putting magicmakers... the ‘fun Area businesses team up with Bert’s Big Adventure to make dreams come true... jersey mike’s subs By Alison Abbey

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hirty-two Atlanta area Jersey Mike’s stores came together for a fundraising effort that could be described as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Each location donated $1 from every sale of The Original Italian sub–the chain’s most popular–to Bert’s Big Adventure. The delicious donations paid off for both BBA and the folks at Jersey Mike’s. “Jersey Mike’s Subs was thrilled to raise more than $27,000 for Bert’s Big Adventure in March,” says Steve Minnich, Jersey Mike’s co-area director and franchisee. “Reaching out to the community is a key component of Jersey Mike’s mission, so we are always looking for important ways to contribute. Supporting Bert’s Big Adventure was an easy choice for us. The folks there are great to work with and genuinely committed to this cause, the impact of which is so obvious when you see the joy on the faces of so many deserving kids. With the help of our amazing customers, we hope to raise even more next year!”

DRAFT ON TAFT By Alison Abbey

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raft on Taft is an annual event that kicks-off the summer with good food and great music in the heart of Midtown Atlanta. The event, which started out as a group of friends looking to throw a great party, has become an even greater annual fundraiser–raising over $100,000 for local (and national) charities since its inception in 2000. O ver the last two years, the event has raised $50,000 for BBA. Event organizer Patrick Clements says that while the event used to donate to different charities every year, their experience with BBA has been so great that they have decided to continue their efforts for the cause. “Most of the proceeds we were donating had been to causes personal to us [ie: if someone related to the event had an illness or a need], but thankfully that became less and less of an issue as we started doing the party,” he says. “We wanted to keep [the cause] local and since a lot of us were starting to have kids, we wanted to do something for Atlanta kids. Two years ago, we started donating to BBA. We felt like the money was going somewhere decent, but it was when we went to the kick-off that we realized, ‘we’re a part of something really cool here.’ You get to see all these kids, and the little dance party, and it made it more tangible.” He continues, “this year, everybody was fired up about donating the money and where it went, so we’re just going to [make BBA our primary fundraising cause], because we know [our money] is going to a good place.”

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www.bertsbigadventure.org bertsbigadventure.org ••magical magicalmoments momentsmagazine magazine;2010 2010 trip


n’ in FUNDRAISING! wishgranter... country club of roswell By Alison Abbey

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private country club just outside of Atlanta, Country Club of Roswell is a haven of golfing, aquatics and tennis. It’s also a dedicated friend to and fundraiser for Bert’s Big Adventure. The Club’s Aquatic Center plays host to BBA Reunions and the Annual Charity Tennis Pro-am raises money for the cause. Athletic Director Matt Grayson has a personal attachment to the organization. “It has been a great experience to know that we have been able to help bring the smiles we see on the BBA send-off day,” he says. “To hear the stories of the families and all the hardships they handle each day to help their kids however they can is incredibly inspiring. It makes me truly understand how lucky my family is to have two healthy children, especially since my daughter was born at 25 weeks and was only 2 pounds, 4 ounces at birth. We had to spend two months in the NICU with her, and it was the most stressful time in my life. She is now a perfectly healthy little princess. I can only imagine how it would be to have to continually go back [to the hospital] throughout the life of your child.” He continues, “the respect I have for these parents and children drives me–and the members of our club–to continue in our efforts to help raise money for BBA. This is an incredible organization that brings joy to kids and families who desperately need it.”

dreambuilder... big 10 pub crawl By Alison Abbey

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he Big Ten Alumni of Atlanta is a school-spirited collection of grads from Big Ten schools that come together for networking, to support their alma maters and to contribute to charitable causes. Each year, they kick-off football season with The Big Ten Pub Crawl. The annual event is a celebration of team colors and football fans, but it’s also one of the organization’s biggest fundraisers. In 2009, the Big Ten Pub Crawl donated its proceeds to Bert’s Big Adventure, and its 2010 crawl is on track to do the same. Kimberly Odum of Big Ten Alumni says the organization loves working with BBA because of its local ties. “Although we are alumni from schools in the Midwest, we want to show our support where we now live and work,” she says. “In 2009, we had a $9,000 donation to BBA and we–of course!–expect it to grow this year, as our event grows bigger each year.”

www.bertsbigadventure.org bertsbigadventure.org ••magical magicalmoments momentsmagazine magazine;2010 2010 trip

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They’re always

Headshot

happy-go-lucky, which makes me handle everything a lot better. – christina prisk

The Amerson Family

Dear Jonah, …I will always remember the day you met Buzz Lightyear. I will tell you the story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there are ever parts you forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.” I love you so much, Mom

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


For four short days, I was given permission to be a “normal” mom. I was allowed to relax and enjoy my children for who they are. -CHERIE BAXTER

by: ashley hesseltine

caleigh THE prisk FAMILY THE FAMILY t’sAMERSON impossible not to smile

i

when watching Caleigh

Prisk, 8, and her sister Cameryn, race aroundofin Untesequunt volum volestia nusam11, in essequide their matching wheelchairs, smiling and laughing, and ficiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam reonly when someone gets in their way. It’s rae stopping vollati dolupta tatatat atiorpo rerfera tectorrum also hard to fathom that just one wrong move–one that ipsum facidi quam voluptatur, te sustio. Nam enest wouldn’t even faze a “typical” person–could break one of aut magnatium que conectatio. Nequam eos sinto et their bones in an instant. Caleigh and Cameryn have Oset offictem ilit quae venimagnis solum quis quam et teogenesis Imperfecta, more commonly as “Brittle odiam, cum que nus et undebitat iusknown volendi dolupBone Syndrome.” It’s a condition they both were with tas comnimpore del isto temoluptam que born mi, sunt and that has kept them in the confines of a wheelchair facestrum num acerione enihil et, ium quias dit ut sinceut age two. Between the two of them,esto theremaxime have been unt illantio dunt moluptas minias liroughly 90 broken bones and more trips to the doctor and tendi doloremporem rereri re doluptat eos sam quam hospitalnectio than anyone should have coribus to endure. Yet,poratus despite nimus molupient alique veles their fragility, neither girl lets their condition slow them sitatur, unt audaescid estiassum et most offic totaedown, and they are anything but timid about living life. In ratur si berfern aturio estiur? fact, if you close your eyes and forget about their wheelIgni nobit in estrum acearci molupti te nonsequ iderchairs and eaquo tiny statures, there is nothing different about rov itatus te doloreptatus et quam quid quunt these girls–they’ll excitedly talkium yoursequibus ear off about a milvolorites susdandit adistrum suntio telion little girl topics before zipping for theiras next admolor ehendunti resto velit volesaway por audiae sunto venture on wheels.erchiciat quam quae num serum que explabo riatemp “They complain about what quatem they have to deal none qui never dolorest omni aliqui samus dolumque with,” mother, Christina. “They’re always happyea sitsays quistheir et estiusae rerfera dem. Officil ipiderit rego-lucky, whichporupid makes et meut handle everything a lot better.” niae niscition fugiam, volor solupti iduciet Christina, her husband theirporrore son Chandler, 12, lacipsa peliquuntis ut Jason, haribusand di con voluptasare all illness-free, so it came as facepres quite a surprise to the ped quam ut velecullam enet ut accab ipfamily when had one porum girl, then another, with theverum same samet es asthey nesequae quo toreptiusda sickness.hilit One parent was a carrier of the illness, but that natiam venisque qui sunt. is impossible to know unless are tested. Optat fugit litataqui ommoyou bearum eos sundant liquid The Prisks had The Bert Show before,erum but didn’t minihit molum ariheard cum vendaep ellesecum illupknow about Bert’s Big Adventure when a friend suggested tatur aborrum ut laut evel ma quia sant, id quid quae they apply. While Christina was hesitant poreiumquid qui voloria spellab imus. at first, she finally applied (with much encouragement aforementioned Et pore plis re alitatur si quam et,from solendit as si quo friend) and months later, received “the phone call” from blaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum non Bert with the news that Caleigh had been selected the plat laboria ectiusdae. Ut prorporum nis imet porfor atem trip. Although the call came on December 18, “we waited haris quideserum quam sus. until Christmas tell the girls,” says Christina. “Theyquunt were Seque porectetoplab il ius molorum quae eum so excited.” labor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi Caleigh wait to meet Minnie Mouse and hoped quas mos couldn’t sit omnimus ciasperitium aut iur ma cusandto see her favorite princess, Princess Aurora from Sleeping unt qui dis rerum ulpa alitisti con et volut molor sinis Beauty, in the flesh.nos Little did she know, she herself would ne excestis doles voloreptatur atus sumquod issebe transformed into Aurora during her princess makeover. quam comniae struntis audigenim explibus aut molupFor assint Christina, princess makeover was a favorite mota quiathe ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr ment of the trip. “They turned Cameryn into Princess Ariel, umenist, cupta consequi aspelit atiores totame explaand Chandler got tem a pirate makeover!” sheidi says. Cabore, ullo idundi facest fuga. Atis temWhile faccusa leigh loved the makeover, it was conquering the Haunted voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum volorro ribusMansion that wasaut heretfavorite part of the trip. In typical am solore dolor Prisk-girl form, she simply had no fear.

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Bert’s Big Adventure sponsors are more than just sponsors,

they’re partners. – STACEY WEISS

B

ert’s Big Adventure would not be possible without the support of the Atlanta 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 years old, live in The Bert Show radio listening area (All the Hits Q100, 99.7 FM) in metro Atlanta, prove financial need and have never been to Walt Disney World. Applications are available on the organizations website, www.BertsBigAdventure.org.

Family Orientation at Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta

BBA likes to hang with the Hawks!

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 www.BertsBigAdventure.org. 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 BBA@BertsBigAdventure.org.

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


Top – Holiday Reunion at the Center for Puppetry Arts. Bottom – Not even the rain could dampen our spirits at the fall reunion at Zoo Atlanta. Main Picture – Making a splash at the Country Club of Roswell Annual Pool Party Reunion. bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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Headshot

The Amerson Family

Dear Jonah, …I will always remember the day you met Buzz Lightyear. I will tell you the story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there are ever parts you forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.” I love you so much, Mom

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


by: stephen kelly

For four short days, I was given permission to be a “normal” mom. I was allowed to relax and enjoy my children for

I saw him move so much that night. I’ve never seen him move that much in my life. – heather pruett

THE AMERSON FAMILY

Untesequunt volum volestia nusam in essequide officiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam rerae vollati dolupta tatatat atiorpo rerfera tectorrum ipsum facidi quam voluptatur, te sustio. Nam enest aut magnatium que conectatio. Nequam eos sinto et et offictem ilit quae venimagnis solum quis quam et odiam,pruett cum que FAMILY nus et undebitat ius volendi dolupTHE tas comnimpore he trip was del five isto days,”temoluptam says Heatherque Pruett. mi, sunt “And it wasnum basically the best thing husband, facestrum acerione enihil et,myium quias my ditson ut I have donemoluptas since Hunter was esto born. maxime It was just unt ut and illantio dunt minias lienjoy yourself and don’t about anything.” tendi doloremporem rereri reworry doluptat eos sam quam Although Heather Pruettalique has listened the BBA send nimus nectio molupient coribustoveles poratus off on “The Bert Show” for the past six years, she never sitatur, unt audaescid estiassum et most offic totaethought the experience would become a reality for her ratur si berfern aturio estiur? family. But, after being urged to applytebynonsequ close friends, Igni nobit in estrum acearci molupti idershe then found herself dumbfounded when her rov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus et quamBert quidtold quunt he was seriously considering Hunter be a part suntio of the trip. volorites susdandit adistrum iumto sequibus te“When Bert called back tell por us we wereasgoing, molor ehendunti resto velittovoles audiae suntoI couldn’t even talk,”erchiciat recalls Pruett. had always listened to explabo riatemp quam“Iquae num serum que him, and knew it was a great now I know [from none quiIdolorest omni aliqui thing, samusbut quatem dolumque personal experience] what a wonderful they redo ea sit quis et estiusae rerfera dem. thing Officilthat ipiderit for these kids.”porupid et ut fugiam, volor solupti iduciet niae niscition Once peliquuntis the Pruetts arrived in Orlando, thrilled lacipsa ut haribus di con Hunter porrorewas voluptasto sitquam front row for Star Wars Jedifacepres Training, and after the ped ut velecullam enet ut accab ipshow, he able to go back stage meet Darthverum Vader, samet eswas as nesequae porum quototoreptiusda the Clone Troopers andqui the Jedi Master. One night after natiam hilit venisque sunt. dinner, fugit a surprise discoommo dancebearum party broke with all the Optat litataqui eos out sundant liquid Disney characters. “He was just blown away,” said minihit molum ari cum vendaep ellesecum erumPruett. illup“I saw aborrum him moveut solaut much that I’ve never seen him tatur evel manight. quia sant, id quid quae move that much in my life.” poreiumquid qui voloria spellab imus. seen sixEt The porereason plis reHunter’s alitatur mother si quamhad et, never solendit asthe si quo year-old move so much was that he was diagnosed in Janublaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum non ary of 2009 with Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, plat laboria ectiusdae. Ut prorporum nis imet por atem a chronic disease painfully aching five or more joints in his haris quideserum quam sus. body. There is no exact cause or known way to prevent JIA, Seque porecte plab il ius molorum quae eum quunt and the Pruetts are currently in the process of finding a labor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi treatment without painful or harmful side effects. quas mos sit omnimus ciasperitium aut iur ma cusanddaily thingulpa in our lives that deal with, but we unt“It’s quia dis rerum alitisti con we et volut molor sinis have just always dealt with it,” said Pruett. The most rene excestis doles nos voloreptatur atus sumquod issewarding part of the trip to Walt Disney World for Hunter’s quam comniae struntis audigenim explibus aut molupmom was quia getting to et meet andverae relatesoluptatus with other families ta assint ditiis arum dolestr going through similar circumstances. umenist, cupta consequi aspelit atiores totame expla“It isullo stressful does get to you atidi times,” Prubore, idundiand temitfacest fuga. Atis tem said faccusa ett of raising a child with a debilitating disease. “But you voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum volorro ribusmake it through. That’s the good part.” And it is experiencam solore dolor aut et

“t

who they are. -CHERIE BAXTER

hunter

es like Bert’s Big Adventure that make it that much easier.

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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wishgranters... xeko By Brittney McKenna

K

ids and gaming go hand and hand–just ask Xeko cofounder Liz Kronenberger. Xeko (pronounced zee-ko) is an Atlanta-based online virtual gaming world that uses a portion of its profits to benefit non-profit organizations that aid “real animals, people and the earth”. And, as Liz puts it, “offers a positive and empowering experience for kids” and causes “actual good to happen in the real world.” It should come as no surprise, then, that a company like Xeko would work with an organization that also offers kids positive, empowering experiences for a good cause. Last October, Xeko teamed up with Bert’s Big Adventure to design a special Xeko GoodQuest game. “By playing and meeting a collective goal in [a] game, kids saw their gaming efforts translate into a donation towards BBA,” Liz says of the GoodQuest game. “At the same time, these players learned about the illnesses’ that affected these Bert’s Big Adventure children and saw that they have an entertaining channel to help.” Through their GoodQuest efforts, Xeko was able to fund one child’s Bert’s Big Adventure trip, sending the child and their family to the real-life “play land” of Walt Disney World. Xeko was also able to spread the message of Bert’s Big Adventure to a wider audience, bringing the cause to the attention of parents throughout the Atlanta area and beyond. “Xeko is a win for parents, kids and Bert’s Big Adventure,” Liz says.

ProGraphics Communications, one of the leading prographics communications, llcto know Stacey full-service printers in the Southeast, came ByWeiss Scott Shur & Rick Big Robbins and Bert’s Adventure team through its relationProGraphics Communications, one of the leading full-service ship with a current BBA sponsor. Inspired by the stories printers in the Southeast, came to know Stacey Weiss and ofBert’s the children and the team work ofthrough BBA, ProGraphics is now the Big Adventure its relationship with a current BBA sponsor. Inspired by the stories of the children jumping in with both feet to partner with BBA in its print and work of management BBA, ProGraphics now jumping in feet first andthecollateral and isdistribution program. to partner with BBA in its print and collateral management ProGraphics will be managing BBA’s entire collateral and distribution program. campaign – handling the printing andentire mailing of BBA’scamProGraphics will be managing BBA’s collateral paign – handling the printing and mailing of BBA’s direct mail, direct mail, including fundraising mailers, invitations and including fundraising mailers, invitations and more. As part of more. As part of the comprehensive program, ProGraphics the comprehensive program, ProGraphics will also be providwill also be providing an online storefront for BBA staff to ing an online storefront for BBA staff to easily and efficiently easily all their collateral supplies. order all and theirefficiently collateralorder supplies. With these time-intensive collateralhanded With these time-intensivetasks tasks involving involving collateral handed over to ProGraphics, now BBA staff, instead of worryover to ProGraphics, now BBA staff, instead of worrying about ing about lists and printing and stuffing envelopes, can focus lists and printing and stuffing envelopes, can focus their time their time and energy on more direct fundraising activities. As and energy more directwith fundraising activities. a result of a result of its on partnership ProGraphics, nowAs more of the resources that BBA collects through its fundraising efforts its partnership with ProGraphics, now more of the resources can go where they were meant to go, where they need to go, that BBA collects through its fundraising efforts can go where where they should go – to the children. they were meant to go, where they need to go, where they should go – to the children. 43

HONORED TO BE WITH YOU

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


wishgranters... Salon 124 By: Molly Parrish

A

fter Blake McDonald was introduced to Bert’s Big Adventure by her mother, Cindy Powers, she couldn’t resist the urge to get involved. Cindy had started a grassroots campaign that generated enough money to provide gift cards, Disney t-shirts and pajamas for the BBA trip and Disney character costumes to be used during the send-off parties. “I listened to my mom telling her friends these inspirational stories from BBA, and I had so many questions,” said Blake. “I was very intrigued and touched by what my mom was doing to help the BBA families, and I knew I had to get involved.” Blake told all of her co-workers at Salon 124 in Roswell about the organization, and soon, they too were hooked on the amazing cause. The staff decided to get involved with the send-off party by volunteering to wear the Disney costumes and entertaining the kids–that was seven years ago. Now, each year, the Salon 124 staff dress-up as characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Tinkerbell, Goofy and others, and entertain the children during the send-off broadcast. “The children really light up when they see the Disney characters at the send-off,” Blake says. “They just want to hug and play with us…it’s like there is no other care in the world.” “Seven years later, these costumes are still one of the most exciting parts of the send-off and one of the first signs to all of the families that there is more fun to come,” agrees Cindy.

posh tot events By: Molly Parrish

C

reating events that delight, engage and entertain, Posh Tot Events takes a unique full-service approach to creating theme parties for children and mommies-to-be. They specialize in creating unforgettable celebrations with attention paid to every detail. According to Stacey Weiss, “it was nothing short of a perfect fit when Bert’s Big Adventure partnered with Posh Tot E vents and founder, Jennifer Shields.” “We were thrilled and honored when Bert’s Big Adventure approached Posh Tot Events to help create the Send-Off Party and Broadcast for 2009, and again in 2010,” says Jennifer. “VIP treatment for children is our specialty, but we had never before had the opportunity to work with such a special group of children. From the initial planning discussions, to seeing the last child off to the plane that would take them to Walt Disney World, the entire experience was rewarding and unique.” This year, Jennifer planned a send-off that incorporated Mickey Mouse themes into every detail. The party was highlighted with Mickey Mouse invitations, gift bags, kids’ costumes, cookies and personalized, monogrammed backpacks from Madame Monogram. There was even a 12-foot walk-through balloon archfrom Balloonacy in the shape if Mickey Mouse ears. The strength and love that was evident within these families was inspiring. We are looking forward to working with Bert’s Big Adventure again in 2011 on this fantastic event.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

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Headshot

The Amerson Family

She’s had 12 surgeries, but she doesn’t think

Dearshe’s Jonah, different …I will always remember the day you met Buzz fromI will anyone else. Lightyear. tell you the story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there are ever – jessica partsmontour you forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.” I love you so much, Mom

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


For four short days, I was given permission to be a “normal” mom. I was allowed to relax and enjoy my children for who they are. -CHERIE BAXTER

by: bre humphries

madison THE AMERSON FAMILY

Untesequunt volum volestia nusam in essequide officiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam rerae vollati dolupta tatatat atiorpo rerfera tectorrum ipsum facidi quam voluptatur, te sustio. Nam enest THE aut magnatium shipleyque FAMILY conectatio. Nequam eos sinto et et offictem he doctors ilit quae said venimagnis Madison Shipley solum would quis never quam walk. et harsh,ius was well-founded. odiam,The cumprognosis, que nus however et undebitat volendi dolupBorn with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the tas comnimpore del isto temoluptam que mi, sunt backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth, facestrum num acerione enihil et, ium quias dit ut and diagnosed after with hydrocephalus, build-up of unt ut illantiosoon dunt moluptas minias estoamaxime lifluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling, Madison’s tendi doloremporem rereri re doluptat eos sam quam mobilitynectio was severely restricted. the now-six-year-old nimus molupient aliqueBut coribus veles poratus child, who loves Snow White and Taylor Swift, offic possessed a sitatur, unt audaescid estiassum et most totaetrait the doctors overlooked. ratur si berfern aturio estiur? her molupti mother te Jessica Montour, Igni“She’s nobit stubborn,” in estrum says acearci nonsequ iderlaughing. Last year, Jessica watched, video recorder in rov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus et quam quid quunt hand and susdandit tears in heradistrum eyes, as ium her determined daughter volorites sequibus suntio tetook her first step.resto She’svelit been walking, molor ehendunti voles por slowly audiaebut as surely, sunto ever since. “She showed those doctors,” the serum proud mom explabo riatemp erchiciat quam quae num que proclaimed. none qui dolorest omni aliqui samus quatem dolumque condition has created numerous ea Madison’s sit quis et estiusae rerfera dem. Officil challenges, ipiderit rebut her spirit never waivers. “She’s had 12solupti surgeries, but niae niscition porupid et ut fugiam, volor iduciet she doesn’t think she’s anyone else,” Jessica lacipsa peliquuntis utdifferent haribus from di con porrore voluptassaid. quam Over the past year, Madison has traded walker ped ut velecullam enet facepres ut the accab ipthat initially her steps for crutches, and completed samet es asaided nesequae porum quo toreptiusda verum her first hilit yearvenisque of school qui as asunt. kindergarten graduate. natiam “Thefugit whole school knows Jessica said. liquid “They Optat litataqui ommoMadison,” bearum eos sundant stop us molum everywhere we vendaep go just toellesecum talk to her.” Andillupthe minihit ari cum erum young social butterfly made even more friends during the tatur aborrum ut laut evel ma quia sant, id quid quae trip to Walt Disney World with Bert’s Big Adventure. In fact, poreiumquid qui voloria spellab imus. aside from being made over into a princess, an experience Et pore plis re alitatur si quam et, solendit as si quo that left her speechless, spending time with other non kids blaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eumthe corrum during the big Disney disco party was a highlight of her trip, plat laboria ectiusdae. Ut prorporum nis imet por atem Montour said. haris quideserum quam sus. The trip was a plab blessing, not only to Madison, but to JesSeque porecte il ius molorum quae eum quunt sica, as well, and to Madison’s nine-year-old brother, prolabor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi tector and best bud, Austin. “We are so proud of them for quas mos sit omnimus ciasperitium aut iur ma cusandhow hard they work to help Madison,” said Elena Lamb, unt qui dis rerum ulpa alitisti con et volut molor sinis theexcestis pastor’s doles wife atnos C3 voloreptatur Church whereatus Madison’s family are ne sumquod issemembers, and the person who nominated the family for quam comniae struntis audigenim explibus aut molupBert’s Big Adventure. “My husband and I thought the whole ta assint quia ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr family deserved she said,aspelit notingatiores all of Jessica’s umenist, cupta it,” consequi totamesacrificexplaes, Austin’s patience and Madison’s unbelievable to bore, ullo idundi tem facest fuga. Atis idi tem ability faccusa brighten a room. “As soon as Madison walks in the building, voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum volorro ribusshe solore makes dolor everyone Lamb said. Pretty impressive am aut smile,” et

t

for a girl the doctors said would never walk at all.

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

46


By trena hand

WHEN you wish upon

... you never imagine that you will receive your own real life fairy godmother or godfather, but that’s exactly what Bert’s Big Adventure now provides: A fairy godparent to grant the wishes of children with chronic or terminal illnesses. With a wave of their “magic wands,” the volunteer members of BBA’s new Fairy Godmother/Godfather program provide much needed support and companionship to the families of children who are facing insurmountable odds. Bert’s Big Adventure was founded in 2003 by radio talk show host Bert Weiss and his wife Stacey in hopes of providing families with terminally ill children a well-deserved opportunity to spend quality time together on a trip to Walt Disney World. When the red carpets roll out for these families, all of the worries and stresses of their daily lives take a back seat for a moment as they venture into the vacation of a lifetime. Upon the success of their first trip, BBA is now one of the leading children’s organizations in metro Atlanta eight years running. In establishing The Fairy Godmother/Godfather Program, volunteers can now provide a further level of service to BBA families. The volunteers work year-round to provide comfort and compassion to these children during their stays at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, as well as providing a support system for the parents.

A STAR “ tiffany & robert peterson

Just to be able to

spend some quality time with the chil-

dren and take their minds off of the hospital for a while is our ultimate goal. –tiffany

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

As two of BBA’s fairy godparents, Tiffany and Robert Peterson bring an open heart and mind to their daily hospital visits–along with lots of goodies. “We bring along gifts, balloons and books to brighten their stay,” says Tiffany. “Just to be able to spend some quality time with the children and take their minds off of the hospital for a while is our ultimate goal.” The volunteers also provide breaks for the children’s parents, and a sympathetic ear, so they can talk about their current struggles. “Spending time with the families really puts perspective on your own life and how we take the little things for granted,” says Robert. “ We tend to focus on what’s wrong in our world, when we should be grateful for the many blessings that we have received.” As soon as the Fairy Godmother/ Godfather program was put into place, BBA saw immediate benefits. Offering these children and their families true friendship seems to speak volumes. In exchange for a few hours of quality time, a child’s life can be brightened and a parent’s weight can be temporarily lifted. After all, at the end of the day, love is what carries us through the difficult times, and, with an innocent wave of that “magic wand” and a small sprinkling of “fairy dust,” it seems that for the families touched by Bert’s Big Adventure, wishes do sometimes come true.


Jeff and Jenn enjoy hanging out with the families.

Wendy and Caleigh reminiscing about their day in the Magic Kingdom.

quotes

Melissa spends some quality time over dinner with the Badiei’s

from the bert show cast: Question: After 8 years of Bert’s Big Adventure trips to Walt Disney World, describe your most personal magical moment? Jenn Hobby...

I

was moved to see Samin and Saba’s teamwork as sisters. They help each other in all walks of life and especially at Walt Disney World. Saba would push Samin’s wheelchair and carry her Winnie the Pooh dolls, while Samin showed Saba how to be brave on the fast roller coaster rides. They both bloomed as sisters, friends and two little princesses inside the magical fairytale called Bert’s Big Adventure. Just holding their hands through the parks made me feel like a little girl myself... and made me smile all over. I feel so blessed that they allowed me in their sweet family for the weekend. – Jenn Hobby

Wendy Adams...

Melissa Carter...

M

T

y most memorable moment came in 2009 during a trip to Cinderella’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where the girls were being treated to a pampering session fit for a princess. After a fresh coat of nail polish, a beautified face and an elegant styling, the girls were crowned as their favorite princess. I had been escorting Ashlyn Nuckols and her family around the park and it was finally our turn. In perfect Cinderella fashion, the girls were asked to make a wish as they were crowned. When it was her turn, 5-year-old Ashlyn looked at the mirror and simply whispered, “This is the best day of my life.” I just lost it and all of the families lost it. It was a very special moment that I will never forget.

here are so many moments where you see small personal victories on this trip. But there is a moment that brought immediate tears that I will never forget - the Disney character dance party on the 2010 trip. I even knew it was going to happen, but the way the Disney staff played it out, I was suprised! More than once even! There is nothing like seeing Minnie Mouse hug a child on crutches or Mickey Mouse dance with someone in a wheelchair on the dance floor. To see the look of utter bewilderment on all the kid’s faces is truly priceless. I felt honored to be given the oppotunity to be on hand to witness it. - Melissa Carter

– Wendy Adams

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

48


Headshot

The Amerson Family

Dear Jonah, …I will always remember the day you met Buzz Lightyear. I will tell you the story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there are ever parts you forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.” I love you so much, Mom

49

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


For four short days, I was given permission to be a “normal” mom.

I was allowed to relax and enjoy my children forus a It has given whohappy they are. memory to

replace what was -CHERIE BAXTER

” ”

otherwise a sad time for us. – Latoya walker

by: meredith ley

tremayne THE AMERSON FAMILY

Untesequunt volum volestia nusam in essequide officiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam reTHE rae vollati walker dolupta FAMILY tatatat atiorpo rerfera tectorrum ipsum facidi quam voluptatur, sustio. Nam as enest eet Tremayne Walker,tebetter known TJ. This handsome, high-energy five-year-old aut magnatium que conectatio. Nequam eos sintowas et babyvenimagnis when he started showing signs et of et offictemjust ilit aquae solum quis quam Primary Intestinal Lymphangiectasia (PIL), a odiam, cum que nus et undebitat ius volendi dolupdisorder for which there is no cure and the cause is untas comnimpore del isto temoluptam que mi, sunt known. TJ’snum PIL causes lymphatic to leak back facestrum acerione enihil fluid et, ium quias ditinto ut his intestines, preventing the absorption of fats, protein unt ut illantio dunt moluptas minias esto maxime liand nutrients into his bloodstream. Because this lack tendi doloremporem rereri re doluptat eos of sam quam of fluid in his blood system, his white blood count can benimus nectio molupient alique coribus veles poratus come very low, and he lacks the antibodies needed to resitatur, unt audaescid estiassum et most offic totaespond to infections. ratur si berfern aturio estiur? kids hisacearci age might get to in pizza, IgniWhile nobitother in estrum molupti teindulge nonsequ iderice cream and peanut butter, the key to managing PIL rov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus et quam quidTJ’s quunt is a low fat, high protein diet with additional suntio nutritional volorites susdandit adistrum ium sequibus tesupplementation. His mom, Latoya, it can beas difficult. molor ehendunti resto velit volessays por audiae sunto “He gets tired of a erchiciat lot of different I tryserum to planque his explabo riatemp quamfoods, quaeso num meals a week or so omni at a time.” none qui dolorest aliqui samus quatem dolumque even et with a very strict dietdem. and Officil careful ipiderit meal planea But sit quis estiusae rerfera rening his mom, thereet are still some proteins and niae by niscition porupid utalways fugiam, volor solupti iduciet cells lostpeliquuntis from TJ’s lymph into his Overall, he is lacipsa ut haribus di stomach. con porrore voluptasable remain but Latoya won’t takeut theaccab credit for ped to quam ut healthy, velecullam enet facepres ipthat. he has aporum guardian angel,” she says.verum samet“We esbelieve as nesequae quo toreptiusda In thehilit winter of 2006, natiam venisque quiwhen sunt.TJ was very sick, his father was tragically murdered. Since his passing, TJ’s flare-ups Optat fugit litataqui ommo bearum eos sundant liquid have been at a minimum. Latoya believes that her lateilluphusminihit molum ari cum vendaep ellesecum erum band is always guarding the family and keeps a protective tatur aborrum ut laut evel ma quia sant, id quid quae watch over TJqui andvoloria his illness. “While most families would poreiumquid spellab imus. fall apart [under the circumstances], we are strong beEt pore plis re alitatur si quam et, solendit as si quo cause we know he is with us,” Latoya shares. blaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum non Because tragedy occurred near the plat laboriathe ectiusdae. Ut prorporum nisholidays, imet porChristatem mas is especially hard for the family, which is why an aptly haris quideserum quam sus. timed would be SequeDecember porecte phone plab ilcall iusannouncing molorum that quaethey eum quunt a part of BBA’s 2010 trip was a true gift to the family. Still, labor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas aut evendi Latyoa says, wasn’t real until we checked hotel, quas mos sit“Itomnimus ciasperitium aut iurinto mathe cusandand they brought the Mickey ears to the room. TJ and [his unt qui dis rerum ulpa alitisti con et volut molor sinis sister] Alexia were dancing in the mirror and all over the ne excestis doles nos voloreptatur atus sumquod isseroom in those ears. I just started crying! The kids call me quam comniae struntis audigenim explibus aut molupa cry baby, but it seemed like a dream. I took in a deep ta assint quia ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr breath, and it wasconsequi magical.”aspelit atiores totame explaumenist, cupta Thanks to their Disney trip with this bore, ullo idundi tem facest fuga.BBA Atis idi past tem February, faccusa the Walker family has a new memory of the winter voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum volorroseason. ribus“It given us a aut happy amhas solore dolor et memory to replace what was oth-

M

erwise a sad time for us,” Latoya says, “We are so thankful.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

50


HOW

carter’s

C.H.O.A.

CARES... By ashley cameron

a

s the leading brand of baby and young children’s apparel, Carter’s is committed to ensuring that all children feel safe, happy and nurtured. Giving back to the community is integral to the corporate culture at Carter’s. Carter’s social responsibility programs focus on charitable organizations whose missions align with its own -- to support the well being of children through educational, health, cultural and humanitarian aid programs. Carter’s is a MagicMaker for Bert’s Big Adventure, donating $50,000 to help this year’s families embark on a magical trip to Walt Disney World and receive ongoing support from BBA. In addition, Carter’s will be the presenting sponsor of BBA’s newly launched Fairy Godmother/ Godfather Volunteer Program. This program ensures that each BBA child admitted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at either the Egleston or Scottish Rite campus receives a special visit on a daily basis. BBA will supply each volunteer with resources so that gifts, necessities and food can be provided to the families as well. Whether playing games, delivering goodies or just allowing parents a few hours to run errands while their sick child is occupied, Fairy Godmothers and Godfathers will provide much needed support and a little fun for families in need. “Because of the generosity of Carter’s and other philanthropic-minded companies, not only are we

51

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able to continue providing trips to Walt Disney World each year, but we can go above and beyond to provide year-round support and assistance to BBA families,” comments Bert Weiss. “Part of our mission is to carry over the magic of Disney into the everyday lives of these families back in Atlanta, and Carter’s helps us accomplish that goal.” Carter’s also works with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing the best health care possible to all children regardless of financial means. Carter’s is proud to support CHOA through corporate volunteer events and help the organization realize its belief that “every child needs a friend.” This year, Carter’s funded the renovation and remodeling of two play rooms for CHOA. The play room at the Egleston campus was doubled in size and now accommodates all ages of children with a special toddler section featuring pull up bars, mirrors, foam climbing areas and gliders for parents, as well as entertainment for older kids including computers, gaming systems, basketball hoops, pool tables and air hockey. The Scottish Rite play area was also upgraded with medically themed toys to assist CHOA’s Child Life Coordinators in demonstrating medical procedures to children. This guided play allows young patients to learn about their treatments, which can sometimes seem scary or intimidating, in a safe and non-threatening way. New entertainment consoles

PLAY EXPLORE

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010

These spaces are so essential because it allows children to explore their environment, which impacts how they may recover. – Lindsay Damron


IMAGINE

DREAM DISCOVER were also installed with educational games in a variety of languages for children of all backgrounds. The consoles are completely mobile and can be wheeled into patients’ rooms when they are unable to visit the play room. “We are very grateful that Carter’s renovated our playroom,” said Lindsay Damron, Child Life Coordinator, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “These spaces are so essential because it allows children to explore their environment, which impacts how they may recover.” Other charitable partnerships include an alliance with Save the Children to provide much-needed relief in Haiti following the country’s devastating earthquake this year. Carter’s has chosen to donate $25,000 to the well-established organization, which has a long history of helping children in need. Carter’s also supports the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which is dedicated to funding blood cancer research, education and patient services as well as improving the quality of life of patients and their families. Since 1999, Carter’s and its employees have raised more than $1.6 million to support the society’s Light The Night Walk event, which sponsors the work of hundreds of the world’s best and brightest researchers in their search for better therapies and cures for blood cancer. “Our efforts are making a difference in other people’s lives. The battle is not over until there is a cure for blood cancer,” said Charlie Whetzel, EVP and Chief Supply Chain Officer for Carter’s. “Carter’s is a special company, with special people. When we get behind something, it really happens!” Carter’s is the leading brand of children’s clothing, gifts and accessories in America, selling more than ten products for every child born in the U.S. Carter’s designs are based on a heritage of quality and innovation that has earned the trust of generations of families.

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Headshot

It was chillier than we had prepared for

and Stacey [Weiss] The Amerson Family just went and bought me a jacket. – Vanessa williams

Dear Jonah, …I will always remember the day you met Buzz Lightyear. I will tell you the story of this day as many times as you want to hear it, in case there are ever parts you forget as you grow up. I will always love you “to infinity and beyond.” I love you so much, Mom

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


For four short days, I was given permission to be a “normal” mom. I was allowed to relax and enjoy my children for who they are. -CHERIE BAXTER

by: ashley hesseltine

angel THE williams FAMILY

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ngel Williams, 6, has always had a little celebrity in her. But, it wasn’t until her VIP trip to Walt Disney World with Bert’s Big Adventure that it THE AMERSON FAMILY truly surfaced. “As soon as the send-off party Untesequunt volum volestia nusam in essequide ofbegan, Angel thought she was Miley Cyrus,” laughs her ficiis et expe eatem aped estis sit estion repudam remother, Vanessa. “She really acted likererfera a diva!”tectorrum rae vollati dolupta tatatat atiorpo Watching dance to and belt “PartyNam in theenest USA,” ipsum facidiAngel quam voluptatur, teout sustio. you would never guess something was “wrong” but the aut magnatium que conectatio. Nequam eos sintosad et truth is that she Thoracic Insufficiency Syndrome, which et offictem ilithas quae venimagnis solum quis quam et means that thorax (which includesius thevolendi spine, ribs and odiam, cumher que nus et undebitat dolupsternum) cannot support normal breathing or lung growth. tas comnimpore del isto temoluptam que mi, sunt She must have four intensive surgeries a year and lives facestrum num acerione enihil et, ium quias ditwith ut a vertical expansion (VEPTR) in her unt ut illantio duntprosthetic moluptastitanium minias rib esto maxime lichest wall to correct the deformities and allow for normal tendi doloremporem rereri re doluptat eos sam quam growth nectio and breathing. nimus molupient alique coribus veles poratus It was when Vanessaestiassum was coming from totaeone of sitatur, unt audaescid et home most offic these frequent post-operative appointments when she ratur si berfern aturio estiur? heard about Bert’s Big Adventure on Q100. “I asked myself, Igni nobit in estrum acearci molupti te nonsequ ideris what Angel has even considered a et ‘chronic terminal illrov itatus eaquo te doloreptatus quamorquid quunt ness?’” says Vanessa. adistrum “I called my doctor and hesuntio confirmed volorites susdandit ium sequibus tethat she did have a resto chronicvelit illness. In fact, 10 children in molor ehendunti voles por only audiae as sunto the state riatemp of Georgia have thequam disease.” explabo erchiciat quae num serum que Vanessa went through the application processdolumque and a few none qui dolorest omni aliqui samus quatem months later,etgot “the call” from Bert. called from rehis ea sit quis estiusae rerfera dem. “He Officil ipiderit cell phone!” she says, still seemingly disbelief about this niae niscition porupid et ut fugiam,in volor solupti iduciet personalpeliquuntis aspect of the were all screaming and lacipsa utprocess. haribus“We di con porrore voluptasexcited; it was best thingenet ever.” facepres ut accab ipped quam utthe velecullam Walt es Disney World was porum truly a quo dream come true for Ansamet as nesequae toreptiusda verum gel, whohilit wasvenisque accompanied by Vanessa and her two protecnatiam qui sunt. tive older sisters, ages 15 and 18. She everything Optat fugit litataqui ommo bearum eosloves sundant liquid Disney and the character she couldn’t wait to meet perminihit molum ari cum vendaep ellesecum erum“inillupson” was Minnie Mouse. However, one of the most hearttatur aborrum ut laut evel ma quia sant, id quid quae felt moments qui happened firstimus. night in Orlando before poreiumquid voloria the spellab Minnie even made an appearance. “It was chillier we Et pore plis re alitatur si quam et, solendit asthan si quo had prepared for and Stacey [Weiss] just went and bought blaborro te pellate sinias aut quam eum corrum non me alaboria jacket,”ectiusdae. says Vanessa. “Then, Molly – aatem BBA plat Ut prorporum nis[Parrish imet por staff member] bought Angel a blanket that she still carries haris quideserum quam sus. with herporecte everywhere Seque plabtoilthis iusday.” molorum quae eum quunt Aside from the magical moments on the trip, aut it was after labor simet doluptatur aut ipiet eumquas evendi they got home when Angel’s family was truly impacted. “Bequas mos sit omnimus ciasperitium aut iur ma cusandfore the trip, our lives were just a schedule: I’m coming, you’re unt qui dis rerum ulpa alitisti con et volut molor sinis going, let’s eat, thennos go to bed. But, we got sumquod the opportunity ne excestis doles voloreptatur atus isseto really bond [on the trip] and now we’re much more of a quam comniae struntis audigenim explibus aut molupfamily.” After the trip, Vanessa was also inspired to leave her ta assint quia ditiis et arum verae soluptatus dolestr current position to began volunteering with organizations umenist, cupta consequi aspelit atiores totame explalike Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation and Bert’s Big bore, ullo idundi tem facest fuga. Atis idi tem faccusa Adventure before eventually landing a management position voluptae nimin nimusam ipsam, exerum volorro ribuswithsolore an assisted facility, providing help and aid to otham dolorliving aut et ers in need.

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magicmaker...

Atlantic Southeast Airlines

A

s the official airline sponsor of BBA, AtlanticSoutheast Airlines is on a mission to provide a first-class experience to all BBA families, and the company takes that mission seriously. As Kate Modolo, Atlantic Southeast Airlines’ Director of Corporate Communications & Culture, explains, “We line the walkway with hundreds of cheering employees, so that each family feels like they’re the most special VIPs in the world. We even roll out the red carpet, literally, for the families to board the aircraft.” However exciting that may be for the families, though, Kate insists that “Atlantic Southeast employees get more out of that 20-minute boarding process than the families get the entire trip.” In addition to providing charter service free of charge, Atlantic Southeast provides charter coordinators, gourmet in-flight meals, crew and fuel. This year, the airline also donated digital video cameras with memory cards for every family on the trip and personalized backpacks filled with goodies for each child. For Atlantic Southeast Airlines, the decision to become involved with BBA was easy. “We love BBA. Our employees love BBA,” says Kate, because “it focuses on the needs of the entire family–not just the needs of the special-needs child. A child’s illness can take an incredible toll on his or her parents and siblings, and this trip takes the pressure off of each member of the family, even if it is only for a few days. There are a lot of heroes in this world; the family members of special needs children are among them.”

This is my second year in a row sponsoring a child chosen for Bert’s Big Adventure, and both times, it has been an incredible life experience. Just to see the expressions of excitement on the children’s faces and, for some, the fear–for many, this is their first trip on an airplane, but of course, the Atlantic Southeast employees and crews, along with the BBA team, make them feel comfortable, so we can lay those fears to rest. My last experience was an awesome one: After they arrived home from Disney, I got to spend some time with my sponsored child, Angel Williams, and her family. I was told that Angel would be having surgery a week or two after the trip. After the surgery, her mother called and told me it was a success, and they were very happy. I also got to talk to Angel, and it was so good to hear her voice. She and her mom thanked me for all that we had done to make her trip enjoyable, and she said that she would never forget the experience she had. I plan to continue sponsoring children from BBA in the future, as long as it will make other children like Angel happy. My thanks go out to Bert’s Big Adventure and Atlantic Southeast Airlines for making this a special experience for the children and the Atlantic Southeast volunteers. – Rhonda McFarland, Atlantic Southeast Airline employee and volunteer

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2010


thankyou! partners

MAGIC MAKERS • All the Hits Q100/Cumulus Radio • Atlantic Southeast Airlines • Carter’s • Draft on Taft • Jersey Mike’s Subs • Sheraton Gateway Hotel Atlanta Airport • JC Penney WISH GRANTERS • Xeko • Cooper Atlanta Transportation Services • Posh Tot Events • Country Club of Roswell • Salon 124 • Speedway Children’s Charities • World Football Challenge • State Farm Insurance • Prographics DREAM BUILDERS • Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta • Georgia Securities Association • The Ice Box • The Five Paces Inn • Big Ten Pub Crawl • US Cafe 56


MOMENTS

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2009 scrap book

2010

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I hope that through this magazine we have given back to you some of the genuine stories about

the wishes you have granted and the dreams you have fulfilled. – stacey weiss

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Dreams are made of this... Dear Bert’s Big Adventure Friends,

S

ince the inception of Bert’s Big Adventure eight years ago, I have had the incredible opportunity to witness the dreams of our Bert’s Big Adventure families come true. We, the Bert’s Big Adventure staff and families experience magical moments that will live on in our memories forever—from our epic trips to Walt Disney World to our Reunion Adventures and even in the many small, everyday interactions we share with each other. But none of these magical moments would be possible without the continued generosity and energy of you, our most dedicated partners. You truly are the magic makers, wish granters and dream builders of this special organization. This year, you made dreams come true not just for the thirteen families who went on the 2010 Walt Disney World trip, but also for the eighty-five families who form the Bert’s Big Adventure Community. I hope that through this magazine we have given back to you some of the genuine stories about the wishes you have granted and the dreams you have fulfilled. On behalf of the entire Bert’s Big Adventure staff, I want to thank you for enabling us to pursue our mission. Through your commitment, the dreams that we dare to dream really do come true. Gratefully yours,

Stacey Weiss

Executive Director Bert’s Big Adventure

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ç carters.com and oshkoshbgosh.com

We are proud to support Bert’s Big Adventure and The Fairy Godmother/Godfather Volunteer Program


Magical Moments - 2010