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2011 ISSUE

bertsbigadventure.org

BEHIND THE SCENES

the inside scoop!

The Stars

of Bert’s Big Adventure! FROM DOCTORS TO DISNEY!

Exclusive scrapbook photos! Pg. 57

Amade Match in Disney Pg. 55

BY THE NUMBERS!

Pg. 16


our mission:

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ert’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.

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


staff

carter’s makes magic

A glimpse into the Atlanta children’s brand’s two-year sponsorship and the programs that help them get involved with Bert’s Big Adventure

BERT’S BIG ADVENTURE Bert Weiss Co-Founder Stacey Weiss Co-Founder & Executive Director Molly Parrish-Darby Program Director Melanie Wilson Development Director Erin Steele Volunteer Coordinator Michael Birchall/Troika Studio Inc. Marketing/Creative Director

24 behind the scenes

An insider’s look at some of the most memorable events of the trip to Walt Disney World

MAGICAL MOMENTS Stacey Weiss Publisher Melanie Wilson Editor-In-Chief Michael Birchall/Troika Studio, Inc. Art Director Jayson Earl Graphic Designer David Thomas Jr. Copy Editor Staff Photographers Zach Thomas Photography ztphoto.com Rustic White Photography rusticwhitephotography.com Erika Leigh Photography erikaleighphotography.com Contributing Writers Blair Branch Whitney Brennan Carly Felton Cooper David Crawford Anita J. Finkelstein Bre Humphries P.O. Box 420917 • Atlanta, GA 30342 404.303.8312 • BertsBigAdventure.org

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

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

contents wesley ahearn......................................................................................................5 madisyn bowman..................................................................................................9 maddie briscoe................................................................................................... 13 kyle chambers................................................................................................... 17 dariana cuevas................................................................................................. 21 abby gilmore....................................................................................................... 25 tevin keosakdy.................................................................................................. 29 memphis lafferty............................................................................................. 33 abigail & alex lloyd........................................................................................ 37 Caileigh mcglamry........................................................................................... 41 luke olsen............................................................................................................ 45 cesar urbina....................................................................................................... 49

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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our magic...

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e started Bert’s Big Adventure nine years ago as a three-day trip to Walt Disney World for children with chronic and terminal illnesses and their families. We have grown organically into a community of 100 families that provide each other with a lifetime of support. This is the magic that you, as Bert’s Big Adventure supporters, have allowed us to build. Without your financial support and in-kind donations, we would not be able to create Magical Moments for these VIP Kids. You have provided us the opportunity to change these families’ lives by giving them a spectacular five-day journey to Walt Disney World where they develop life-long friendships with other families who truly understand their journey. We are able to help them stay close throughout the year with our

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A Message from bert & stacey Reunion Adventures, where all of our families get to come together locally, three times a year and reconnect while enjoying a VIP event. We will be forever grateful for your selfless generosity. We hope that this year’s Magical Moments magazine will provide you with a little glimpse into the magic we see everyday through Bert’s Big Adventure. Sincerely,

Bert and Stacey Weiss Co-Founders, Bert’s Big Adventure

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


magic...

Magic is part of the unknowable—that which you cannot describe, but which exists and makes your life extraordinary. It is part of the goodness of your spirit. Magic is what we are all looking for, but if you try to hold it and name it and describe it, you will lose it. Out of relationship comes magic. Out of the mists of dawn and the mysteries of creation comes the magic that we call life. Out of your passion for existence comes magic. by Lynn V. Andrews

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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a new normal...

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By Carly Felton Cooper

urgeries, pH probes, sleep studies, deep suctions, X-rays. Infant diets, oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, ICU stays. Tracheomalacia, asthma, acid reflux, autism. Cold and sterile as it may sound, every one of these words is part of Tracey Ahearn’s everyday vocabulary—and Tracey is not a doctor.

about wesley’s family: • Wesley is a competitive wrestler, and also enjoys watching WWE. • His favorite wrestler is Jon Cena. He knows all of his moves. • Wesley loves pirates, and got to announce the Buccaneer Bash with Pirate Pete to the rest of the group. To see it happen, follow the QR code on this page! • Wesley has an extensive pressed penny collection. Watch him and his brother Patrick explain it with the QR code on this page! • The Ahearns are a family FULL of love, and really bonded with the staff.

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Yes, she has studied genetic research, but that’s only because of the helplessness she experienced when her son Wesley, now 13, weighed in at 147 pounds … at age 3! Wesley is not a “fastfood baby.” He is one of 12 identified cases with Early Morbid Obesity and Joel Corbin syndrome and one of six in the world with MOMO syndrome. He is the only person identified with both, in addition to autism. Because of the rarity of the conditions, very little information is available to help people like the Ahearns, and no cure. Tracey says, “Wesley has been my easiest child. He doesn’t fuss about going to doctors; instead he says ‘It’s just you and me today, Mommy,’ with a smile on his face.” So when Wesley was chosen for Bert’s Big Adventure, it was a welcome change in luck. “My favorite part was how close all of the kids got,” Tracey says. “I can’t remember the last time we could all just stop and enjoy each other so much. The trip was amazing and unforgettable and our lives will be richer now because we are part of the Bert’s Big Adventure family.” But at age 13, Wesley’s organs are already showing signs of wear and tear. Doctors say that in his 20s, they will start winding down like those of an 80- or 90-year-old man. Tracey hopes for a scientific discovery that will prolong his life and ease his pain, but for now she says, “We pray, we laugh, we smile… We go to the doctor, we have fun, and we go on. If you can get out of bed that day, it’s a good day. We’ve had bad days—we know the difference.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


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I can’t remember the last time we could all just stop and enjoy each other so much! -Tracey AHEARN

]

{Wesley bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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The Tween Birthday Bash was held at Midtown Bowl in August. It was a striking event!

bert’s big adventure

birthday bashes... Bert’s Big Adventure started the Birthday Bash program in April of 2011. All of our children are invited to a Birthday Bash corresponding with their birthday month. This is a great way for our families to meet each other and keep in touch!

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


As one of our newest partners, Heards Ferry Elementary School hosted the first Birthday Bash in April, with a variety of activities for the kids to participate in. They also brought a volunteer staff of teachers, parents and students.

Gigi’s Cupcakes in Buckhead donates all of the delicious cupcakes to the Birthday Bashes. With inches of icing on each one, who wouldn’t love one of these treats on their birthday?

From horse rides to tractor rides, the birthday kids just loved the attention they got from the staff and the horses at Vantage Point Farm at the second Birthday Bash.

A long-time partner of Bert’s Big Adventure, Posh Tot Events plans every Birthday Bash and customizes each party for the children who are attending.

With a variety of frozen yogurt flavors and toppings, the July/August birthday kids were so excited to create (and devour) their own special desserts at Yogli Mogli at Emory.

...because every day is precious. bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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[

The doctors told me that Madisyn would never walk and she wouldn’t live to be age 5.

-Samantha Moore/madisyn’s mom

about madisyn’s family: • The Bowmans were the biggest family on the trip, with 2 adults and 4 kids. • Blayke, Madisyn’s brother, was a fan favorite on the trip with his huge hugs. • The trip to Disney was the first time the Bowmans had ever been on a plane. Samantha, Madisyn’s mom, was the most anxious! • Madisyn formed a very special bond with photographer Tiffany Peterson while on the trip. • Madisyn loved her princess makeover so much, that she kept her hair in princess style the whole trip!

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


keeping up with the bowmans...

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he doctors told me that Madisyn would never walk and she wouldn’t live to be age 5,” says Samantha Moore, Madisyn Bowman’s mother. What these doctors apparently didn’t know is how far a spoon full of stubbornness added to a ‘glass half-full’ approach to life could lead you. “I walked out on that doctor and never went back…and Madisyn can walk and she is now 6 years old.”

Shortly after birth, Madisyn was diagnosed with Tracheomalacia, a problem that prohibits standard breathing to occur. Also born with a cleft palate, she stayed in the hospital for the first four months of her life. Because of the way in which she held her head due to the trach, Madisyn also developed Scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, as well as Kyphosis, a condition where one develops a hump back. She has also been diagnosed with Pierre Robin Syndrome, and has had several surgeries over the course of her short life. The news of the Bowman family’s invitation to join this year’s trip with Bert’s Big Adventure couldn’t have come at a better time. “I had just buried my grandmother, and I received a call from Bert. He asked a few questions about Madisyn and changed the entire tone of my mother’s grieving family,” explains Samantha. “A couple weeks later I received another call from Bert informing me that my family had been chosen. I was brought to tears. To give my children something I had dreamed of from when I was a child was a ‘pinch me to wake me’ kind of moment!” While Madisyn’s brothers, Hunter, Tyler, and Blayke, enjoyed all the rides with their father, Shayne, mother and daughter spent a girls day out at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Samantha loved watching Madisyn live her dream of becoming a true Disney Princess. Although everyone in the Bowman family had their favorite moments, from the character filled send-off party to the breakfast with Mickey Mouse, what really mattered most was the opportunity to enjoy the experience of a lifetime with each other. They also are thankful and excited to be welcomed into the Bert’s Big Adventure family. “Bert’s Big Adventure is important for the unconditional love they give to complete strangers. To actually go on the trip I was in a fantasy myself,” says Samantha. “They are remarkable people with feelings that will blow you away…I love them all. They have truly made a lasting impression in Madisyn’s head and I am eternally thankful to them for the smiles and everything they have given us.” By david crawford

{Madisyn bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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magicmaker... By molly parrish-darby

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Atlantic Southeast Airlines has been the official airline sponsor for Bert’s Big Adventure’s trip to Walt Disney World for the past four years. As it works to become the world’s first super regional airline through its merger with ExpressJet Airlines that is expected by the end of 2011, giving back to its headquarters’ hometown community in Atlanta is an integral part of the corporate culture. “It’s important for our people to be able to wrap their arms around a cause we can all believe in and be touched by. Nearly half of our 10,000 employees live within The Bert Show’s listening area. They hear all of the family stories and are compelled to actively participate in the day-to-day needs of the non-profit,” says Kate Modolo, Atlantic Southeast Airlines’ Director of Corporate Communications & Culture. Simone Palmer, Atlantic Southeast Airlines’ Inventory Control Specialist and volunteer added, “The Bert’s Big Adventure families live in the same communities we do. We want to do what anyone else would do for their neighbor…we give them a hand when we see a need.” In addition to providing the complimentary charter service, fuel, crew and in-flight meals, Atlantic Southeast Airlines creates a VIP sendoff and arrival for the families. Nearly 500 employees line the edges of a red carpet walkway – many teary eyed – each one cheering and waving as the families make their journey through the airport hangar.

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


magicmaker...

By david crawford

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hirty Jersey Mike’s restaurant chains in the greater Atlanta area joined forces for a fundraising effort larger than any party sub they’ve ever dreamt of making. Using all the best tools at their disposal, i.e. delicious Italian sub sandwiches and a friendly staff, the stores pulled out all the stops this year. Jersey Mike’s dedicated the entire month of March to offering various deals and promotions to their patrons, giving them ample opportunity to aid a great cause. All money collected was used to help send this year’s Bert’s Big Adventure families on their annual trip to Walt Disney World. The popular sandwich spot really kicked it up a notch in their second year partnering with Bert’s Big Adventure. “We sold packs of Silly Bandz for $5 each and all of the proceeds went to Bert’s Big Adventure,” explained Steve Minnich, Jersey Mike’s area developer for Atlanta and owner of four franchises. “We asked for donations throughout the month of March, and had a free sub night with a minimum donation of $1. We also advertised with billboards, radio, direct mail, and other materials to get people to our stores for

these events benefitting Bert’s Big Adventure.” After all of the bracelets were sold and subs were eaten, Steve and Jersey Mike’s raised an astounding $26,000 for Bert’s Big Adventure over the month of March. It is big hearts and hard work like this that allow for the magical moments going on each year at Bert’s Big Adventure to happen. Although the money went a long way to providing the families with a great time on their life-changing trip in February, Steve and his team at Jersey Mike’s seemingly got just as much out of helping make these dreams come true. They seem intent on making sure the trip continues happening year after year. “It’s such an important organization to be a part of. We really want to help these kids and their families involved with Bert’s Big Adventure in any way that we can,” says Steve, elaborating on why he and Jersey Mike’s deemed it necessary to keep their partnership with Bert’s Big Adventure a top priority after joining the team last year. “We want them to not only have a terrific time at Walt Disney World, but we want to help them out with anything that comes up throughout the year as well.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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[

Any vacation we take for the rest of our lives we’ll end up comparing to this one.

about maddie’s family: • Maddie created a sundae with Blue Bell ice cream at the dinner before the send-off. See QR code for her list of toppings. • Maddie LOVES Miranda Cosgrove, and got to go to her concert the day before the trip. • Though Maddie has spent months in the hospital this year, she has had plenty of visitors, from the Fairy Godparents to the Florida State softball team. • The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Magic Kingdom provided Maddie a special princess wig to complete her princess makeover. To see the video of her reveal, follow the QR code on this page!

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

-darren briscoe

]


from doctors to disney...

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adeline “Maddie” Briscoe was a normal 7-year-old girl filling her days with things 7-yearold girls like to do when last September she complained to her parents, Shelly and Darren, about back pain. Four days later doctors confirmed that they had discovered three tumors in the little girl’s body and that Maddie had Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. Everything changed for the Briscoe family at that point. “Life went from revolving around school and sports to revolving around doctors, hospitals and tests – then there was scheduling treatments, getting treatments and recovering from treatments,” Darren explains. Luckily the Briscoes have had a lot of support from their community and their church, which Darren says has been a blessing. In fact it was a neighbor who got the Bert’s Big Adventure application and gave it to Maddie’s teacher who delivered it to the Briscoes. “I was shocked when Bert called,” says Darren. “I was so excited to tell Maddie, but first I had to make sure she’d be able to go because her treatments interfered with the time the trip was scheduled.” From the send-off party to the dance party and the whirlwind of visiting all the parks and being treated to every little luxury, Darren says the trip was “magical.” Both he and Shelly agree that, “There is no mistaking that this trip is not a normal vacation. It is all pomp and circumstance. Any vacation we take for the rest of our lives we’ll end up comparing to this one.” As for Maddie, she says meeting Minnie Mouse, riding Space Mountain (not just once but twice) and watching the fireworks for the first time in front of Cinderella’s Castle are memories she will never forget. Of course, she also now has a priceless photo of herself, her parents and Stacey, Bert’s wife, on the “Tower of Terror” ride, which is the first ride that ever scared the normally fearless Maddie, says Dad. Of course, the Bert’s Big Adventure team didn’t miss a beat when they saw the photo. They promptly bought it, put it in a fancy frame and gave it to the Briscoes as a present. Says Maddie, “The whole trip just made me feel, kinda great.” “We will carry this memory [with us] forever,” Dad said. “We were just so happy to be a part of this adventure.” By Anita J. Finkelstein

{Maddie bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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2011

by the numbers...

DATES NEXT FOR YEAR: F E B R UA RY

10,000 visits throughout the week to bertsbigadventure.org

10cameras 16-2022lenses

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the number of minutes it took to gather the group for this photo

next year is our 15

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


70X5X5= 17,229 1,750 (PEOPLE ON THE TRIP)

(SMILES PER DAY)

(DAYS)

photographs taken

12 1000

1,420 gigabytes of hard drive space used for all media

(TOTAL NUMBER OF SMILES ON OUR TRIP) number of times bert was pressured to ride a roller coaster:

families on the trip

=1X

bert Actually rode a roller coaster

year anniversary! bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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[

Bert doesn’t do roller coasters, but he went on Space Mountain with Kyle! Kyle loved it.

about kyle’s family: • Kyle had to help Stacey, Bert’s wife, learn how to use her iPhone in the middle of the park. Follow the QR code below to check it out. • Kyle has a very witty personality, and loved making jokes with Bert and Jeff. • Due to his love of football, Kyle got to meet Falcon’s player Roddy White at the send-off. See page 28 for more on his Big Reveal! • The Chambers family came to the Peace, Love & Pure Fashion show to support the Bert’s Big Adventure girls.

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

-Lisa chambers

]


A well-deserved vacation...

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ike many typical 11-year-old boys, Kyle Chambers loves sports (especially football), movies and video games. He is a straight-A student, and has a great group of friends. But life is anything but typical for this sixth grader.

Kyle has Goldenhar’s Syndrome, a rare craniofacial birth defect. Born without a right ear, he is also deaf on his right side and has very poor vision in his right eye. Kyle’s deafness has limited him, as he has a difficult time in loud places since he can’t block out the background noise. Kyle knew from a young age that he looked different from other kids, and he was always aware of people staring at him. He learned to ignore the stares, but shied away from large crowds. 13-year-old big sister, Erin, has always been a protector of Kyle, defending him, since they were toddlers in day care. On his bad days, Kyle reminds himself that his case of Goldenhar’s isn’t as severe as some, and many kids with his condition experience mental handicaps as well. “He amazes me with his strength. He never complains,” says his mother, Lisa. “He is always optimistic.” Over the past four years, Kyle has undergone seven major operations, and he and his mother travel to Philadelphia, PA several times a year for various treatments. After all of the procedures Kyle has endured to reconstruct his face and ear, Lisa felt a vacation was exactly what he needed. At the urging of friends and coworkers, she applied for Bert’s Big Adventure, and was thrilled when her family was chosen. “With all of the travel expenses to Philly and being a single mom, I was never able to give Kyle anything like this trip,” Lisa says. “We had so much fun. The trip gave us so many wonderful memories and a lot of quality family time.” Kyle loved the roller coasters at Disney, and Lisa says one of Kyle’s favorite memories from the trip was riding a coaster with Bert himself. “Bert doesn’t do roller coasters, but he went on Space Mountain with Kyle! Kyle loved it.” And in Kyle’s words, “The trip was awesome!” For Kyle, his mother, and his sister Erin, Bert’s Big Adventure was the trip of a lifetime. And with many of his surgeries completed, Kyle was finally confident enough to walk through the Disney crowds with his head held high. By Blair Branch

{Kyle bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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bert’s big adventure offers our partners a special invitation to:

a mardis gras send-off soiree thursday, february 17th

2011 Abigail is showing off the custom journal she created at the Carter’s corner at the send-off party.

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Top L – The Posh Tot Events girls striking a pose at the Mardi Gras themed send-off party they planned. Top R – Stacey Weiss and (Pla) Beauty President Stephanie Green- Bass showing off “MAGIC,” the lip gloss designed specifically for Bert’s Big Adventure. Middle L – Curtains Up Founder Jennifer Salberg helping keep the party alive on stage. Middle R – Ballonacy Chief Designer Holland Muscio & Jennifer Angier helping with all of the décor. Bottom L – Jerry White of Imagine It! and Maddie B. acting crazy up on stage! Bottom R – Victoria Kramer of Victoria Kramer Massage helping soothe the sore muscles of a send-off party attendee.

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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[

We will carry this memory with us forever. We were just so happy to be a part of this adventure.

about dariana’s family: • Dariana played in the sand for the first time during the trip. • Primitivo’s first ever roller coaster ride was on Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom! • Meeting the Disney Princesses was one of Dariana’s favorite parts of the trip. • Pink is Dariana’s favorite color. • During the safari in Animal Kingdom, Dariana loved seeing the giraffes. • Dariana and Primitivo don’t speak much English, so friend and translator, Eva Garcia, accompanied them on the trip.

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

-Primitivo cuevas

]


from this moment...

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ariana is 5 years old. She enjoys going to the park, playing dressup and eating cake. Her favorite color is pink. But life hasn’t always been so “normal.”

Just two months after her birth, her parents noticed that her eyes, which normally sparkled like they do in this picture, were yellowing and took her to a doctor, who discovered Dariana’s liver was failing. She needed a transplant. Her father, Primitivo, was out of work due to the recession and had to travel to make ends meet wherever and whenever an opportunity arose. So it was her mother, Johana, who comforted Dariana every step of the way, sleeping in the hospital and holding her daughter’s hand while she waited for over a month for the medicine to kick in, all the while praying the transplant would work. Fortunately, it did. Yet two years later, Johana was diagnosed with leukemia. She was admitted to the hospital and had to undergo numerous rounds of chemotherapy. She wasn’t able to see Dariana because her germs could harm her daughter and vice versa. After a failed bone marrow transplant, Johana passed away, leaving Primitivo to care for and support his only daughter. Dariana never saw her mother again after she was admitted to the hospital. The only positive thing to arise from Johana’s sickness was that Dariana and Primitivo met Marilyn Fairchild, whose son Kevin also had a liver transplant. Knowing that Dariana’s life would never be the same post-transplant— she has to take medication constantly and judiciously avoid germs—Marilyn applied for Bert’s Big Adventure on Dariana’s behalf and she was accepted! In their wildest hopes and dreams Dariana and her father never thought they’d be able to visit Disney World. Yet visit they did. Before the trip Dariana was so excited she could barely sit still—she wanted to get there as fast as she could. Once there, she was beside herself. “[She was] so full of joy, her face shined,” Primitivo said. “She loved the princess makeover. It was very touching seeing her smile and pretend she was a real princess.” Primitivo, too, had the time of his life, enjoying the faster rides and watching his daughter meet the princesses. “We will carry this memory [with us] forever,” he said. “We were just so happy to be a part of this adventure.” By Carly Felton Cooper

{Dariana bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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Maddie grabs Goofy’s autograph at Tony’s Town Square while sporting her personalized pair of classic Mickey Mouse ears she received in her welcome basket.

Tevin’s room makeover was inspired by the outdoors, and included his own pair of safari Mickey Mouse ears.

hats...on! Abby rolls out in style wearing an oversized Pluto hat she borrowed from Luke. (See page 55 for more on their friendship)

Kyle grins as he shows off his airbrush tattoo in his Donald Duck cap.

Dariana has a blond moment in one of the many hats she wore during the Friday night dance party.

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magicmaker... Carter’s and bert’s big adventure: Making Magic Together by Anita J. Finkelstein

They are so much more than a monetary sponsor, they are truly involved with us. – stacey weiss

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hen Bert’s Big Adventure’s Stacey Weiss first met with Carter’s President Mike Casey in early 2010, it didn’t take her very long to convince him that the organization was a perfect fit for Carter’s. The Atlantabased children’s wear company had been actively looking for a local children’s organization that they could get involved with on a personal level. “It just made sense,” said Casey, “They are really passionate about helping sick kids and they are right in our backyard.” The company originally signed on as a Magic Maker sponsor for the 2010 trip, but after attending the send-off party the Carter’s team realized they wanted to do more. In May of 2010, Bert’s Big Adventure and Carter’s launched the Fairy Godparent Program. This program ensures that anytime a Bert’s Big Adventure child is in the hospital, he or she receives a daily visit from a volunteer Godmother or Godfather, who arrive with gifts and food for the child and family. The latest initiative for Carter’s and Bert’s Big Adventure is the Carter’s Cares Club, which launched last fall. Members of the club serve as volunteers at the Birthday Bashes and Reunion Adventures. Currently there are 14 employees who are members of the Carter’s Cares Club. Tanya Coventry-Strader, the Director of Philanthropic Strategy for Carter’s, says, “programs like Fairy Godparents and Carter’s Cares Club give our employees a tangible experience. It offers them the opportunity to be a part of the magic of Bert’s Big Adventure on a very personal level.” Stacey sincerely feels Bert’s Big Adventure is lucky to have found a partner like Carter’s. “They are so much more than just a monetary sponsor, they are truly involved with us,” she explains. “They are a part of our organization and I hope our partnership continues for years. When we eventually take Bert’s Big Adventure nationwide, I would like to see Carter’s right there beside us.”

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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about abby’s family: • Abby can get around REALLY quickly in her wheelchair. She never lets anything hold her back! • Laughing Pizza, Abby’s favorite band, came and surprised her at the send-off. She was so excited! Follow this QR code to see her joy. • Abby’s mom, Desiree, is a HUGE fan of Goofy, and loved meeting him at the VIP break fast in Tony’s Town Square.

[

To know that we had this experience at Disney and hearing her laugh and smile will be the memory of a lifetime.

• Abby was one of the mod els in the Peace, Love & Pure Fashion Show! She rocked the runway!

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

-Desiree GILMORE

]


the adventure began...

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pparently, a date with Mickey Mouse was destiny for 6-yearold Abby Gilmore, who was born with spina bifida. In 2010, family friend, Sylvia Betterton, came face-toface with the Bert’s Big Adventure gang in Orlando, right in the middle of their Disney adventure. Knowing the experience would be just perfect for Abby, Betterton and her co-workers nominated the Gilmore family for the 2011 trip.

Desiree was at work when she got the news from Bert, live on the air, that Abby had been chosen. “We were so excited, we just cried all day,” she said. The countdown to Mickey Mouse, tracked closely on the family calendar, was on. The Gilmore’s adventure began at the send-off party, where Abby got a special visit from her favorite singing group, Laughing Pizza, just before boarding the plane. “She actually handled the airplane ride better than I did,” Desiree recalled of their first time flying. “Abby was kicked back, eating her sandwich like she owned the plane.” The trip itself was an indescribable experience for Abby, her parents and 2-year-old brother, Reese. Because of her condition, Abby struggles with neurological problems and is bound to a wheelchair, making it difficult for her to enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood like trips to Six Flags and parties at Monkey Joe’s. At Disney, the bright, fun-loving child had the time of her life meeting Mickey Mouse, dressing up like Cinderella, and best of all, riding the rides. “She just wanted to ride those rides over and over again, because she doesn’t get to do stuff like that [at home],” Desiree said. “We could never afford anything like this,” the grateful mom continued, offering up words of thanks to all the sponsors who made it possible. “Abby laughed constantly … It was just the best trip ever. She still talks about Mickey and Minnie.” As if to prove this point, Abby piped up to talk about the Mickey Mouse stickers she got at a recent Bert’s Big Adventure Birthday Bash. “Anything could happen with Abby,” Desiree said with emotion. “But just to know that we had that experience at Disney, and just to hear her laugh and see her smile will be the memory of a lifetime for us.” By Bre Humphries

{Abby bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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Maddie, Bert & Stacey smiling big with the Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders

bert’s big adventure

magical moments

Some of the most Magical Moments of Bert’s Big Adventure are the Big Reveals at the send-off event. Several of the families receive huge surprises specific to the child’s interests or the needs of the family. These Big Reveals are announced to the families on-air for The Bert Show community to listen in on.

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


Kyle getting a hug from Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons

Bert with Laughing Pizza’s Lisa, Emily and Billy

Tevin’s bedroom makeover

Bert’s Big Adventure Executive Director Stacey Weiss dishing out DVDs to all the kid’s bins

Carter’s revealed live on The Bert Show they would be giving $500 gift cards to each family.


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You guys made us so happy, and showed us that there are still people out there that care. -sally keosakdy

about tevin’s family: • Tevin’s first time in a swim ming pool was on the trip. He even went down a waterslide! • His favorite ride at Disney World was Space Mountain. He had never been on a rollercoaster before the trip! Check out his ride with the QR code below! • The Keosakdy’s received a full home redecoration as a Big Reveal during the send-off. For more on that experience, see page 28. • Tevin rides horses as part of his physical therapy.

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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making a splash...

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t 8 years old, Tevin Keosakdy is a ball of energy ready for whatever comes his way. However, 18 months after being born prematurely, doctors informed Tevin’s mother, Sally, that her son had Cerebral Palsy. Sally said that it was difficult for the whole family, including Tevin’s sister, Lin, who is very supportive and loving with Tevin. “It was hard seeing someone that small deal with all of the doctor visits and pain,” says Sally.

Sally had medical struggles of her own, and required dialysis three days a week, while Tevin had physical and speech therapy. Tevin had ankle-foot braces and a walker before he was able to walk on his own. Before bed, Tevin frequently asked his mom why he couldn’t do all of the things his friends could. “Sometimes I didn’t have an answer for him, explained Sally, “I just told him that he was special, and that there were many other things he was great at. I tried so hard to make him happy but I was hurting because he just wanted to be like other kids.” As for the trip to Disney World with Bert’s Big Adventure, Sally said she and her family were so excited, and shocked that they had been picked. Tevin was thrilled to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck and Goofy at breakfast in Tony’s Town Square. He also loved the fireworks show over the water, and the Tower of Terror, even though it was a little scary. Best of all, Tevin swam for the first time while in Disney World, and Sally says Tevin was overjoyed. “The trip was the first time that we didn’t have to worry. We love Bert’s Big Adventure! You guys made us so happy, and showed us that there are still people out there that care. The trip showed us that we’re not different, but the same.” By Melanie Wilson

{Tevin bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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CCCvolunteer

linked through love... By: Erin Steele

New in 2011, Carter’s/OshKosh B’gosh employees teamed up with Bert’s Big Adventure to create a special volunteer program - Carter’s Cares Club. As Carter’s Cares Club volunteers, employees create magical moments for Bert’s Big Adventure children by volunteering at Reunion Adventures, Birthday Bashes and more.

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

photo: Cindy Powers


VOLUNTEER spotlight FAIRY GODMOTHER for BERT’S BIG ADVENTURE

GWENn WEISS

By Gwenn Weiss s a Fairy Godparent I have met some of the most extraordinary people I have ever known. The children I visit have not had easy lives, but lives filled with doctors’ offices, medical tests and hospital visits. You would think this would be a group of sad or bitter kids, but nothing could be further from the truth. Bert’s Big Adventure children are an inspiration. After becoming a Fairy Godparent in 2010, I soon learned that these families are not defined by their illnesses. They are defined by the triumph of surviving a tragic situation with grace, bravery and an uplifting spirit. I love being able to give these kids something to look forward to when they are in the hospital. The satisfaction of helping to bring joy to sick kids could not be more rewarding. I leave the hospital

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It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

knowing that I made a difference. I take great pride and pleasure in volunteering for an organization that has such a huge impact on peoples’ lives. One of my favorite things to do during a visit is to ask a child to tell me about their trip to Disney World. Not only does the kid’s face light up, but Mom and Dad love sharing their memories from the trip. It is magical to see everyone forget that they are in the hospital, while they go back to Disney in their heads. I love getting to know, not only the kids, but the families as well. The families endure a great deal of sorrow and feelings of hopelessness. They often just need someone to listen to them and I am more than happy to be there. By simply offering a smile, a hug or a few hours of our time, we are giving the families the precious gift of comfort and companionship.

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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I had to think positive and I had to speak his survival into existence... I knew he would survive.

-Leslie Anderson/memphis’ mom

about memphis’ family: • Despite Memphis being a quadruple amputee, he is able to run, walk & feed himself! • Memphis is very close with both his older sister Claire and baby sister Thora. • Memphis loves pizza so much that he even requested it for breakfast! To see his excitement, follow the QR code below!

• With a brand new Xbox Kinect and flat screen TV, Memphis showed off his video gaming skills at the send-off event. He skipped the motion con trolled Kinect, and used the regular controller with no problem!

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


a true relief...

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006 was quite the year for Memphis Lafferty and his family. Born a healthy child, at only 6 months old, Memphis contracted bacterial meningitis, a severe disease that can result in brain damage and even death.

“Memphis was crying and whimpering, which was out of character for this happy-go-lucky kid,” says Leslie Lafferty. At first, we were sent home from the hospital with the medical staff noting a virus as the cause. But after being back at home for a few hours, I knew in my heart something was really wrong. I called 911 and waited in my street for the ambulance to arrive.” Initially, the doctors told Leslie that they didn’t think Memphis would survive. “After the shocking news settled in, I knew I had to do what any other mother would do. I had to think positive and I had to speak his survival into existence, because that is what I believed. I knew he would survive, ” Leslie explained. After three weeks, Leslie’s forward-thinking thoughts came into action. The doctors told the family that Memphis had a shot to survive, but they needed to amputate 30 percent of his body, including his hands and feet. After a few weeks in hospital rehabilitation and a full year of changing bandages, Memphis made a full recovery. The positive attitudes of the family have undoubtedly helped shape Memphis’ outlook on life. Now in kindergarten, he loves to hang out and play games with friends and family. Stacey Weiss recalls, “Memphis can do almost anything that his sisters and friends can do and he loves to prove it. So much so, that when we surprised him with a brand new Xbox Kinect and flat screen TV, Memphis refused to use the motion controlled feature of the Kinect, and instead showed off his gaming skills by using the standard controller.” Having never taken a vacation with the family, Leslie describes her trip to Disney as “a true relief.” Upon arrival in Orlando, Leslie says Memphis and sister, Claire, were so excited that they rode every ride two or three times in a row. Memphis particularly enjoyed his time on the Dumbo ride at Walt Disney World and the time he spent with his favorite character from Monsters Inc., Sulley. “It was so wonderful to see them enjoying themselves, and due to all of the help from the staff at Bert’s Big Adventure, I was able to let my guard down, relax for once and spend some quality time with the kids.” By Molly Parrish-Darby

{Memphis bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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magicmaker... SHERATON GATEWAY HOTEL ATLANTA AIRPORT By David Crawford Often times people view fundraising as simply collecting money over a period of time and donating it to a charitable cause, considering the good deed done with that. Such is not always the case when partnering with Bert’s Big Adventure. “We take pride in really digging in and getting to know these families who are so deserving of what they are about to receive,” says Jared Travis, Director of Sales and Marketing for Sheraton Gateway Hotel Atlanta Airport. Having sponsored Bert’s Big Adventure for the past three years now, Sheraton Gateway provides the kickoff festivities the night prior to the trip, as well as a place to stay and a delicious send-off breakfast the following morning. Jared and his Sheraton team work closely with Bert’s Big Adventure over several months to ensure the best possible experience for everybody involved, whether it be arranging accommodations for the families and Bert’s Big Adventure staff or ensuring that all special dietary needs are met. “Once the families are identified, we start learning about the individual special needs of each family and work with our team to make a smooth arrival process and pleasant stay. We work tirelessly to make sure that the families have a great experience from the moment they walk in the door, until they hop in our shuttle to board the plane!” Whereas most places hold fundraisers and bring in the money needed from elsewhere when partaking in charitable work, Sheraton Gateway donates all their time, money and services themselves. When asked why he and Sheraton Gateway keep coming back each year, Jared Travis explains it’s a no brainer. “When you see the smile on these children’s faces and the glimmer of excitement in their eyes it all makes sense,” he says. “The core values of Sheraton really help us align ourselves with Bert’s Big Adventure–Warm, Connected, Community-that is who we are! The families are so appreciative of everything we are doing for them and the role we play in this adventurous life journey they take. There is a buzz for weeks ahead of time as the preparations are being made…and we are often sad once the trip is complete because we have to wait an entire year before the next set of special families will come grace us with their smiling faces.”

the core values of sheraton really help us align ourselves with bert’s big adventure– warm, connected, community–that is who we are. – jared travis

bertsbigadventure.org www.bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments • magical magazine moments 2011 magazine; • sponsored 2010by trip carter’s


magicmaker... POSH TOT EVENTS By David Crawford

it Is very humbling

to be around these families that endure so much on a daily basis – jennifer shields

When it comes to planning parties with a unique, creative approach, nobody is better than the Atlanta area event experts at Posh Tot Events. Founded in 2007 by owner and President, Jennifer Shields, Posh Tot Events specializes in creating children’s parties and baby showers. Using a hands-on technique that emphasizes getting to know their customers on a personal level, they employ that knowledge to throw amazingly detailed celebrations with a theme geared towards each recipient. Posh Tot Events has done just that for the send-off celebrations that Bert’s Big Adventure throws for the families before they journey to Walt Disney World. “We planned the first send-off party in 2008. What we do is come up with a different vision each time we do this,” says Jennifer. “We manage the vendors, design the décor and facilitate all aspects of that to the event on site. Everything we provide is donated.” Jennifer truly cares about what Bert’s Big Adventure does, and it shows in how she thinks outside the box to come up with new ways to care for these kids, and not just with the details in her parties, like the Mickey Mouse send-off in 2010. Last year she approached Bert’s Big Adventure Co-Founder and Executive Director, Stacey Weiss, with the idea to start the Birthday Bashes program. Having over 100 kids now in the Bert’s Big Adventure family, Jennifer thought it would be great to throw a birthday party each month. All Bert’s Big Adventure children with birthdays in that month are the guests of honor. In its first year the program has been a huge success. “This is our first year of Birthday Bashes and that in itself is special. Each event has a theme and we carry that theme through from the invitations to décor and activities,” explains Jennifer. “Bert’s Big Adventure is very close to my heart. I am the mother of two small children. It is very humbling to be around these families that endure so much on a daily basis. Being involved with this cause keeps me grounded and reminds me just how blessed I am. It is a pleasure to be able to help bring some joy to these families.”

bertsbigadventure.org www.bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments • magical magazine moments 2011 magazine; • sponsored 2010by trip carter’s


about abigail & alex’s family: • Abigail and Alex are twins! They celebrated their sixth birthday while on the trip. • Although Abigail was born two minutes before Alex, Gillian, holds the title of ‘Big Sister!’ • Abigail and Alex’s dad, Ryan, got to be part of the Lion King show in Animal Kingdom. He was asked to act like a warthog! • Even though Abigail’s diet is limited, she can still enjoy pixie sticks, snow cones, and rock candy!

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It seems like whenever we reach a low point, there’s an incredible event that lifts us back up.

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

-Jeri lloyd

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uncertainty... By Whitney Brennan

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eri and Ryan Lloyd were beyond overwhelmed when they learned that their child Abigail may never eat. A few years later, they learned that twin Alex shared the same disorder. Abigail and Alex, 6, have eosinophilic esophagitis (EE), a rare disorder involving inflammation of the esophagus often due to a food allergy. Many kids live a normal life after the allergy is removed from their environment. However, the cause of EE for both twins is unknown; allergy tests are inconclusive. Abigail’s symptoms are severe, and she has a gastrostomy tube in her stomach for feedings. Alex exhibits milder symptoms—low body weight, stomach pains and choking. He also has Kohler disease, a rare bone disorder of the foot causing pain, swelling and difficulty walking. “He needs anti-inflammatory medicine for his foot but can’t have it because of his EE, so he just suffers,” his mom Jeri says. Life for the family has been filled with stress and uncertainty. They’ve spent years receiving various diagnoses (even bone cancer). 9-year-old Gillian is quick to help with her siblings, but it has been difficult. “The hardest part for Gillian is the social isolation…not having friends over and no big birthday parties because her sister might get into food she can’t have,” explains Jeri. The Lloyds also cannot go out to dinner as a family. Being chosen for Bert’s Big Adventure was a welcome blessing. “We never would have been able to go to Disney World on our own, much less provide the amazing trip they gave us,” Jeri says. Jeri and Ryan were grateful, too, that the events and activities were not focused entirely on food. Meals usually included a sing-along, as well as a meet-and-greet with Disney characters. They were very impressed with the staff, who were personally involved every step of the way. “Alex liked the rides,” Jeri says, “but he loved the attention from the staff.” Abigail enjoyed transforming into a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, which wasn’t a surprise, since she play-acts at home, complete with wigs and accents. The experience didn’t end with the trip. “The continued contact from the staff was remarkable,” says Jeri. “It seems like whenever we reach a low point, there’s an incredible event that lifts us back up.”

{Abigail & Alex bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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At the Thursday night dinner, the children were fascinated by all of the sea creatures occupying the tanks at Living Seas in Epcot.

One of the coolest parts of the trip is the dance party on Friday night, where the families and the staff let loose and bust a move.

The children and their families watched in awe as the fireworks exploded over the water at the marina.

The dance party on Friday night wouldn’t be the same without the VIP visits from Disney Characters like Sulley of Monster’s Inc.

Mickey and Minnie arrived at the Buccaneer Bash at Wilderness Lodge in full pirate gear to hang out with the kids.

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bert’s big adventure

behind themagic... Every little girl dreams of becoming a princess. The trip to Disney World with Bert’s Big Adventure makes that possible through an incredible experience at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Magic Kingdom. Every girl on the trip gets one-on-one attention from the Fairy Godmothers at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique who style the girls’ hair, paint their nails, and top it all off with a little pixie dust.

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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about caileigh’s family: • Caileigh rode Expedition Everest three times in a row in Animal Kingdom. • Caileigh made three big wishes into the Wishing Well in Magic Kingdom. Let’s hope they came true! To see her wishes, see QR code below! • While most of the group stayed on the dance floor during the VIP dance party, Caileigh preferred manning the DJ booth! • Caileigh and many of the other girls on the trip got a special shopping trip with Bert’s Big Adventure staff member, Erin.

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Knowing that for the time we were there, she didn’t have to feel sad, or different, or hate her legs. -shauna roudabaugh

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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catching up with caileigh...

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-year-old Caileigh McGlamry was 2 when her mother, Shauna, noticed she sat funny—in the shape of a “w”—and realized Caileigh was unable to run, climb stairs, or jump. After a trip to Caileigh’s doctor, they were referred immediately to a neurologist. Shauna soon found her baby surrounded by doctors. “They nodded and scribbled notes, and then one sat me down and gave me the diagnosis: Muscular Dystrophy (MD). It happened so fast.” Caileigh was referred to Shriners Hospitals for Children in South Carolina, and she and her mother made the four hour trip twice a year for three years for treatment. Now, thanks to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, she is able to stay closer to home for treatment. Shauna describes Caileigh as funny, kind and fiercely independent. Caileigh loves arts and crafts—especially painting and chalking—and two years ago began selling her art to raise money for the MDA. Caileigh refuses to be limited by MD, as she also enjoys dancing, learning to cook and gardening. And while coping is an everyday process, Caileigh is quite resilient. “People stare when she falls. People ask why she walks funny, and why she can’t run. One day she asked, ‘Why did God pick me? Why can’t I run mom?’ We spend a lot of time teaching her about patience. And we spend A LOT of time praying.” Their prayers were answered when Caileigh was unexpectedly chosen for Bert’s Big Adventure. Shauna describes it as a blessing to see Caileigh, who is so limited on a day-to-day basis, collapse at night from the pure exhaustion and happiness of a child experiencing Walt Disney World for the first time. “I wish I could repay Bert and Stacey and their team. We wouldn’t trade the experience for anything!” says Shauna. Caileigh’s favorite part of the trip was meeting the Disney princesses, and Cinderella and Snow White were her favorite characters, along with Minnie Mouse. “Knowing that for the time we were there, she didn’t have to feel sad, or different, or hate her legs,” says Shauna, “knowing that she felt ‘normal’—that’s a gift I never thought I’d feel.” By blair branch

{Caileigh bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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Bert’s Big Adventure sponsors are more than just sponsors, they’re partners. – STACEY WEISS

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his all-expenses-paid trip 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, who 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 organization’s website, BertsBigAdventure.org. 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 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 marketing@BertsBigAdventure.org.

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


STAFF spotlight

THE JOY OF MAKING SOMEONE’S DREAMS COME TRUE BY MELANIE WILSON... ‘I wish someone on our staff could speak Spanish.’

there is nothing like seeing the look

on a child’s face when he or she sees mickey mouse for the first time. – melanie wilson

That was the statement that changed my life forever. I had only been working for Bert’s Big Adventure for a week as the new Development Director, and it was early February, just a week before the trip to Walt Disney World. The hotel rooms had been booked, the flight had been planned and all of the paperwork had been handled. I knew there was no way I was going to get to go on the trip with them… until Stacey Weiss uttered those words. I explained that I had minored in Spanish in college, and that I felt fairly comfortable speaking it. A week later, I was on my way to Walt Disney World with 13 amazing children and their families and the rest of the staff. I was paired with a 5-year-old little girl named Dariana, who I immediately adored. She and her father spoke very limited English, and although they had a translator with them, Stacey and Bert wanted to make sure they were able to connect with

the organization, which is where I came in. I will never be able to thank them enough for giving me that opportunity. From the Friday night dance party, to the ESPN Zone broadcast before we left Disney, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to the families at the ASA hangar. I knew that we had given them the trip of a lifetime, but I also knew that, upon arriving home, they had to go back to their daily struggles with doctors, finances and the overall stress of having a special needs child.” The children we take on this trip should be an inspiration to everyone. Many of them weren’t supposed to live half as long as they have, but yet they continue to breeze past their prognosis. There is nothing like seeing the look on a child’s face when he or she sees Mickey Mouse for the first time, and I get to help make that happen for some of the most deserving families I have ever met. I am proud to work for Bert’s Big Adventure, and humbled by everything it has allowed me to experience.

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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about luke’s family: • Luke and his family were the last ones to find out about being chosen for the trip. • Prior to the trip, Luke was dependent on his parents to help him get around, but once he met Abby, all of that changed. See page 55 for details. • Luke is a huge fan of the movie Cars. He even got to meet Lightning McQueen in Disney World! • Shy is not a part of Luke’s vocabulary. He rocked the red carpet like a real celebrity before the send-off. See his

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his first limo ride, first plane trip, first time on a roller coaster, first time on a water ride, it was truly a gift

-Alison Dewitt /luke’s mom

moment by following the QR code below.

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


a trip full of firsts...

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or 8-year-old Luke Olsen, his mother Alison Dewitt and her boyfriend Ryan Rowland, going to Disney World was more than just a dream come true. it was a celebration of “firsts” for everyone in the family, and an empowering experience. “None of us had ever been to Disney before,” explains Alison. “We don’t go on many trips because we don’t have a van and just getting the wheelchair in and out of the car is a project.” Luke, who is confined to a wheelchair, was born with Arthrogryposis, a disease where the body’s joints are curved the wrong way. He has endured countless surgeries and continues to need surgery every six months in order to release the tension on the growth rod that’s been in his back since he was a baby. Alison says when she filled out the application, she figured Luke had a “one in a million” shot at being selected. When Bert called on her birthday, she says, “It was the best birthday present ever, it was a gift for Ryan and I as much as it was for Luke.” She points out that Ryan, who she has been with for five years, is indispensible in helping her care for Luke. She’s almost in tears when she says, “I don’t know what we would do without him.” The memory of keeping the trip a secret from Luke makes her laugh though. “We knew once we told him he would ask every single day when we were going. We made it until about a week before and then we let the cat out of the bag.” As for her favorite thing about the trip, she’s quick to respond, “Everything. Every time I looked at my child he was smiling. To be able to see him do so much and experience so much was incredible. Everything was a “first” for him – his first limo ride, his first plane trip, his first time on a roller coaster, his first time on a water ride, it was truly a gift.” She points out another unexpected positive outcome of the trip that’s been a blessing for the family. “Luke wasn’t really exposed to other kids with disabilities before, and just being around them was empowering for him. He saw how some of the other kids just dove in and didn’t just say, ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I can’t do that.’ It was so good for him. It’s pushing him to try harder with everything now.” By Anita J. Finkelstein

{Luke bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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wishgranter...

Area businesses team up with Bert’s Big Cooper Atlanta Transportation Services

Cooper atlanta Transportation services One of the kids’ favorite parts of the Bert’s Big Adventure trip is the VIP limo service provided by Cooper Transportation. Cooper is very accommodating and makes sure that all of the families’ needs are met for their transportation to and from the hotel and airport.

DRAFT ON TAFT Draft on Taft is an annual event where Atlantans can eat, drink and party for a good cause. To date, the event has raised over $200,000 for local and national charities. Bert’s Big Adventure is thankful to be a part of this great event every year! Draft on Taft

photo: DJ Bing Photography

Country Club of Roswell

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


Adventure to help dreams come true... 11 Alive

dreambuilder... 11 ALIVE-wixa tv 11 Alive has offered continued support of Bert’s Big Adventure through a variety of means. The station helped raise $8,000 for Bert’s Big Adventure through a Facebook campaign for charity in October of 2010. They also selected Bert as a recipient of the 11Alive Community Service Award for his work with Bert’s Big Adventure, which was presented to him in April of 2011.

Country club of roswell The Country Club of Roswell is one of Bert’s Big Adventure’s most essential sponsors. They host the Pool Party Reunion for the families every summer, which would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of their staff. They’ve also raised over $155,000 for Bert’s Big Adventure in the last few years through their annual Tennis Pro-am Charity Invitational.

US CAFe US Cafe has provided more this year than just a financial sponsorship. They also donated all of the iPods for the kids on the trip and helped supply food for Bert’s Big Adventure events. Just like US Cafe loves Bert’s Big Adventure, Bert’s Big Adventure loves US Cafe!

BALANCE SALON Country Club of Roswell

US Cafe

Balance Salon is a huge supporter of Bert’s Big Adventure. They contribute not only financially, but they also provide their services at a variety of Bert’s Big Adventure events. The Balance stylists are constantly looking for new ways to get involved with Bert’s Big Adventure so they can help make the organization bigger and better. Balance Salon

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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Although Cesar is very sick, he wants more than anything to just be a normal little boy. -Deb Murphy/cesar’s asst. principal

about cesar’s family: • Cesar’s favorite color is orange. • Cesar is very close with his three brothers, his mom and his dad. Check out this awesome family on the Walt Disney World RR with the QR code below! • Soccer is Cesar’s favorite sport. • Cesar loves listening to Justin Bieber. His favorite song is Baby. • The highlight of Cesar’s trip was meeting Lightning McQueen!

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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a family full of love...

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esar Urbina was only 18 months old when doctors diagnosed him with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), an extremely rapid-growing cancer of the white blood cells. After three years of subsequent treatment, the cancer came back in another part of his body, so he had to start all over. Cesar is admitted to the hospital at least once a month for chemotherapy treatments, and also goes once or twice a week to the clinic for labs or chemo. His treatment continues at home, where his parents have to give him daily shots and other medication, and keep a close monitor on his temperature. “Their commitment to fighting his disease is so inspiring and humbling,” said Deb Murphy, Assistant Principal at Cesar’s school. “I am certain that if he is chosen for the trip, you would not regret the decision… Although Cesar is very sick, he wants more than anything to just be a normal little boy.” When Cesar arrived for the trip to Disney with his parents, Arcedalia and Jose, and his two brothers, Oscar and Fernando, Bert’s Big Adventure made sure that Cesar felt even better than normal. Although it was the staff’s job to make sure that the Urbinas had a magical time at Walt Disney World, it was the Urbinas themselves that were magical. An extremely close-knit group, all five of them show support for each other, and it is clear that their love runs deep. During many of the trip events, the family just sat together in awe of everything they were experiencing. Cesar enjoyed meeting Atlanta Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson at breakfast in Animal Kingdom, and he loved dancing to the Justin Bieber songs played at the Friday night dance party. You might say Cesar has “Bieber Fever,” as even he claims that he envies Justin’s hair. “I was so surprised at how much Cesar’s eyes lit up at the sound of Justin Bieber. He had been a little shy leading up to the trip, but totally came out of his shell on the dance floor,” says Molly Parrish, Program Director for BBA. Despite his battle with ALL, Cesar is a fun-loving and sweet little boy whose trip to Disney World was a much-needed break from his daily struggle. By Melanie Wilson

{Cesar bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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Bert spends some quality time with Ashlyn, a Berts Big Adventure child from the 2009 trip

reunion adventures

bert’s big adventure

The Reunion Adventures bond all of the families, past and present, and give them a place to come together, share their experience and know that those who are with them are not going to stare or question. Instead, they are going to smile and listen, and be there to help each other when they need it. Just like the trip to Disney World, the reunions provide a brief opportunity for the kids to just be kids.

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


Stacey strikes a pose with Michael Minyard and his family, who attended the 2008 trip

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Fernbank Science Center was the perfect setting for the 2010 Fall Reunion

Magician Ken Scott and snowball hang out with Gracie at the 2010 Holiday Reunion

Alex laughs as he enjoys the day in the pool at the 2011 Summer Reunion Adventure at Country Club of Roswell

� Gracie and Ashlyn pet the reptiles at Fernbank Science Center during the Fall Reunion in 2010

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BEHIND the lens

Working with Bert’s Big Adventure for the last three years has been a blessing. We’ve had the opportunity to successfully collaborate on so many different levels since we met. Bert, Stacey and all involved with their organization inspire us to do great things and for them we are grateful! Thank you. – seth/TroikaStudio

bert’s big adventure

One of the most important things I’ve learned through my experiences with Bert’s Big Adventure is that these kids aren’t as fragile as I thought they were. When I caught Luke coming down his first water slide, I was more nervous than he was! His courage was inspirational. – zach/zachthomasphotography

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(fauxtogs)


This trip with these kids, their families and even the staff allowed me to truly see that life is what you make of it, and that miracles come in all forms... I am blessed to have been a part of their adventure as I had an amazing one of my own! – Erika/erikaleighphotography

” “

(fauxtogs)

bert’s big adventure

It’s family that is most important, and we love that Bert’s Big Adventure gets that. They make the entire family feel special on the trip, and also give them a support network with other families. Why else do we love it? We simply love working with kids. – tiffany&robert/rusticwhite photography

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a

MatchMade

Will you be my

best friend?

in Disney

by Melanie Wilson

-luke to abby

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Luke & Abby... Like every other Disney fairytale, the one that Luke and Abby experienced during their trip to Walt Disney World was nothing short of magical. Luke and Abby formed a special bond within the first day of meeting on Bert’s Big Adventure. Both Luke and Abby use wheelchairs full-time, which may have been what caused each of them to take notice of the other. Luke, who typically would not wheel himself in his chair, watched in awe as Abby zoomed around in hers. Luke soon started pushing and pulling the wheels of his own chair just to keep up with her, becoming completely independent in his wheelchair. By the end of the trip, both kids were constantly shouting each other’s names, trying to make sure the other was close by. They also spent time together at the Birthday Bash in April—the first time they had seen each other since the trip. Needless to say, Luke and Abby’s special bond leaves fluttering hearts in all those who witness it.

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


thank you! partners

MAGIC MAKERS

Atlantic Southeast Airlines Carter’s/OshKosh B’gosh Jersey Mike’s Subs Sheraton Gateway Hotel Atlanta Airport Posh Tot Events Troika Studio Prographics Rustic White Photography 360 Media

WISH GRANTERS

Cooper Atlanta Transportation Services Draft on Taft The Holiday Ice Spectacular Zach Thomas Photography Erika Leigh Photography

DREAM BUILDERS

Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta 11 Alive-WIXA TV Jezebel Speedway Children’s Charities Sutherland Balance Salon Resurgens Charitable Foundation Country Club of Roswell US Cafe Physician’s Alliance of America Andruw & Nicole Jones Kevin & Cindy Powers

bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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magical moments

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2009 scrap book

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s

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magical memories...

photo: Stacey Bode Photography

{ Matty & Jessi

Matty Melton (2000-2011) Matty, a Bert’s Big Adventure child from our 2009 trip, peacefully passed away after a long battle with brain cancer. Matty’s favorite things were trains and as his mom stated to Bert, “Matty is taking his final train ride to heaven where he will have no more pain.” Jessi Kimsey (2005-2011) Jessi, who suffered from muscular dystrophy, passed away just two weeks before she was set to take the Bert’s Big Adventure 2011 trip after becoming ill with pneumonia. Jessi’s mom, Heather, told us that Jessi hoped that one day she could fly like Tinkerbell. We believe Jessi has had her wish fulfilled.

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bertsbigadventure.org • magical moments magazine 2011 • sponsored by carter’s


Bert’s Big Adventure FEBRUARY 16 -20

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


Magical Moments - 2011