Thursday, July 09, 2015

Part 7 - Castle of Wishes and Magic Kingdom!

Now we've come to probably our biggest update yet which will give all the wonderful details of our last full day in Florida.  We definitely pushed ourselves to make it a memorable day, and most importantly, it was the day to grant Jenelle's wish to meet Tinker Bell!

We began the day at the Castle of Wishes at Give Kids the World.  At orientation on our first day, Jenelle was given a golden mirror star (approximately two inches wide).  We were told to visit the Star Fairy at the Castle of Wishes during our stay to have Jenelle's star placed in the GKTW galaxy.  We saved this experience for our last full day, and it was one of the most memorable and emotional experiences of our entire trip.

The Castle of Wishes at GKTW has a star on the ceiling for every child that has stayed at GKTW.  Each star has a bar code on back, so they know the name of the child, and galaxy in which is was placed in case it falls off the ceiling.  To date, there are over 130,000 stars on the ceiling in the Castle of Wishes; each star representing a Wish Child.  It was overwhelming to stand and look up at all the stars - an experience I will never quite forget.  It is even more special knowing that one of those stars is for Jenelle and that we can return someday to find it! (The photos really don't do it justice!)

Daddy helping Jenelle make a wish.

Jenelle giving a hug to our volunteer.

Galaxies of stars - each representing a wish child!

Looking up at the "Star Tower", this building was added a few years ago so that more stars could be placed in the Castle of Wishes.  The tower is supposed to last 10 years, but given what it looks like today, they may need to soon build a second tower!

A close up of a galaxy of stars, each with a Wish Child's name.
 After our wish experience with the Star Fairy, we arrived at the front lobby to find our wheel chair rental had been delivered!  It was a perfect fit, and I can't thank Amusement Park Rentals enough for helping us out when Jenelle's wheelchair broke!

Jenelle's New Ride!

If you are ever in Florida - I highly recommend these guys!
We had lunch at Chic fil A, and soon we were headed off to the Magic Kingdom! We quickly learned that the only way to arrive at the Main Gate of the Magic Kingdom was by boat, or monorail - after parking of course!  Our first stop was to see Tinker Bell at City Hall.

Once again, the Genie Pass allowed us fast pass access and I think even some additional time with Tink.  She was adorable and did not disappoint!  When we explained that she was Jenelle's favorite and we were granting her wish to come meet her in Florida; Tink elaborated and told Jenelle had she had been waiting and hoping she would come!  It was fantastic!

Driving in - looks like a popular place to snap a picture!

This is a funny photo - at Disneyland, it is a must to snap a photo in front of the train station by the Mickey Mouse face in Flowers.  A must!  We do it every time and even have to wait for a photographer!  Well, not so much in Florida.  They didn't even have a photo pass person at this location, so we asked a Disney information officer to take our photo and he seemed surprised.  I later figured out that Cinderella's castle is the favorite opening photo in Florida.  Go figure!

Here is Tinker Bell telling Jenelle all about waiting for her visit!

Jenelle was overwhelmed with giggles when we stood her up, and fell into Tink's arms.

Big Hugs for Tink!

It seems even Tinker Bell didn't want to stop hugging Jenelle!

Family photo time with Tink as Jenelle couldn't keep her eyes off her favorite girl.

Like everyone said - Magic Kingdom was similar and different to the Disneyland in Anaheim we know and love.  We found some rides were better in Florida, like Thunder Mountain, and the ride we don't have, Seven Dwarfs Mine - and some were better in California, like Buzz Lightyear, Small World and Space Mountain.

A lot of people had warned that Magic Kingdom was like Disneyland or Steroids, but it really didn't feel that much bigger.  We had one experience that we would rarely have in California - lightning!  As we boarded the Train to take a trip around the park, we heard a huge clap of thunder.  Next thing we know, the conductor tells us that all outdoor rides are closed as they detected lightening in the area!  

From the look of the clouds, you could see a storm was coming!  In an effort to get out of the rain, we took a detour and went to visit the Make a Wish Lounge, which was really no more than a small private waiting area off the side of first aid.  While cooling off and waiting out the storm, we met a Make a Wish family from Canada, and Ireland!  The Canadians were staying on site as their teen daughter only wanted to spend time at the Disney parks.  The family from Ireland had just arrived at Give Kids the World the day before, so we told them about our experience thus far!  

We also had a lot of fun talking with various Disney employees.  Once they found out we were from California (aka Anaheim), some were very chatty asking about Disneyland, and comparing rides.  We actually met a young girl from Irvine, working for Disney during her summer break from college.  It really is a small world after all.

Family selfie while driving Autotopia!

Family photo outside Space Mountain - we like the one in Anaheim better!

Daddy and Jenelle on Buzz Lightyear.

Yep, it's bigger than the one in Anaheim! See the storm clouds behind coming our way.

I know this photo seems fake, but that is the real sky at dusk just over Thunder Mountain after the passing storm.  It was beautiful and surreal.  This was taken at the exit of Thunder Mountain and when Brett asked what I was doing, I said, "I want a photo of this amazing sky!" - a nearby Disney employee overheard me and said, "I wish I could take that photo - the sky is amazing!"  

As nighttime settled in, we found a last minute location in which to watch the firework show.  It was pretty amazing.  We landed at the ice cream store on Main Street after the fireworks while I did some last minute shopping.  Just as I returned to the boys, the Main Street Electrical Parade started.  While Jenelle didn't seem to enjoy the fireworks as much - she LOVED the Electric Parade.  She jumped and giggled and hummed to the music.  At this point, it was getting close to midnight, so we made way back to the entrance, thinking we'd catch a tram to the car, then remembering we needed the monorail.  So similar to home, and so different.

Waiting for fireworks to start.

Family photo of the castle after fireworks!

One last photo at the entrance with Tinker Bell bidding us farewell!
 It was an amazing, exhausting, emotional and memorable day!  We got home around 2:00 AM and immediately fell asleep.  We had to be out of our villa by 11:00 AM the next morning.  Sleep came easy, and I'm sure Jenelle was dreaming of Tink!

Thank you again to Make A Wish Orange County and Inland Empire for this amazing experience, and to Give Kids the World for one of the most memorable experiences ever for this special needs family!

and one last photo.... my favorite...
We love you Tinker Bell!
In our next and last update on this incredible journey; I'll post some final photos of our last day at GKTW, and our trip home.  

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Part 6 - Kennedy Space Center!

Well, it seems very appropriate somehow that my update about our visit to Kennedy Space Center lands so close to the 4th of July!  What is more American than a huge giant American Flag on the side of a building that shoots rockets into Space?  On Tuesday, May 19 we spent a day of our Make a Wish Trip visiting the Kennedy Space Center.  Brett was just a baby during the first moon landing, and I was yet born, so seeing this was something new for us all to experience.

The weather was really beautiful with no rain forecast until the evening.  Closer to the Atlantic Ocean, it was humid, but cooler.  The drive from Give Kids the World was less than an hour, and we saw lots of wild life along the route.

Kennedy Space Center
So, as you may recall - our day at Universal Studios ended early when Jenelle's wheelchair broke.  I frantically made calls in the area to the local National Seating and Mobility office to no avail.  We decided that we'd simply drive to KSC and rent something with wheels for Jenelle.  Well, even the best of intentions don't always guarantee the best outcome.  Poor Jenelle could only fit into a double stroller as the single stroller was simply too small, and an adult size wheelchair (the only wheelchair available at KSC) was much too big.  She was such a trooper, and with a little help made it through the day.

Only option for Jenelle was a double stroller
as the adult wheelchair rental was too big.

Not fun at all!
Our first stop was a quick visit to the Rocket Garden.  I had some optical illusion fun taking photos, and it was interesting to read up on the history of space travel.  After buying tickets for a VIP bus tour, and checking out the garden, we had a quick lunch.
Rocket Garden
(Objects in Picture are larger in real life)
Our VIP tour began at 1:00 PM, and that is when we realized Kennedy Space Center was much larger than we imagined.  The bus was air conditioned and cool, and while the VIP tour allowed us to get out and take photos as specific sites, we think we probably could have had a similar experience on the regular bus tour.

We toured various launch sites, viewing areas, the main launching pad, the path where rockets go to the launch site, and the Atlantic Ocean!  We saw an alligator, a manatee, a bald eagle and pelicans!  The final stop of our tour left us at the Apollo museum.  We finished the VIP Tour around 3:00 PM which left a little over an hour to view the Shuttle Atlantis exhibit.  All of the exhibits were amazing and informational! Closing time came quickly at 4:00 PM and we missed the opportunity to ride the 3D Launch Experience.

We had a lot of photo opportunities, and got back to the Village early enough to enjoy another evening at Amberville.  Just as we got home, the thunderstorm and rain rolled in.  
Brother and Sister viewing the launch sites.

Selfie gone wrong.
SO much bigger in person!

Helping Jenelle walk around.

My favorite mission patch.

JD in the replica Atlantis Shuttle.

Who's flying this thing anyway?

I would not buy this helmet for him,
but that he could take this photo instead!
It was good to have an early evening as the next day was going to be our last full day with a planned visit to the Magic Kingdom.  On my way home, I found a company that rented child size wheelchairs for a minimal cost.  They even delivered to GKTW, so we were all set!

That is all for now... Happy 4th of July to you and your family - please be safe!

Next update - Magic Kingdom where Jenelle finally meets Tinker Bell! Thank you again to Make A Wish Orange County Inland Empire and GKTW for such an amazing trip!