Give Kids The World loves hearing from alumni families and was thrilled to hear that alumni wish father, Matthew, was returning to the Village for a very unique volunteer opportunity. Below is a touching family letter from Matthew and his wife, Suzi.
In 2001, Allison was approved to receive her wish from the Dream Factory of Kansas City area, to go to Walt Disney World. This was a great gift, not just because of what it represented for her, but also for the opportunity to experience something new.
The trip started with Allison’s first airplane flight ever. This signaled that her life was about to change forever. We arrived (me, my wife Suzi and our four daughters – Allison, Deborah, Heather and Riley) and were greeted at the airport by a super-friendly and excited member of the Give Kids The World team. This first encounter really set the tone for an amazing week. All of our daughters were overwhelmed and thrilled by the Village from the time we arrived. They always mention first how the villa had a Jacuzzi tub in the kids’ bathroom and not in the parents’ bathroom.
Every day was a new adventure at the parks and at Give Kids The World Village. Allison was treated like a celebrity everywhere she went which was such a difference for her since her seizures usually caused people to have trouble knowing how to relate to her. Allison’s face just beamed with joy as she was asked to personally start the Live Tarzan show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Each night we returned to our villa, the girls discovered gifts especially for them. The girls couldn’t believe their eyes; it was like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus lived in this Village and was delivering presents just to them each day while they were out and about. On Allison and Deborah’s birthday, both girls were excited to find cakes and birthday gifts just for them.
Words can’t express how excited Allison was to meet Cinderella and Mickey and Minnie–not at a Disney park or restaurant, but at the Village! They took the time to come and see her. These weren’t the only famous people she got to meet though; she was able to personally meet Mayor Clayton of Give Kids The World! This Village was not just a resort but an actual Village with a mayor, citizens and everything!
Allison’s favorite part of the Village was the fact that all the citizens were allowed to eat ice cream any time of the day! Never had she been allowed to eat ice cream for breakfast and just before going to bed, but here it was not considered unusual, but normal! Allison loved meeting people and enjoyed talking with and getting to know other kids that were living in this magical place. When the week was over it was so hard to leave. She had to have one more trip to the Ice Cream Palace and one more look around.
Allison had so many adventures that week that by the fourth or fifth day she fell asleep at the park we were visiting. No other family outings or vacations, before this adventure or after, have even come close to the fun and excitement with Give Kids The World!
Allison passed away in her sleep on January 16th, 2009 from a severe seizure. We miss her so very, very much and treasure the time that God provided for all of us to be together. Allison lives in our hearts and memories. We know that we will see her again and that where she is now, there are no seizures… only love!
Being able to return to GKTW and serve a new group of amazing kids has been an honor and a blessing for me. I have been in law enforcement for many years and served ten years as a School Resource Officer. On this visit back to GKTW I invited my fellow SRO’s to volunteer with me and they all immediately said yes. Many of them had not heard of GKTW before.
These officers did not know what to expect and were completely amazed by what they found. We were included in the Monday evening Hare-Raising Halloween event and several of our officers even had their faces painted right along with the kids. We brought two marked police cars and the kids were able to sit in the driver’s seat, activate the lights and talk on the P.A. system. It was incredible to meet these young people and their parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters.
The SRO’s were having such a great experience with the kids that we forgot all about the time and stayed much later than we had planned. The officers expressed to me that they were touched and truly moved by being able to serve these incredible kids and their families. Several have told me that they plan on returning to the Village to serve again.
The next day, Suzi and I returned to GKTW Village and we walked the property, finding Allison’s star in the Castle of Miracles and finding her paver stone next to Katie’s Kitchen. We had a little ice cream while we walked and remembered that amazing week and our amazing daughter, Allison.
Thank you so very much for the countless selfless acts, the kindness and the friendship that was given to Allison and to all of us.
With love and affection,
Matthew and Suzi
Thank you Matthew, Suzi and the Gainesville SRO for sharing your story and bringing so many smiles to the Village.