At Give Kids The World, we know that no one can tell our story better than our wish families – those who have experienced it first hand. Below is a story shared by Heather, detailing her life journey, her wish trip and her dedication to helping the Village one scoop at a time.
In January 1996, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor from a simple vision exam. I was sent home from school for a week straight, complaining of horrible headaches. From there I had my initial surgery to remove the tumor with no luck. A shunt was placed in my head to help drain the fluid that was building up. I then went to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago for my chemo treatments. I went through 14 months of chemotherapy and had many more surgeries in between. I then went to Northwestern Hospital in Chicago for 6 weeks of radiation. While the radiation treatments helped to shrink the tumor, they also caused new medical issues that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life.
In November of 1997, after all treatments were finished, we were approached by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant my wish. Of course, I chose to go to Disney World. My family stayed at Give Kids The World for the week and was amazed by the generosity of the volunteers, employees and other wish families. We were able to go to Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios. At each theme park that we went to we were treated like stars, with special treatments and experiences like petting a seal and dolphin at Sea World, meeting Lassie at Universal Studios, and front of the line privileges and meeting all the Disney characters at the Disney theme parks. This was the most amazing experience ever!
After the wish trip, the Village sent us a letter asking for artwork. They said that they love receiving artwork from families, so I drew a bunch of pictures and sent them down. We received a letter back in the mail a few months later saying that they were going to make one of my drawings into a plate, mug and tile that the Village would sell at their gift shop. They did this two times with my artwork. I had also sent in holiday artwork that they have used three times on their yearly Holiday Cards. I also helped design a blue tie with children holding hands, that is still sold in the gift shop today. I’m told that this is Henri Landwirth’s favorite item.
In 2000, a NASCAR coloring contest form was sent to our home asking the wish child and their siblings to create paint schemes that could possibly win and be placed on a Tide NASCAR for the Village. I colored about five designs and sent them in. Months later we received a phone call from the Village saying that one of my designs was a finalist in the coloring competition and my family was going to be sent back to the Village for a week for the unveiling of the Tide NASCAR. We returned to Disney World with the four other wish families and were grand marshals for the Disney World parade. During the unveiling, camera crews and newspapers were there. Each child grabbed a corner of the sheet that covered the car and quickly pulled it back. My space themed car was under the cover! Confetti flew and the cameras were all over my family and me. My dad grabbed me and we both started crying. After that, all the contestants took place in a photo shoot with my car and racecar driver Scott Pruett who raced the car. It was unreal. We were all flown to Charlotte, North Carolina where Scott Pruett was supposed to race the car, but he did not qualify for the race. We were still treated like stars with tickets to the race, dinner with the driver and crew, and television and newspaper interviews. A Hotwheels diecast was made of my car and sold at the Village. My dad ordered cases and sold them at his work place. For years on, Cal Wells, the crew chief of the Tide Racing Team welcomed us to the races and pits with open arms, like we were a part of the racing family.
We have visited the Village every year for the past seven years. My sister and her family now live in Florida so we make it a point to visit the Village and say hello to Pam Landwirth. Each time we visit we are always treated like we are staying on the grounds again. Every single person is so nice and welcomes you with open arms. My mother and I have also volunteered at the Village for the past three years, once in Amberville and once at the Castle of Miracles as a character greeter.
Since 2010, we have held our own Ice Cream for Breakfast fundraisers in my hometown of Berkeley, IL. The first year we held our event at our local library. Beforehand, we were able to get auction items from the Chicago White Sox and Cubs, The Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and more. The event almost didn’t start due to a huge rainstorm that flooded the route to the Library. We eventually made it and started our fundraiser. For our first year, we had stuffed animals and ice cream themed treats for sale. Ice cream and a freezer were donated by the gracious Dryers Ice Cream Company. We held our event for two days and raised $1,158 for the Village.
The following year, 2011, our event was held at our Village Summer Fest. Again we were able to get donations from the Chicago White Sox and Cubs for auctions. This year we received gift cards from local grocery stores to help purchase ice cream for the event. That year we raised $800. In 2012, we again held our event at our local Village picnic and raised $500.
So far this year, 2013, my church VBS raised money for our Ice Cream for Breakfast fundraiser and in a four-day period brought in a total of about $160. With the help on our donation page for the Village, we have already raised $305. Our ICFB event is going to be held on August 18 again at our Village fun fest.
The Village is such a magical place! My family and I would do anything for it. We love coming back each year to see what is new and to visit old friends. We have such great memories. The Village will always be a part of our lives.
Thank you, Heather, for sharing your story and supporting Ice Cream For Breakfast! Your efforts will ensure that the tradition of endless scoops of happiness continue for the Villages future guests.
To learn more about how you can help provide Ice Cream For Breakfast to our special guests, please visit IceCreamForBreakfast.org.