Sunday 30 August 2015

Florida Day 2: A little village

Opened in 1986 by an Auschwitz survivor-turned-hotelier, Give Kids the World in Kissimmee, Florida is an incredible place.

A couple hundred villas, each one built to look like something from a fairytale. Ours, No. 231, is a castle, decked out inside with modern amenities which make it look nothing like its age.

The kids get the master bedroom, with a pint-sized jacuzzi tub. Mom and dad still get a king-size bed and plenty of space. The kitchenette has upscale appliances, but you don't have to cook — the gigantic restaurants in the village take care of your every whim.

There's an ice cream parlour open from dawn until dusk. A big deal is made about having ice cream for breakfast. A less-stormy night enabled us to order pizza, while a gigantic mess hall-style restaurant feeds the bulk of guests. Each table has hundreds of peppermint candies inlaid into it (and under glass - dang).

Dominic could care less about food of course. He's eaten nothing but tube-fed product basically since his bone marrow transplant 19 months ago. He still drinks a bit of ginger ale or water here and there, so other parts of the park cater to him better.

Today he got up early, without crying for the first time in weeks. A volunteer saw us starting to walk his stroller to the main area and offered a ride, using a bungie cord to attach the stroller (no, Dom was not still in it). He toured us around to an awesome dinosaur-themed mini golf course, a play area that doubles as the world's largest game of Candyland, fishing pond, nature trail (featuring white squirrels) and a huge wheelchair-friendly pool area.

We stopped in front of Amberville Train Station, which houses a teen-themed indoor arcade, including a video game bar where available games are written in chalk above the counter. Outside, Dom got excited to ride in a couple mini cars — the type you'd usually throw a quarter in at a mall, but here just have a go button on. Then we hopped on a mini train and rode around twice. He loved it.

We saw the Castle of Miracles, which houses 100,000-plus gold stars with the names of every child who has ever visited Give Kids the World. Dom's will go up there later this week, never to come down. And we checked out the movie theatre, which is always showing something from Disney.

That would be enough for him on a normal day, but today we also had to make our first stop to Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando. Unlike a Canadian hospital, parking was free and the food was fantastic. If not for the special Blue Cross coverage we get for being on a wish trip, the rest of it would cost untold thousands of dollars. He got platelets today and due to various first-time visit issues we wound up staying three-and-a-half hours. Every other day this week should take half that time, enabling us to do more fun things.

He was cranky at the hospital. He's been cranky around nurses and doctors for the past month or two, actually. Once their best friend, he's decided they are now an enemy trying to listen to his chest or hook him up to drugs and fluids.

It's another reminder why this trip is so important. We have so many memories of him in hospital settings, and so few aboard trains and horses.

Tomorrow, he'll even meet a mouse.


  1. My heart bursts with joy that you have this chance to make amazing and heartwarming memories. Giddy Up and All Aboard!


  2. This place sounds unreal!!
    I'm feeling so much joy of for you guys!!

  3. Looks like a really fun time!! Good for you guys - you sure deserve it!! You're right, more pictures with trains and mouses and horses, rather than hospital tubes!! Dominic sure looks sweet and cute in his little Heart Throb t-shirt and matching pants. Oh he is a heart breaker!
    Enjoy your week in Florida guys!

  4. I'm so glad your first full day in Florida was a good one! Wonderful to hear about Dominic and your experiences at the park and lovely to see the photos. Wishing you a great week with days full of adventure, joy and wonder!
    PS Loved the photo you tweeted with Mickey today. Dominic must be really starting to realize there is something special about this mouse! :-)