We relived the joy of Rudy’s Wish Trip a bit on Friday night when we shared about it at the annual Make-a-Wish (Tri-Counties) fundraiser – Wish Night 2014! The big kids weren’t completely thrilled with having to drive down to Westlake Village (1/2 way to Los Angeles) on a Friday afternoon (in crazy Friday traffic AND stormy conditions) but when all was said and done, they were all glad we went. Max helped Rudy seat guests at the start of the event with a few other wish kids, Olivia kept a close eye on our silent auction bids and Wilson helped keep Rudy entertained at our table.
We were inspired by the “Fund-a-Wish” auction that raised enough money to fund 12 tri-counties wishes this year…3 more than last year! Super exciting. It was a great pleasure to share Rudy’s story and our gratitude to the staff and supporters of our local Make-a-Wish chapter. We sure wish this year’s recipients great joy and strength as their wishes are granted. Enjoy the fun!
After the event, Jedi Master Wilson gave young Padawan Rudy a lesson on practical uses of “the force”…
(Here’s the text of what I shared:
Our youngest son Rudy was born October 1, 2008 with a serious heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. He was born with half a heart and because of complications and setbacks after his first heart surgery, Rudy was hospitalized for 7 months after his birth. Due to compromises with his lungs, Rudy is not a candidate for any further surgical treatment or a heart transplant at this time.
Knowing Rudy’s prognosis is uncertain and likely poor, we first talked with the staff at MaW-TC shortly after Rudy’s third birthday. Although Rudy was unable to articulate his wish, my husband and I knew that Rudy’s heart’s desire would be to share a memorable experience with his big siblings (who he absolutely adores) and yet for Rolf and I, it was important to do so in an environment that would be safe for Rudy with his many medical needs.
We found the perfect place in GIVE KIDS THE WORLD (where “happiness inspires hope”). GKTW is a storybook village resort outside Orlando, FL built specifically for kids with life threatening illnesses and is a Wish Trip destination for 1000s of families each year.
GKTW is a magical place where Christmas is celebrated every Thursday, Ice cream is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner and where the mayor of the village is a giant 7 foot rabbit who will come tuck you in at night in your private villa. It’s also a place that has access to medical personnel as needed and easily accommodates children with medical devices and wheelchairs.
Months of planning went into Rudy’s wish trip to GKTW and what resulted was an experience in January 2013 that was certainly more than any of us could have wished for…all the details the Make-a-Wish staff planned unfolded smoothly, our family remained healthy and safe and, most of all, we managed to pace ourselves which all resulted in a precious, stress-free time to experience new things together as a family and laugh!
Rolf and I knew this would be a formative experience for our big kids as much as it would be for Rudy. We wanted Wilson (…17), Max (…15) and Olivia (…11) to understand the significance of this trip while at the same time feel the freedom to be carefree and simply enjoy. They did great! They shared in Rudy’s joy and delighted in his new discoveries and that blessed us. There were many activities where Rolf and I were unintentionally pushed out of the way and forced to watch from the sidelines. Ha Ha Rudy was the center of their world for that week and that’s exactly where he wanted to be.
I wish there were words that could adequately describe the range of emotions Rolf and I encountered as “Wish Parents”. The trip was one of both beauty and pain. Much like our life with Rudy from day to day, joy and heartache coexisted at Give Kids The World. There was just no escaping the reason why we were on this trip . Multiple times a day, I was brought to tears overwhelmed by the kindness of the volunteers who were there to serve us while at the same time in disbelief over the fact that our family was even on a Wish Trip.
Unlike other Wish Trip experiences, ours was shared with “Wish Families” from all over the world and it was sobering to see so many children in a battle for life. It felt like we were walking on holy ground among people who regardless of their religious beliefs were on a faith journey just like us…forced to face immortality and the very real threat of losing a child. There was no “talking shop” or comparing treatment notes with the other parents. It felt like no one wanted to intrude on others’ space and so most kept a friendly distance and yet it was comforting to feel like we weren’t alone.
At GKTW, an impressive army of volunteers make all the magic happen…they serve the meals, plan and facilitate the daily activities and help meet the unique needs of each family…they are amazing. The volunteers we encountered ooooed and ahhhhed over how cute Rudy and the big kids were, engaged the big kids in conversation about their lives and asked very few questions about Rudy’s condition. Although I don’t mind answering questions about Rudy, it was surprisingly refreshing to not have to. That and the fact that we could forget about doctor appointments for a whole week had a positive impact on our family. We have adjusted to our “new normal” since Rudy was born…so much so that I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to live outside the confines of our structured, routine life at home but the kids got to enjoy “vacation mom and dad” for a few days and the experience truly refreshed our souls!
The complicated logistics of traveling long distances with Rudy make it nearly impossible for our family to do so on our own. We could not have taken a trip like this without the support of Make-a-Wish. We are grateful to Linda at Make-a-Wish Tri-Counties, our wish-granter Anne, the staff and volunteers at Give Kids The World and the countless others who helped make this trip possible for our family. It really is an experience we will cherish for our lifetime and we are truly grateful. Thank you so much!)