I wanted to take a quick moment to share something with you guys that has really touched my heart. Most of you who read my blog know that I grew up with a wonderful, yet mentally retarded and multi-handicapped sister. Chrissy was a lot of responsibility for my family and we sacrificed a lot for her, but I know that we would all do it again in a heartbeat if we could have her back with us. In fact, it was Chrissy who influenced my younger sister to go into the special education field. So when I learned about Grin Kids I knew that this was the work of some very special people.
Ace and TJ are two morning radio personalities who live in Charlotte, NC. My sister, Kimberly, introduced me to the radio program shortly after she moved down there and I have been hooked ever since. Yes, I live in NY where Ace and TJ do not broadcast, but I listen to their podcast every day at work. I feel like I am part of their radio family even though the only chance for me to actually hear them on the radio is when I’m visiting my sister. The group of people who work on this show are some VERY good people. They all have hearts of gold and are very generous with their time and money.
Grin Kids is their charity for terminally ill and chronically disabled children. From their website (www.grinkids.org):
“Each year, Ace & TJ’s Grin Kids charters a 737 to take these children, with their sibling, parents, and health care workers to DisneyWorld in Florida. Because of their special needs and financial strain, this is an experience that many of these children and families would not be able to know without the help of Ace & TJ’s Grin Kids.
Over the years, Ace & TJ’s Grin Kids has taken over 241 Grin Kids and their families to DisneyWorld. And during the 5-day vacation, all expenses are paid, including air travel, ground transportation, Disney Park-Hopper passes, meals, hotel rooms at a Disney Resort, and Disney Dollars for souvenirs.
Grin Kids is funded exclusively by listener donations. Some are large, some are small, but without the listeners, the “Radio Family” participating in various fundraising events, the Grin Kids trip would not be possible year to year. “
This is a very great thing that these guys do for these families. Growing up we never took a real family vacation. Chrissy was unable to enjoy the same things that Kimberly and I enjoyed, and also we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on vacations. It took us six months to set up the care that we would need to watch Chrissy when I graduated from college so that we could be gone for four days to Gettysburg. Having this kind of background and these kinds of experiences makes me realize full well what a lot of these families are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. So a family vacation might not sound like that big of a deal to some people, but to these families this is a miracle. Not only do they ALL get to go and share in the experiences together, but they get to do it in one of the most magical places on Earth.
What really touches you, though, is not just the fact that it’s an all-expenses paid trip. Yes, that’s a pretty awesome thing, but how these kids react while at Disney is what gets me choked up. Remember I said that I listen to the show while I’m at work? When the show goes to DisneyWorld with the Grin Kids the radio family is introduced to the families on the trip and how they are reacting to the whole thing. To hear that a terminally ill child has been in complete bliss and has laughed happily the entire time gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes. For a few days these families can forego the stress of worrying about the next round of meds, or perhaps the next seizure, or even the next doctor’s appointment and the news that will come out of that. Instead, for a few days their child is enjoying the magic and wonderfulness of Disney just like everybody else. There is true joy and happiness for this child, instead of pain and struggle. They get to meet Mickey and Minnie and the Disney Princesses. They get to experience the flashing lights and high-pitched strains of music in the Small World ride. They get to see the bright, flashy colors and pounding music of The Lion King stage show. They are filled with wonder, awe, and pure happiness.
I honestly wish that I could experience this with the families. If I lived in the Charlotte area this would be one of the charities that I would volunteer for on a constant basis. Unfortunately, I live in NY where the only way that I can experience this is by listening to the interviews and watching the videos. Please take the time to watch a few of these videos and pictures, but make sure to keep some kleenex handy. Then go and meet the kids.
All that I ask is that if you should be feeling charitable at any time during the year please consider making a donation to Grin Kids. You can donate through their site at any time. Knowing that you helped to make a mother cry happy tears when she hears her child really laugh for the first time will be all the thanks that you will need. If you are unable to donate, I completely understand. I just ask that you keep the Grin Kids, their families, the many volunteers, and Ace and TJ in your prayers. May God bless them all.