“Our partners’ help is not limited help…They always find ways to support us…No corporate supporter has ever left Give Kids the World.”
“No one can know the goodness that is set in motion by your participation and support…Every act of kindness, every service and dollar donated, sets off its own series of unseen ripples.” – Henri Lanwirth, Gift of Life
The amount of giving required to make just one child’s wish come true is astounding. The fact that some entities give and give, repeatedly, to thousands of Wish Families is overwhelmingly beautiful. By late afternoon of our second day on Mercy’s Wish Vacation, we felt indebted in a way we could never repay to hundreds of volunteers, workers and companies. And, today was the day we’d become indebted to Sea World.
Sea World gifts all of the Wish Children at Give Kids the Word Village (GKTW) free passes for their entire family to spend a day at their aquatic theme park. On Monday morning, after leaving her star at the Castle of Miracles (read more about that here!), Mercy and the rest of us packed into our gifted van to drive to the marine park. Sea World became one of our most relaxed vacation experiences on Mercy’s Wish Trip.
Using Mercy’s GKTW button at the entrance ensured us free parking in the handicapped zone closest to the entrance. As Dan pulled PJ from the car seat and headed to the hatch to pull the stroller, his arm was quickly soaked, and we were no where near an aquarium yet! Pulling down PJ’s pants, Dan was greeted with a bare, urine-soaked toddler hiney! “Uh, Jes, did you maybe forget something for Pierson?” Dan called up to me, as I was throwing sunscreen and rescue meds into my purse. “Oh no, did I forget his sippy cup?!”, I apologized, as I rounded the back of the van to Dan holding up our completely bare-bummed little boy.
Apparently, dairy free shakes for breakfast do not have quite the same mind-awakening effect as caffeinated coffee, so I had completely neglected to re-diaper Pierson after changing him!!! Mercy rounded the van and doubled over in laughter. Soon, all of us were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe: Pierson mostly in the dark as to why, but whole-heartedly loving the giggle-fest!
Changed into dry clothes (yeah for the diaper bag back-ups!) and now wearing a diaper, we rolled our toddler and Wish Child into Sea World and couldn’t have been more pleased! We were already all smiles from our blessed morning at GKTW Village, the sun was shining, a light breeze was blowing, and we’d had our family picture taken next to the lighthouse by the lake, and the Sea World sign.
Using the video camera gifted to us for the week from GKTW Village, Dan recorded as we moved further into the park and watched the children feeding, petting, and being splashed by stingrays, learning to interact with dolphins via their trainers, and roaming the beautiful garden paths.
Inside the penguin exhibit, through chattering teeth, the children watched the silly birds waddle and dive deep into their pools. In the turtle house, they saw turtles that weighed more than themselves, and cowered through a movie about the imagined life of a rescue turtle (as it encountered sharks and motor boats) in the domed theater. Outside we laughed at huge manitees, too lazy to acknowledge their crowds of admirers.
But what we enjoyed most were the shows and rides. “Blue Horizons” was a story about a girl who dreams of a magical land where she swims with dolphins, meets a sea prince, and interacts with gorgeous birds. The marine handlers, actors and animals were fantastically talented and amazing as they performed this story for the audience. We sat in the splash zone where we got SOAKED and laughed some more! At Shamu Theatre we watched performers put on the “One Ocean” performance, complete with rotating televisions suspended above the pools and walkways, lights, music, and enormous killer whales doing unbelievable jumps, flips and tail waves. One of my most precious moments is of holding my sleeping son through this performance, and of carrying him down to a bench in the children’s amusement park area. Mercy rode her first roller coaster, The Shamu Express, and decided it wasn’t her cup of tea. Pierson awoke and rode a train. Dan rode the mighty Atlantis water ride and loved it.
As the park was closing, we headed toward the entrance and picked up our complimentary souvenir: a family photo taken by one of the Sea World photographers. Then, we headed back to the Village for dinner, baths and a tuck-in with Mayor Clayton (the mascot of GKTW Village).
I remember so clearly, my cleaned and fresh-jammied children waiting expectantly on the patio of our Villa in the twilight of that warm Floridian night. They kept running down the driveway for a glimpse of Mayor Clayton’s 20’s Roadster (a converted golf cart). After posing for photos, and signing autographs, Mayor Clayton danced as we sang “Let it Go” with Mercy, then tucked her into bed that night. (Pierson was not about to let an oversized rabbit anywhere near his bed, but he allowed Mayor Clayton to hug him and waved goodbye sadly when it was time for the rabbit to visit other children in the Village.)
I fell asleep exhausted and deeply grateful for the kindness of strangers. And I thought of all the ways they’d never truly know how they were helping heal hearts.