Benefit4Kids has been gracious and generous with our recent trip to Orlando and Tampa (12-16-2009 to 12-22-2009). We have twin boys who are eleven years old and one of them is severely impaired with Cerebral Palsy. Given their ages, this was a great time for a trip like this. Traveling is not easy for a special needs family, but, at times, the effort can be immensely satisfying and this was a great trip!
Our adventure began with a flight from Detroit to Orlando, which, itself, was a treat for the boys. Even the drive to our condo was an indulgence because it was nearly seventy degrees – when we left Michigan it was fifteen degrees. We settled in, made a trip to the grocery store and finalized plans over dinner for our first full day in Florida. The agenda was Sea World, then Discovery Cove, then Busch Gardens, but we were open-ended regarding our last day.
Sea World was a lot of fun. It was accessible and offered shows unlike anything we’d seen before. “Believe” was the theme for Shamu’s show, which was our first stop. After that we perused the park and enjoyed many other rides and shows; however, after Shamu our time petting sting-rays at the sting-ray pool was the best. We sat there as a family talking and relaxing for over an hour, it was wonderful.
Our second day was spent at Discovery Cove, which is a water park and hands-on aquatic zoo all in one. Discovery Cove was unlike anything we’d experienced before and included beautiful walkways, an aviary (bird sanctuary), shark and sting-ray ponds, a warm water lazy river, and a dolphin lagoon. The entire day was magnificent; however, our time at the dolphin lagoon was the best part.
Benefit4Kids enrolled us in the dolphin experience and a group of eight people (including our family of four) got to experience a unique opportunity to engage a dolphin up close and personal. Our “host” was Capricorn, a forty-two year old dolphin that was almost thirteen feet long and weighed close to eight-hundred pounds. It was an incredible experience and even included rides on Capricorn’s back across the lagoon. In later discussions it was our unanimous decision that Discovery Cove, and our time with Capricorn, was the highlight of the entire trip.
Our third day involved driving over to Tampa so we could spend two days at Busch Garden’s. None of us had been to Busch Gardens and we were surprised that we all enjoyed it so much; for our family it was much more enjoyable than Disney. Since we had two days to spend there we maintained a slow pace that centered on us being together as a family and the main attraction for the boys were the water rides. By the time we left the park we were soaked both days and each us thoroughly enjoyed our time in Tampa, too.
We traveled back to Orlando and our last morning involved thoroughly cleaning the condo so the next group would walk into a pristine environment. After the cleaning was done we headed to International Drive for go-kart racing, lunch at a real A&W Drive-In, and then we headed to Downtown Disney for a trip to the Lego store and some window shopping. It was our last afternoon, but it was also our nicest weather day and we had a blast simply being together as a family.
Our flight was at 11:00 AM so we left by 9:00 AM, but not before a raucous family hug at the palm tree right outside our condo’s front door. Even the flight home was fun. May God Bless Benefit4Kids AND all of it’s supporters for providing this wonderful opportunity!
Because of medical expenses we are struggling financially and there’s no way we could have provided our children with an opportunity like this, at least right now. Our gratitude goes beyond words.
We know raising a family is not easy for anyone and is fraught with challenges and difficulties; however, a special needs family exponentially increases those issues. The demands are twenty-four seven, they never stop.
It’s been nearly three years since we took any kind of vacation. Your kindness and generosity are heartwarming and we’d like to thank you, again, for your generosity and kindness. God Bless!
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