BY MELANIE BUCK –
As reported previously in the Pulse, three-year old Aurora Pitman was granted a Make-A-Wish trip to Give Kids the World Village and Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Aurora and her family are back, and the trip was, as it should have been, the trip of a lifetime.
Charles and Neva Pitman, along with Aurora and sisters, Melanie, age 10, and Olivia, age 5, spent five days in the sunny weather of Florida and brought back memories that will last forever. Aurora is a special needs child with a life expectancy of only 6-12 years. “Aurora being a special needs child, we can’t go all places,” explained Charles. With the exception of Give Kids the World, where everything is centered around special needs children, and all the ‘needs’ that come with them, there aren’t many places the Pitman’s can go as a family. The Pitman’s explained how hard traveling is for families with a special needs child. “There are too many limitations with a special needs child. This place helps with that. We shipped a box of things we would need and couldn’t take on the plane. Give Kids the World had it waiting on us when we got there. That’s the kind of stuff they do on a daily basis,” Charles said.
Upon arrival, the Pitman’s were given their own villa and tickets to area attractions. They spent three days touring the Epcot Center and the Magic Kingdom, meeting princesses and cartoon characters, team mascots, and seeing of course, Cinderella Castle. “The first one we saw when we got there was Daisy Duck and Olivia did not want to let go of her,” laughed Charles. “Even though she’s not vocal, Aurora is very expressive. She loved Daisy Duck,” Neva added. When Aurora met Princess Jasmine, the princess didn’t want to let go of Aurora. Neva said The Fairy Godmother was the same, “she said let me have her and kept her for about 30 minutes,” she laughed.
The family also met the real-life dolphin from the movie Dolphin Tale and were able to touch his prosthetic fin. That was one of Melanie’s favorite activities. “They all loved the beach,” said Neva.
Not only was Disney on the agenda, Give Kids the World makes sure that there are plenty of activities at the Village, and not just for the special needs child, but their siblings as well. Neva explained, “In hospitals, Aurora would get special gifts but not the other girls. At Give Kids the World, a gift fairy would come around each day while we were gone and leave gifts for all the girls. Siblings of special needs children have an understanding that others don’t.” Charles added, “That’s why Give Kids the World focuses on family. It’s special for everyone, not just the special needs child.”
In addition to the three days at Disney World, they spent time at the Village, just relaxing and taking advantage of pool weather. “They provide activities at the Village so you really don’t have to leave. Disney was just the whipped cream on top of the ice cream,” Charles beamed. They also said at the villa, the parents’ room is the small room and the kids get the master room with an extra large bathroom, complete with a Jacuzzi tub, making the kids feel like they rule the roost, and the world.
At Give Kids the World, rules are virtually out the window as “they encourage ice cream for breakfast and hot dogs and popcorn poolside,” said Neva. “Whatever they can do to make sure a child doesn’t feel left out, they’ve done,” said Charles, referring to wheelchairs made from PVC so they can get in the pool.
It also gives parents a chance to be waited on themselves, so that for a change, they are the ones being cared for instead of being the caregiver. Neva said, “Something as simple as getting our kids’ food is hard. One of us gets food while the other is corralling kids. They had volunteers stationed to help with that.” Charles added, “They would carry all of our trays and constantly ask if we needed anything.”
Meeting other families that have similar situations and understand was another perk. “There you can converse and share with other people that understand. Like asking about new equipment. I’m always looking for new things to help Aurora and you can get information like that from other families who are going through the same things,” Neva said.
Give Kids the World gave the Pitman’s a place to have a family vacation that catered to all of their needs, and just when they needed it. Because of Aurora’s condition, waiting to take a vacation isn’t an option. “We couldn’t wait until she was older because we don’t know how much time she has,” explained Charles. And thanks to Make-A-Wish Mid-South and Give Kids the World Village, the Pitmans will forever hold memories of the perfect family vacation and seeing Aurora’s dreams come true.