This blog post has been much anticipated, probably more by me than anyone else, but I am so excited to finally write it! Finding the time to sit down and type the last few weeks has been pretty much nonexistent, so I am just going to go for it, get out what I can, no matter how imperfect this post may be. So if you read this and it feels jumbled, just bare with me. 😉
We FINALLY went on Rhett’s Make-A-Wish trip, and honestly this wish was not just his wish, but a wish come true for our whole family. It is indescribable the feeling of going on a vacation to literally just bring your child joy. It is indescribable seeing the smile on Rhett’s face as he was literally experiencing what we know is his dream come true, being up close and personal with animals. It is indescribable seeing the joy and wonder on Brooks’ face as he was experiencing this as well, with the family all together, and not having to be left at the hotel for hours on end as we take Rhett to appointments at the hospital. We always try to do something fun when we travel for medical reasons. We try to plan a little joy and family time between the appointments and procedures because we want both kids to feel special and not constantly traumatized (Rhett) or constantly left behind (Brooks). But this trip just hit so different because there was absolutely NO hospital trips, NO trauma, NO processing through the good and the not so good news. This trip was only about joy and fun and magic and being together as a family. Even though we were extremely busy the entire trip and ended each day completely exhausted, I wanted to stay in that bubble forever. This was a trip of a lifetime, and one I want etched in my memory for forever.
Let me back up a minute and just say that this trip has been a long time coming. We actually began the Make-A-Wish process when Rhett was almost 3 years old. At the time I was pregnant with Brooks, and Rhett’s wish was to go to Disney World. We knew he would love to see all his favorite characters in real life. The plan was to really start planning his trip after Brooks was born. Between Brooks being born, more surgeries, and several trips to Cincinnati for medical travel, the trip continued to get pushed out further and further. And then there was COVID, which canceled all Make-A-Wish travel wishes for almost 2 years. To say this trip has been much anticipated is an understatement. Rhett has waited for his wish to be granted for 3 years!
We found out this past January that Make-A-Wish was going to resume travel wishes. We were so excited to finally be able to really plan this Disney trip. As we began planning the trip, we were informed that only vaccinated people could travel to Disney for wishes to be granted. When you go to Disney for Make-A-Wish, everyone who is getting a wish granted stays in a place called Give the Kids the World Village. There are many medically fragile and vulnerable children who may be there, so being as protected as possible makes complete sense. The only problem for us would be that Brooks was too young to be vaccinated and would have to stay behind. That was NOT going to happen because honestly, this trip was for him too. Being a sibling to a medically complex child has many challenges, and there was no way we would leave him behind. From being shuttled around to many therapies and appointments, to traveling out of state to spend hours in a hotel room while mom and dad take brother to the hospital, he was deserving of a trip as well. While this wish trip was about Rhett, it was really for the whole family to enjoy time together without the stress of medical life. That is when our wish plans changed entirely, and we began planning a new wish trip for Rhett, one that is actually more of his wish come true at his current age in life.
So when thinking about what we would change Rhett’s wish to, we began watching youtube videos of other kids’ wishes. Rhett’s papa came across a video of another little boy’s wish to be a zoo keeper for a day, and that is when we knew it would be the perfect wish for Rhett. With Rhett’s love of all animals, we knew he would absolutely love to meet a few. While there is a wonderful zoo in North Carolina, there was one thing they do not have that Cincinnati does… Hippos! Cincinnati Zoo has the famous hippo, Fiona, which is Rhett’s FAVORITE hippo! Even though we travel so often to Cincinnati, how could we not just go back to a place that holds such a special place in our families life?! This trip was about Rhett, so if he wanted to “meet” Fiona, we were going to make that happen! Everyone, both Make-A-Wish and Cincinnati Zoo, did an amazing job of truly making Rhett’s wish come true.
Our trip was a week long and packed with so much fun! Our main event was visiting the Cincinnati zoo, which we did on our first day in Cincinnati. Both Make-A-Wish and everyone at the Cincinnati Zoo truly made this day magical for the whole family, but especially Rhett. They had an itinerary all planned our for us to see and meet many animals up close and personal. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience because I am not sure of another time we will ever get to pet a penguin or an elephant! Throughout the day we were able to spend some one-on-one time with Buddy the penguin, pet a monitor lizard and armadillo, pet and feed an elephant, feed giraffes up close, and the finale of our day was to be up close with Fiona the hippo and her mama. Between these close encounters, we were also able to go visit and see some other animal favorites like the lions, gorillas, and kangaroos. The smile on Rhett’s face let me know this was exactly what he wanted, and that day was truly a dream come true for our animal lover.
The rest of our trip we spent doing many other fun things that Make-A-Wish planned, and many of these experiences were a first for the boys. We got to visit the Creation Museum which had many dinosaur structures, perfect for Brooks our dino lover. We also went to King’s Island amusement park where the boys got to ride their first roller coaster, and ride many rides and water slides. We went to the boys’ first Red’s baseball game, and the Red’s won! I am a Cincinnati Red’s fan by marriage, but Dale has been a Red’s fan since he was a little boy. I have always thought it was so neat how Cincinnati always ties into our family. We also enjoyed the splash pad and carousel downtown when we had some free time between all the big stuff.
This trip had been such a long time coming, but definitely worth the wait. The ages of both the boys made it even more magical because they are both at an age where they can truly enjoy it all. I have already put our many pictures into a photo album, and Rhett loves looking through the book. I know this trip created memories for us all to last a lifetime.
I am so thankful for the Make-A-Wish organization and the work they do to help create joy for families, especially the kids, who have to face medical challenges on a daily basis. These trips are made possible through the donations of others. Follow the link below to donate to our local chapter so that even more kids may have their wishes come true.