Fourteen-year-old Jalen from Boyertown was recently granted a dream trip to Central Florida by the Sunshine Foundation, which answers the dreams of children living with life-long chronic illnesses, physical challenges, or the trauma of abuse. Jalen’s trip was sponsored by the Sunshine Foundation All-Volunteer Delaware County Chapter’s Silver Rose Event, the Leather and Lace Motorcycle Club/Silver Rose Chapter, and the KC Prime Restaurant and Steakhouse.
Jalen and his family visited the Walt Disney World Resort, where Jalen particularly enjoyed seeing the animals on the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The family members were also guests of honor at the 4th Annual Sunshine Foundation Dream Village Gala, the organization’s largest fundraising event. Jalen, whose greatest passion is music, enjoyed spending the evening dancing with other Gala attendees.
During their stay in Florida, the family stayed at the Sunshine Foundation Dream Village, a 22-acre resort with themed cottages equipped for the special needs of children like Jalen. The young boy has been diagnosed with multiple conditions, including Down’s Syndrome, Hydrocephalus, and Congential Hip Dysplasia. The Sunshine Foundation is the only national wish-granting organization that answers dreams for children with chronic lifelong conditions like Down’s Syndrome.
Jalen’s cottage was space-themed, with a wall mural of the space shuttle Columbia signed by NASA astronauts Story Musgrave and Jon McBride. Jalen’s favorite feature of the cottage was the space shuttle replica bed.
“Jalen loved the space ship bed,” says his mom, Lori. “He thought it was the greatest thing ever! He would climb into it, look around and giggle. Then he would say, ‘Mom! Look at me! Wow!’”
One of the best parts of Jalen’s trip was his ability to interact with new people.
“Social interaction is difficult for Jalen with his speech issues,” says Lori. “He loves meeting new people, but often people are uncomfortable with people with disabilities. Everyone at the Sunshine Foundation went out of their way to address Jalen and make him a part of the conversation. That is a huge self-esteem builder. He felt so good about meeting new people.”
The Sunshine Foundation is able to provide dream trips through sponsorships, support, and donations, allowing families that are already strapped with medical bills and care costs to enjoy a brief respite without the additional financial burden a vacation can cause. It can make a huge difference for the children and their families.
“So much of our ‘family time’ was spent at hospitals or with Jalen being very sick,” says Lori. “During our stay at the Dream Village, we were able to be a normal family, have fun, and forget about the hospitals. We had FUN! This gave him the chance to put his past health issues behind him and enjoy the moment!”
Since 1976, Sunshine Foundation has answered the dreams of more than 37,000 children in the United States, and it remains the nation’s only A-rated charity serving the terminally ill or chronically ill. For more information, please visit www.sunshinefoundation.org.
From the Sunshine Foundation.