Obie Gault, 11
Obie’s dad, Dan Gault, has been an avid Q100 listener since the station’s start. Appearing at the radio station’s remotes near his home in Acworth, he grew to be friends with many of the Q100 deejays.
“They know me on a first-name basis. I thought Bert’s Big Adventure was for terminally ill children. I told Bert that my son has cystic fibrosis and ‘Would he qualify?’ Bert said, ‘Yes! Would you be able to afford this trip otherwise?’ I answered no. He said we’re the type of people they were looking for,” said Gault, who added the family’s last vacation was in 1996.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that affects sodium channels in the body and causes respiratory and digestive problems. Thick mucus is formed in the breathing passages of the lungs, which predisposes the person to chronic lung infections.
“Our body makes mucus to push things out of our lungs,” Gault said. “But Obie’s mucus is thicker and traps those things in his lungs.”
The highlight of the trip for the family – which includes mom Amy, 13-year-old Danielle Gault and 12-year-old Rachael Jackson – was when the children were grand marshals of the Disney World parade.
“Our tour guide said he had worked there for 13 years and had never gotten anyone to be grand marshals, but they got us,” Gault said.
Other favorite moments for Obie were a meeting with Goofy, a ride on the Test Track and a visit through the Tower of Terror. But the trip wasn’t merely about Mickey Mouse ears and roller coasters – it gave the parents a chance to bond with others experiencing similar challenges.
“We met with other family that dealt with the same things as us on a daily basis, like the fight with taking the medication – if you had to take 30 pills a day, you’d fight it, too – the doctor’s visits and the children coming home crying after school because of what someone has said,” Gault said.The Magic Kingdom’s gates swung open to three Cobb children and their families, thanks to Bert’s Big Adventure, which kicked off its second annual Walt Disney World voyage last weekend.
Q100 DJ Bert Weiss, and his wife, Stacey, established the nonprofit organization with the mission to provide a magical weekend at Walt Disney World for eight area children, ages 5 to 12, stricken with chronic or terminal illness.
The local parents said the trip was indescribable, creating a family vacation like no other – one that will surpass any other trip they take
Chuck Kirksey, 13
Disney World granted the Kirksey family not just a fabulous vacation but a first-time experience for wheelchair-bound Chuck.
“We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and they had a special wheelchair that put him into the water,” said mom Ivey. “He went swimming for the first time in his life. It was very exciting.”
Chuck, a sixth-grader at Garrett Middle School, has cerebral palsy, a broad term that describes a group of neurological disorders. It is a lifelong condition that affects the communication between the brain and the muscles, causing a permanent state of uncoordinated movement and posture. Chuck has been in a wheelchair his entire life.
An emergency room physician is the one who alerted Mrs. Kirksey to Bert’s Big Adventure. It was the first Disney World vacation for the family.
Mrs. Kirksey said Chuck enjoyed the Safari ride and It’s a Small World, as well as visits with Mickey and Minnie Mouse and, of course, being one of the parade’s grand marshals.
“It was his first parade. He was so excited, just waving his hands at everyone,” said Ms. Kirksey, an Austell resident.
The Q100 staff was impressed with the relationship between Chuck and his 11-year old brother, Ikheim.
“They were so amazed the way he and his brother react to each other. Ikheim takes him to the basketball court with him. They go to the movies together,” she said. “They couldn’t believe how much Ikheim helps me with Chuck.”
Jackson Gildart, 6
Thanks to Bert’s Big Adventure, Jackson Gildart’s family found a new career option that could be on the horizon for the Dowell Elementary kindergartener – disc jockey.
“He would hog the microphone,” mom Shelly said of her son’s participation in Q100’s live morning show broadcast from Disney World. “They asked him one question about a video game and he went on for 10 minutes.”
Moving from Nashville to Marietta last April, Mrs. Gildart came across the information for Bert’s Big Adventure on the Q100 Web site.
“I knew my child was deserving of the trip. One thing led to another – and we just got back from Disney World,” Mrs. Gildart said. “It’s bittersweet. We were so excited our child got chosen, but I wish they could take everyone. We felt blessed to be picked.”
Jackson has peripheral neuropathy, a disorder of the peripheral nerves, usually involving the feet and hands, and sometimes the legs, arms and face. Mrs. Gildart described it best by saying there is something in his brain that is not sending the right signal to his nerves to tell his body to walk. But his disorder was overshadowed this past weekend by the sheer thrill of a weekend at Disney World.
“He loved the Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain and Mission Space. When I got off Mission Space, I almost lost my lunch, but he was fine. He had the best time,” she said.
Mrs. Gildart said the family, which includes husband David and 11-month-old daughter Ashton, were all treated like royalty through the entire trip.
“When we got on the plane, they literally rolled out the red carpet for us,” she said. “He had the best time. To see the light in his eyes – any other vacation we go on will pale in comparison.”
[ By Andrea Lynn. From the Marietta Daily Journal: 3/20/04 ]