In 1996, Atlanta radio personality Bert Weiss’ life changed when he took a trip to Walt Disney World with 100 children with chronic and/or terminal illnesses as part of Kidd’s Kids, an organization based in Dallas, Texas.
“It took me a weekend at Walt Disney World with these kids to realize how blessed my life had been,” said Weiss. “Most of these kids had never lived a day in their life that wasn’t a struggle. Getting out bed is a challenge for some of them. Using the restroom is a battle. Some had never known a life outside a wheelchair or walked a step without the aid of crutches or braces. For some of them, telling Mom and Dad that they love them will never happen.”
“Others lived a normal, healthy child’s life for some time, but were stricken with a terminal disease that has robbed them of the most precious commodity of all – time.”
Weiss, who came to Atlanta in 2001 to host “The Bert Show” on All the Hits Q100.5 FM, was inspired by his experience with Kidd’s Kids and launched a similar organization of his own. His goal was to provide an unforgettable experience for Atlanta-area children stricken with these illnesses and their families. In 2002, Weiss and his wife, Stacey, established Bert’s Big Adventure as an official non-profit organization. Their mission was to organize an annual trip to Orlando for those whose special needs may otherwise hinder such a trip, covering the expenses of all travel, accommodations, meals and admission to Walt Disney World.
The Weiss family began planning for the first Bert’s Big Adventure trip in 2002. With the support of the radio station, Weiss educated listeners about his new organization on-air and encouraged them to make donations or to nominate a child. Word spread quickly, and the organization received numerous nominations within months.
Seven children and their families were invited on the 2003 Bert’s Big Adventure inaugural trip. Their medical conditions ranged from leukemia to sickle cell disease to retinal cancer. Two children were twin sisters – both with cerebral palsy. For a weekend in March 2003, these families were given the gift of setting aside their day-to-day concerns and enjoying a weekend at Walt Disney World. Since its inaugural trip, Bert’s Big Adventure has grown considerably in order to assist additional children and their families. The trip grew from eight children and their families in 2004 to 10 families in 2005. In 2006, a total of 12 children and their families were treated to an unforgettable weekend at the Magic Kingdom. This year, Bert’s Big Adventure will take 14 children and their families.
The trips, however, would not be possible without the support of the Atlanta community. Bert’s Big Adventure has received an overwhelming response in its four charity drives. In addition to monetary donations, numerous individuals and businesses donate time and resources to ensure that the trips are a success. Donated items have included personalized book bags, CD players, digital cameras, toys, T-shirts, pajamas, a free overnight stay prior to departure from Atlanta from the Renaissance Concourse Hotel, free phone cards to contact friends and family back home and more. Delta Airlines, The Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers teams have donated chartered planes to transport the group to Orlando.
For four days, the Bert’s Big Adventure group – including members of All the Hits Q100.5’s “The Bert Show” and the “Adventure Staff” – enjoy the sights and sounds of Walt Disney World. The moments shared between the group reinforce the organization’s mission for Bert Weiss.
“These are the moments that Bert’s Big Adventure wants to provide for families each year,” Weiss explained “A fantasy weekend to experience the magic that Walt Disney World provides for all families. Smiling together when they meet Mickey for the first time. Laughing uncontrollably together on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups. Or just holding hands walking from ride to ride together. This is the miraculous weekend that I hope we can provide for all the Bert’s Big Adventure families.”
(This article originally appeared on the AtlantaMoms.com website in February 2007)