By Bobby Moore
Douglas County Sentinel
Thirteen metro area children with chronic or terminal illnesses, including two from Douglas County, will fly to Disney World tomorrow as part of “Bert’s Big Adventure.”
Founded by Bert Weiss, host of Q100’s “The Bert Show” , and his wife, Stacey, “Bert’s Big Adventure” is a non-profit organization that provides eligible children and their families with an all-expenses-paid weekend at Disney World in Orlando, FL.
The trip will kick off with a red carpet bon voyage ceremony tomorrow morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with the stay at Disney World lasting through Monday, Feb. 25.
Along with the 13 children and “The Bert Show” staff members, relatives or guardians and a medical staff will make the trip to Orlando.
“There are many things we take for granted when it comes to health,” Weiss said. “Not only are these children challenged on a daily basis, but so are their families-physically, emotionally and financially.”
Because of these challenges, “Bert’s Big Adventure” incorporates the entire family and allows parents to spend time with both their child and also other parents of children with chronic or terminal illnesses.
Also, the children get to befriend others who face similar challenges.
Cristy Gunter, the mother of Katie Gunter, 10, of Douglasville, said her daughter is benefitting from interacting with the other children. “For so long, Katie thought she was the only one (with a chronic illness),” she said.
Katie, who was nominated for the trip by her dad’s coworkers at Outsourcing Solutions Inc., was diagnosed two years ago with fibromyalgia with polyarthritis. Gunter said her daughter learned about the trip on Christmas day. Her parents found out about it the Thursday before Christmas, and decided to wrap up the announcement and have Katie open it last.
Since then, complications with Katie’s medicine have caused her to have a rough time in the weeks leading up to her trip.
These complications have made “Bert’s Big Adventure” a bigger blessing than before for the Gunters. “It’s been a hard time lately, and we’ve been able to fall back on the trip,” Cristy said.
The selection process for “Bert’s Big Adventure” is partly based on financial need, and Cristy said her daughter is being raised in a one-income household.
Since money is sometimes tight, chances to go to Disney World do not come along often. “The farthest we go is Helen usually because of finances,” Cristy said.
Devon House, 7, of Lithia Springs, will also be making the trip, along with his sister and his grandmother, Dana House. Devon has been diagnosed with amblyopia, chronic lung disease, liver disease and short gut syndrome. He was nominated for the trip by a nurse at WellStar Cobb.
“He’s never stated any interest in Disney World, but he loves things like Curious George. He loves PBS,” Dana House said.
Devon, who is turning 8-years-old on the final day of the trip, is glued to the television every afternoon watching his favorite shows, including The Wiggles. According to his grandmother, Devon also loves to turn on the radio. “Music is all that would calm him in the hospital when he was younger,” she said.
Devon has been to Florida before, but it was when he was only 3. “Though he’s been there, it’ll be like a new experience,” Dana House said.
For the Dana House, this opportunity to travel to the Magic Kingdom is a blessing. “I am truly greatful to the organization and what they do,” she said.
“Bert’s Big Adventure” formed in 2002, with the group holding its first trip to Disney World a year later. Since that initial trip, over 50 children with chronic and terminal illnesses and their families.