Bert Show’s Big Adventure #8
…Anyway, the Bert Show left this morning for Disney World on Bert’s Big Adventure from the Sheraton Gateway by Hartsfield International Airport.This is Bert Weiss’ eighth year sending terminally and chronically ill children on a vacation.
This year, he took 13 families and 72 people. (Disney gives VIP treatment to groups under 75.) Bert’s wife Stacey helps organize the entire operation. “She worried about this for 340 days of the year,” Bert said. “I worry about it for about ten.”
Weiss was inspired to start Bert’s Big Adventure in 2001 from his former boss Kidd Kraddick in Dallas, who had Kidd’s Kids. He has since sent 85 famliies to Disney. Stacey said while many of the kids were terminal, the trip is like a cosmic elixir. She knows of only four children who have passed among the alums.
About 120 families applied this year for just 13 slots. She said it’s heartbreaking to have to reject so many people but she said medical experts screen the kids to ensure who can do this and who can’t. The families are also selected partly based on financial need. Many of the kids and even the parents had never flown in an airplane, much less have had the time or finances to go to Disney.
Two families received big prizes this morning. One got a wedding, the other a handicap-accessible van.
Tucker resident Orvia Cushnie has a five-year-old son, Louis, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a non-reversible condition which makes it impossible for him to walk. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime for us,” she said. At the send-off party, while I was talking to Cushnie, a man dressed as Jack Sparrow was speeding Louis around the room in a conga line (below).
Cushnie said he’s been in a wheelchair since he was two, when he learned how to drive one himself. The Bert Show surprised her with the van, replacing her tiny Nissan Centra.
Meanwhile, Cumming’s Heather Pruit’s six-year-old son Hunter (below, with Jeff Dauler) was teasing Bert on the air for his fear of roller coasters. “Chicken!” he told Bert, bawking like a fowl.