Sacred Stories

Reunited and It Feels So Good
By: Tricia Larson

At the age of 47, Ward hadn’t seen his mother for about 20 years. Reuniting with her was always in the cards, but the distance between him and his mother in Texas made it difficult. In the spring of 2012, with encouragement Ward decided it was time to make the reunion a reality.

With the help of his numerous staff members and volunteers, Ward held countless fundraisers to raise the funds to see his mother once again. Ward was even featured on the local news for his fundraising efforts for the trip. Many people donated to Ward trip without even have ever met him! He fundraised for about 1 year in all. Several brat stands, a Pizza Ranch fundraiser, and many “It’s a Wonderful Night “tickets later, Ward had raised enough money. The trip was planned.

To say Ward was excited would be an understatement. Ward was assisted in making a countdown board to count down the days until he left on his trip. In the early morning of March 9th, 2013 the count down had come to an end; Ward left his home in Fargo, ND to travel 1,300 miles to see his mom.

After 3 days of travel, Ward and his support staff made it to Texas. The day had come to step into his mother’s embrace once again. Ward made his way to her home on March 12, 2013. He was greeted with plenty of love and hugs. After 20 years, it was as if Ward and his mother never missed a beat. They interacted as if they spent time together every day and knew each other as well as they knew themselves. Ward was also very fond of his mother’s dogs and had a great time playing with them, too! For the next 3 days, Ward spent his time in Texas between visiting his mother at her home and visiting different tourist attractions such as SeaWorld and a Jungle Safari.

The day to leave Texas came to soon, and Ward was on his way back to North Dakota. Ward finally made it home 3 days later, many souvenirs and picture memorabilia of his mother in tow. Ward was sad to see the trip end, but looks forward to visiting his mother again some day. His mother is also planning a trip to North Dakota to visit, too!

It’s easy to give up on a dream that seems to big. Ward’s trip to Texas required a lot of fundraising, organization, and planning. It may have seemed impossible and out the question to Ward at times…but with the right assistance and motivation, he made it happen. Ward was at every fundraiser and selling tickets himself. He worked very hard to make his trip happen. And, in the end it was all worth it.


Brian's Story

First Day:
Today was the start of Brian’s vacation! He had to wake up really early and ride down to Minneapolis for his 11 am flight. Staff was waiting at the airport for him when he arrived at the Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport. This was Brian’s first time flying, so Staff helped him with his tickets, checking through security, and finding the correct gate for his flight. Everything went smoothly. We had a connecting flight in the Chicago O’Hare airport before flying into the Orlando International Airport.

Throughout the flying Brian seemed really excited, as he kept on saying “trip” and “airplane” while having a big grin on his face. He was also really excited about all the money he had brought with him. He kept asking Staff if he could look at it and hold it, and he was grinning the whole time. Brain seemed to take the flying well, as he didn’t show any signs of discomfort. While in the air, Brian watched a couple movies - Batman for the first flight, and Scooby Doo for the second - to help pass the time. The first flight was an hour long and the second flight was two and a half hours long. At the airports, Brian was fascinated by some of the statues and he stopped and looked at many of them. When Brian arrived in Florida he immediately took off the jacket he was wearing, since Florida was very hot! He asked to call his brother Greg right away, as he seemed to be excited to let him know he made it to Florida. Greg was unavailable so Staff left a message to call back tomorrow. As Staff and Brian were getting the luggage, Brian turned to Staff and said, “stay.” Staff assured Brain that we will be staying five days, and that we were going to have a lot of fun! Brain smiled at Staff and said “fun.”

Second Day:
Brian and Staff went to Universal Studios to get park tickets, meal passes, and a wheelchair for Brian as it was going to be a lot of walking around. We then ate at Mel’s Diner, located in one of the parks. Brian was full of smiles throughout brunch, and also was joking around with Staff; seeming to have a good time.

Brian and Staff went on many rides after brunch. Some of Brian’s favorite rides were: Spiderman, Harry Potter and the Hulk. After the Spiderman ride, Brian found a bunch of things he wanted to buy. He got a Spidey action figure, a marvel jacket, a Spidey cup and a Spidey pillow. Also after the Spiderman ride, Brian was able to meet Spiderman in person. Brian showed that he knew who it was by saying “Spiderman” over and over again. Brian got a picture with Spiderman looking tough with his arms crossed. He decided to get it framed to take home to show everybody. Shortly after, Brian’s brother Greg called and talked to Brian for quite a while. Brian seemed excited to tell Greg things he had seen by saying: “Spiderman” “rides” and “Greg.”

Soon after a few more rides, Brian and Staff sat down and ate again as it was very hot outside and they needed to cool down. Brian and Staff talked and joked around a bunch during their late lunch. Brian told Staff that Greg was a “big guy” and also that Staff was a “good guy.” Staff then told Brian that a lot of his friends at CHI Friendship helped him make the trip down to Florida possible and Brian smiled and had a huge grin on his face.

When the late lunch ended, Brian and Staff went on more rides of Brian’s choice; more Spiderman and Harry Potter rides. Brian acknowledged he was having fun as when Staff asked him if he liked the ride he answered “yeah” as was smiling. Brian and Staff went back to the hotel when the parks were starting to close down at about 6 pm. Staff asked Brian if he wanted to go swimming and Brian said “yeah sure” and practically ran all the way back to the hotel indicating excitement to swim. As Brian and Staff arrived at the hotel, Brian saw an ice cream shop in which he wanted to have a snack. Brian had two scoops of chocolate ice cream. Brian also saw a deck of playing cards with Elvis’s picture on them and expressed interest in buying them. He did and brought all his recent purchases back up to his room. Staff and Brian then got ready to go to the outside pool and went down into the spa area to relax. After five minutes of sitting in the hot tub, hotel personnel told Brian and Staff that the pool area is closing due to bad weather approaching. Instead of the pool time, Brian decided he wanted to watch a movie. He watched Toy Story 3 while lying in bed after he got done doing his PM cares.

He seemed to be too excited to sleep at the moment, so Staff set his new items aside and out of sight to see if that would help calm him down in order to sleep. Tomorrow Brian and Staff have plans to go on an airboat ride to see gators and wildlife, as well as going to Disney World and to Medieval Times to have supper. More to come tomorrow!

Third Day:
Staff woke up Brian early this morning as they had made reservations to go on a morning airboat ride in the Everglades. Brian had to pick up some McDonalds breakfast for the road as they were pressed for time to make it to their destination. Staff and Brian arrived well in advance for the ride and talked with their fellow airboat riders until the Captain prepared us for the adventure. Everyone had to wear pilot- looking earmuffs, as the airboat was very loud. Along the Everglades Brian saw a bunch of gators, cattle, turtles, and one bald eagle! The trip ended an hour and a half later. When Staff asked Brian if he enjoyed the ride he gave Staff a big hug.

Staff asked Brian if he would rather go to Disney World or the Space Station and Brian immediately looked up at Staff and said “Disney World”. It took Brian and staff about an hour to get to Disney World; the Everglades were a little ways away from downtown Orlando. Even though Brian was very excited to go to Disney World he couldn’t fight the sleep that had overcome him and took about a 45-minute nap. Once close, staff woke Brian up saying we are getting close to Disney World and he immediately started looking around and said “Disney World”. Staff went into the Disney MGM Studios park, as he thought that park would best suit Brian. After parking, getting tickets, and renting a wheelchair Staff and Brian went to the Great Movie Ride. The ride took a look throughout the years of the movie industry and Brian seemed to be having a good time looking around at all the different movies, as his eyes were everywhere. Staff and Brian then got a few Fast Passes to the other popular rides before heading into The Beauty and The Beast Show. Brian passed by an ice cream stand and indicated he wanted some by saying “ice cream”. Staff asked what kind he wanted and of course his response was “chocolate”. At the ordering window, Staff ordered the chocolate ice cream in a cup for Brian and the very nice ice cream parlor lady gave Brian the ice cream for free! Brian and Staff went on the rides they had Fast Passes for Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. Brian and Staff then went to see Muppets in 3-D and Brian really seemed to enjoy the 3-D movie as he thought the 3-D glasses were a good time. He also liked the noises the Muppets made as he imitated their voices and laughed afterwards. When the show was over, Brian and Staff exited to see it pouring rain outside. Brian then waited a bit to see if the rain would stop so he could go on more rides, but the rain wouldn’t let up. Staff and Brian decided that was enough Disney World for the day as they had reservations for dinner at Medieval Times.

On the way to Medieval Times, there was some downtime as the show didn’t start for another two hours. Staff asked what Brian wanted to do before the dinner and Brian said “Donald’s”. Staff and Brian chilled out and goofed around at McDonalds for about an hour having ice cream and a cheeseburger. When Brian was ready to go, Staff indicated it was good timing as they were going to a show and more food. At Medieval Times, Staff and Brian got to sit in the first row right by the arena! There was a lot of horse riding, jousting, and Medieval fighting. For the entire show Brian seemed to be enjoying it. The meal there consisted of soup, garlic bread, half a chicken, rib slab, potato slice, and desert with no utensils whatsoever to eat the food with. Staff then had to rip apart Brian’s chicken and rib slab into smaller pieces for it was easier for him to eat. Brian ate almost all of his half chicken, his rib slab, his garlic bread, and half of his potato slice! Brian really seemed to be enjoying himself as he kept smiling and talking throughout the show. When the show was over, Brian got a picture of himself with his Knight in the show. Brian also purchased a t-shirt from there that he liked.

Fourth Day:
After morning meds, Brian fell back to sleep until about 10am. Brian seemed to be in good spirits as he was all excited to get up and eat. Brian and Staff went to the hotel restaurant to eat. Breakfast was over by the time we got down there, so when Staff asked Brian what he wanted he pointed on the menu and said “cheeseburger”.

Staff called SeaWorld to see if Brian could go swimming with the dolphins, and was told that tomorrow they have open schedules to do that. So tomorrow before Brian and Staff go to the Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios, we will be at SeaWorld the whole day! When asked if Brian would like to go swimming at SeaWorld tomorrow Brian replied “swimming”. As Staff was getting reservations for SeaWorld, Brian was getting ready to go to Universal Studios again as he didn’t get to go on all the rides the first time around. When Brian and Staff arrived at the park, we were able to go on many rides, as the park wasn’t that busy being the middle of the week. We went to Shrek in 4-D (a couple times), Terminator 2 in 3-D (twice), MIB alien shooting, The Simpsons Ride, and E.T. Adventure. Brian really enjoyed the shows in 3-D as he got to put on the cool 3-D glasses. When Brian and Staff were commuting between attractions; the Scooby Doo Van, Shaggy, and Scooby Doo were taking pictures with everyone! As Brian was standing in line to get his picture taken, the Universal Studios crew members informed everyone in line that the last photo was being taken. Brian was at least five groups back when they announced it. So Brain and Staff decided to just take a picture with the Scooby Doo Van. As we were taking a picture, Scooby Doo himself decided he wanted in on it too! Brian immediately gave Scooby Doo a big hug and was all smiles. Brian then watched as they drove away and was grinning for about 5 minutes straight. Just after that, another Universal Studios crew member directed Brian to where the Simpsons cast was and placed Brian in the front of the line as they were almost done taking pictures. Brian went up and hugged Marge Simpson, gave Bart a high five, hugged Lisa, and gave an unsure hug towards Homer Simpson. Everyone around thought it was amusing and laughed. After taking a picture with the Simpson cast, Brian and Staff went to get a chocolate cheesecake from the park. Brian loved it as he ate the whole thing in a matter of minutes! The park was about to close so Brian and Staff went back up to their hotel room for just a bit.

Staff had known about ‘dining with characters’ at one of the hotels at US and asked if Brian would like to do that for supper, he said “yeah sure”. Staff informed Brian that Scooby Doo was also going to be there and Brian looked up at Staff and said “Scooby Doo”. Asked if Brian was hungry, Brian said “Donald’s”. Staff assured Brian that after they eat with Scooby Doo that they would go there for dessert. As Scooby Doo was making his rounds to each table, Staff told Brian that pretty soon Scooby was going to be at our table! Brian immediately got excited as he kept rocking back and forth and was smiling and grinning a lot. When Scooby came up to our table, Brian grabbed both of his paws and smiled a big smile. Brian then gave Scooby a big hug and took a couple pictures with him. Brian seemed to enjoy that a lot as when Staff asked who that was Brian said “Scooby Doo” and start grinning. Brian and Staff had ordered a burger and a big chicken and it came to the table right after Scooby left. Brian seemed to be interested in the burger right away, but when Staff cut up the chicken and put it on his plate he immediately put down his burger and ate all the chicken first. Brian then finished up his half burger and seemed to be satisfied. Just before leaving the restaurant, Brian was able to give one more hug to Scooby Doo as he came back around.

It was about 915pm by the time Brian and Staff made it back to the hotel room after McDonalds. As Brian was climbing into bed, he decided to look over all the stuff he had purchased in the last few days. While Staff was going over some paperwork, Brian climbed out of bed and walked right up to Staff and said “thanks”. Staff gave Brian a big hug and said “you’re welcome”. Brian then crawled back into bed and looked over some more of his items before falling asleep.

Fifth Day:
Around 9:45 am Staff motivated Brian to wake up and have some breakfast as it was going to be the last full day of vacation here in Florida. Asked what Brian wanted and of course “Donald’s” was his response. Staff told Brian that they were going to go to SeaWorld today and that they were going to see some cool animals there. Brian responded “animals” to acknowledge what Staff had said. Brian and Staff then grabbed some McDonalds for the road before heading to SeaWorld.

At SeaWorld, Brian and Staff went to many animal shows and attractions. Brian seemed to enjoy the animals and mammals as his eyes kept wondering around looking at everything. Brian got to touch a stingray, watch dolphins get fed, watch sea lions get fed, see sharks from underwater, see a bunch of penguins lounging around, see a bunch of turtles and birds, and watch a dolphin show! It was a very hot day at SeaWorld, so Brian needed his chocolate ice cream fix. After that Brian and Staff went to the Wild Arctic exhibit and saw a polar bear, walruses, and beluga whales. Staff told Brian that they had reservations to interact with the beluga whales and might be going swimming with them! Brian seems to get excited as he raised his head and said “swimming”. Brian and Staff went backstage with the crew members to help trainers feed and do tricks with the beluga whales! Before going in the water, the crew members, Brian and Staff had to put on wet suits as the water was freezing. Brian got all suited up and was patiently waiting as the crew members were going over some rules of how to interact with the ginormous mammal. Finally it was time to go out and see the beluga whales, and Brian seemed to be uneasy about it as he has never witness something like this before. Brian, Staff, and a crew member went out on a platform with a bucket of fish to reward the whales for doing tricks. The whales got right up to each of us so we could pet them and see what they look like up close! Brian was still uneasy about everything until he got to touch the beluga whale and immediately broke out in a huge smile and grin! Brian couldn’t get enough of touching it that we kept doing it over and over again, each time with Brian breaking out into even a bigger smile. Brian really enjoyed the sounds the whale made and the whale’s blowhole would make a sound of a loud fart. Brian showed he thought it was funny by imitating the blowhole sound with his mouth. One trick the whales did was to kiss the cheek of the crew member and even us! The crew member first got a kiss on the cheek to show Brian what was about to happen. When it was Brian’s turn, Staff told him to give the whale a kiss and he puckered up with his lips out and the whale came right up out of the water and gave Brian a huge sloppy kiss! Brian immediately started to spit and make faces at the whale as it was in salt water and probably didn’t taste very good. However Brian lit up in a smile and started laughing as I think he thought it was pretty cool. After a couple more minutes of feeding the whales and touching their soft noses, the session was over as the beluga whales have a short attention span to be training and doing tricks. Brian and Staff got undressed and showered up before heading out of the park and picking up the photos from the beluga whale session. When we got the photos, Brian couldn’t get enough of looking at them and smiling A LOT! At each photo Brian would get all giggly and laughing. Staff told Brian that that was really cool and Brian replied “really cool”. Staff told Brian to show all his friends and family back home the cool pictures and Brian replied “yeah sure”.

Brian and Staff picked up some food and brought it back to the hotel as they were going to be going to the Halloween Scare Night at Universal Studios. After finish eating and getting all dressed for the show, Brian and Staff were out the door. As we were walking to Universal Studios, Brian told Staff, “Missy is gone.” Staff assured Brian that Missy is just at home and that we will be going back tomorrow and you can see her then. Brian smiled at them and said “Missy.” Brian and Staff joked around on their way to US and Brian was seemingly having a good time. However after getting into Universal and going though the first haunted street, Brian turned to Staff and said “tired”. Staff asked if it was too scary and Brian replied “scary; tired”. Tomorrow Brian flies back home and will be arriving at his house around midnight.