Eight-year-old Christopher Watkins froze in his tracks when told his family would go to Disney World as part of the 15th annual Bert’s Big Adventure trip to the Orlando, Fla. amusement park. The news was so good he almost couldn’t believe it. He didn’t know his mother had even applied for a chance to make the trip.
Bert’s Big Adventure was founded in 2002 by Bert Weiss, who hosts the radio program “The Bert Show.” The nonprofit organization provides all-expense-paid five-day trips to Disney World each year for children with chronic and terminal illnesses and their families.
Christopher, who enjoys playing with his parents, Chris and Erin Watkins, and his two sisters, Cheyenne, 4, and Harley, 10 months, was diagnosed with leukemia in May 2016. Christopher underwent chemotherapy and other procedures to fight the disease. Treatments were completed the week before Thanksgiving and Christopher recently rang the bell at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta-Egleston that signals the successful end of treatment, said Erin Watkins.
Watkins said a family member encouraged her to apply for the trip, which took place in February. “My sister-in-law said you have to do it, but I was hesitant at first because I knew there was a one-in-a-thousand chance we’d be selected.”
The Bert’s Big Adventure selection committee sorted through hundreds of applications and selected 13 children and their families for this year’s trip. Families selected for the annual trips typically have some of the most difficult day-to-day struggles and the longest battles, while still maintaining the most positive attitudes, the organization says.
Leading up to the trip, Christopher talked of little other than meeting the Disney characters, riding roller coasters and swimming in the hotel pool. It had been a year since Christopher got into a pool and he didn’t want to do anything but swim on Sunday, the day families have to themselves during the trip, Erin Watkins said.
“I am so happy we applied,” Watkins said. “This is something our family will never forget.”
To qualify for Bert’s Big Adventure, a child must be between 5-12 years old and live in “The Bert Show” radio listening area, prove financial need and have never been to Walt Disney World. Bert’s Big Adventure has served more than 170 children and their families through its trip to Disney, Fairy Godparent volunteer program and Reunion Adventures.
By Carla Caldwell, Title Editor for Around Acworth