The Make a Wish experience has far surpassed any expectations we ever considered. If not for Francois’ cousins suggesting we apply, this past week would never have happened. We learned so much not only about Benjamin, but ourselves and of the people we were so fortunate to meet along this journey.
We left for Jamaica last Thursday with a sense of uncertainty; Benjamin was sick for the first time in months and we knew that the plane ride would only add to his congestion. Though unsure how the week would inevitably go, we were also optimistic and excited to see what was to come.
Firstly, the customer service and assistance from West Jet was unmatched on all four legs of our trip to and from Jamaica. The staff were helpful and we had staff greet us, take us through customs and security and escort us to our next gate. We were also given the privilege of hanging out with the pilots and staff on both our plane ride from Montego Bay back to Toronto (sorry for Avery’s question about going #2 on airplanes) and then Toronto to Edmonton. We are extremely grateful to the airline for its compassion and partnership with Make A Wish; they made our journey much more comfortable and stress free.
Our resort, Beaches Ocho Rios was lovely… with it being the quiet season (aka kids returning to school and hurricanes), we estimate that there were only about one hundred other guests. Each night, there was a Sesame Street show which included opportunities to interact with various characters and throughout the day, characters wandered through the resort to say hello. There are also tons of opportunities to do special activities with the “kids”; Poppy started calling them her “kids” mid-week. We took part in an All Access Photo Shoot with most of the characters which Benjamin loved. The staff in costume were so incredibly kind and made a clear, obvious effort to include Ben in their hugs, high fives and hair tousles. Ben, Poppy and even Avery enjoyed hanging out with the Sesame Street crew. Avery even got to sing in a talent show!
Leaving for Jamaica, we were excited that Ben would get to hang out with Elmo but we never imagined just how he would react to the opportunity to swim. We know Ben loves to splash and play in the water, but as mentioned so many times before, each time we take him to swim, whether it be at the lake in forty degree weather or an indoor pool, he gets sick. Without fail. However, as the water and air temperature are close in range in Jamaica (and we figured he was already sick, so what did it matter), Ben spent time in the pool area each day. The smile on his face and laughter were unlike anything we have experienced with him before. It was far better than anything we could have dreamt for him. We took him on small waterslides and watched him go ballistic as we splashed down into the water. Francois even managed to video tape him a couple of times so we can share it with our family. It was both inspiring and heart breaking; we so wish we could provide that same opportunity for him here (or make millions of dollars so we could afford to go more often!). I am not sure there are even words to describe the overwhelming love and adoration we have for Ben and then to see him like that, made everything feel more complete. It truly was his “once in a lifetime” opportunity and he absolutely, without a doubt, had the time of his life.
The staff at the resort were incredible and I know that people will say that, that’s just their job however, I disagree. The staff at Beaches went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable at all times. We especially would like to thank our concierge Renae, our breakfast and lunch hostesses Susan, Gracelyn and Juanita and our waiter at the Venetian, Carlos – we know you felt something for our Ben and we felt it too; thank you for loving him the moment you held him.
I don’t know what else I can say about Ben’s Make A Wish trip other than it was wonderful.
Thank you to our Make A Wish team – Aissa, Lauren and Katherine for taking us on this amazing journey and all your support in preparing for it. And a sincerest thank you to Packers Plus, the company that sponsored Ben’s wish. We will be forever grateful.