Thanks to Elvis Photography for helping document our amazing adventure!
You can see the news reports here:
I’m still laughing that Albuquerque was on Ben’s wish list! We knew almost nothing about this town, but we knew it was on our way back from Arches National Park and a good place to stop and stay the night.
Then we got messages from a couple locals in that incredibly friendly town and suddenly our overnight trip (just so we could say we had been there) was becoming SO much more. More than we could have ever possibly imagined.
Thank you to Katie Herrera of Tyler Brooke Photography for making this epic adventure possible, AND for documenting these sweet moments. We’ll treasure this experience forever, and the kids have been asking repeatedly when we can go back to visit Albuquerque again. We fell in love with the city and the people.
On to the photos! (More to come tomorrow!)
First was the 6am meet up with the news crews while we had breakfast (thanks to The Village Inn) and then there was a mini-hot air balloon festival!! Which included Ben and Kit heading up, and Ben’s grin was ear to ear. They had a sparkling cider toast afterwards as Ben got his first flight certificate and the kids all enjoyed collecting the hot air balloon cards. (We really need to go back for the huge international balloon festival one year – it’s in October. You should go.)
More photos here… Continue reading
Ben’s wish list included the hope of seeing a variety of animals and he’s been very fortunate to see many recently (the zoo, Sharkarosa, etc.) However, I don’t know if any were as beautiful as the race horses we saw at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie. They invited us to come out and see the race horses (and enjoy a delicious buffet!) and it was such a fun day!!
We pulled up front and Stacey met us and lead us inside, up the elevator and into this gorgeous dining area overlooking the track. Just the view was worth visiting there! We had tables reserved right up against the window (as well as a tv so Ben could see close up everything that was happening.) It even had a sign that said “Ben’s Wish” and when we looked into the program Stacey showed us race four – it was named Ben’s Wish!! And we were going to go down to the track to get a photo of that race with the winner!
The only hiccup being Ben’s little sister thought this meant she could RIDE in the race, and her three year old self was not amused when I told her she couldn’t actually ride the “pony” she picked.
After reminding the kids that they must eat something healthy before hitting the dessert, cake, and ice cream bars we let them loose on the buffet. It was delicious – C loved the enchiladas, B loved the salmon, Kit and I both thought the build your own pasta bar was fantastic. (We went back for seconds – so, so good.) There was Blue Bell ice cream with toppings, a huge variety of cakes and pies, cookies, strawberries, trifle, cobblers, chocolate sauce… oh, and a really great salad bar but the dessert kept distracting me. 🙂
Then of course there were the horses! Continue reading
Our third day we granted the kids’ wish to try a New York bagel (they approve) as we walked down to the Museum of Modern Art to see Starry Night.
It was breathtaking.
Then we headed back to our hotel to be picked up for the Katie Show, and everyone was so gracious and warm and welcoming! (More on that later, I’m writing my outline now as I play catch up!)
Among the many surprises we received, Ben and Kit were able to attend Wicked that night. (Ben loved it, of course, he loves musicals of all sorts!)
We flew out the next morning, and it was a whirlwind adventure of NYC that we’ll always treasure!
Funny update: Awhile after the trip when we were settled back home we got a package in the mail. It was from the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and they said since we hadn’t let them know we were coming (we just quietly went ourselves and got our own tickets that morning), they wanted to send Ben a special package to help him remember the trip. It was so incredibly thoughtful of them!
Our second day was full of lots of running around and memory making. Kit and five of the kids met up with someone from Katie’s show to help them go check out the Statue of Liberty then meet us at Central Park for a picnic. Ben and I headed off also to catch the Statue, but also the Empire State building and then the picnic. In the afternoon we napped the kids before taking Ben and C to a comic book store, then everyone headed to dinner at an arcade and on to Times Square. The kids requested we take the subway home as that was their favorite mode of transportation all day. 🙂
We were invited to New York on Friday right after Ben’s story aired on WFAA, and we didn’t tell the kids until Sunday evening. I was just quietly packing up and hoping they wouldn’t notice. 🙂 We had a scavenger hunt set up on Sunday that gave them various hints around the house until Ben opened the final clue (a “Big Apple”) and there was much screaming and rejoicing. We flew out the next morning, and since our kids had only flown once before this was a very, very exciting day.
I now realize how unusual this is that the pilot let the kids check out the cockpit:
We were picked up by a driver and taken to our lovely hotel and then went exploring – just down the street was an Apple store, and you already know Ben’s a HUGE Apple fan.
A couple more blocks down and we found the place the hotel suggested – a kid friendly hot dog spot. I was laughing because these are world famous hotdogs, and since our kids rarely eat meat they pronounced them the world’s BEST hod dogs, too.
We wandered back towards the hotel and got a picture by the Lincoln Center across the street then tucked the kids into bed early. Or we tried, but they were so excited we had a couple night owls watching the traffic out our window on Broadway.
Last week Tamron Hall brought us into Dallas for a video chat (she was in NYC) to talk about Ben’s vision bucket list. She was incredibly kind, and at the end of the show mentioned she would be in town soon and wouldn’t it be fun to visit the zoo with us.
She really meant it! On our way home from the show we got a call from her producer saying they had been in touch with the Fort Worth zoo to set up something special and could we come in a few days later? We did, and it was so much fun – I’m not sure if Kit and me or the kids thought it was neater!
Here’s the video clip:
Thank you to Tamron & to everyone at the Fort Worth Zoo for making this such a special day. Penguins! And owls and an armadillo and a turkey, a white tiger and baby elephants! Ben will never forget this experience.
(More pictures to come, the zoo had a photographer there as well.)
Surprise, we heard this morning that the photos were on TODAY – you can watch it here, Tamron talks about our zoo visit in the last couple minutes.
Update: Thanks to the Fort Worth Zoo & Tamron Hall for sharing these photos with us as well!
Ben’s story by Janet St. James aired on Wednesday at 10pm. There are been several ads running for the story on the radio and television so we were getting messages all day long from family and friends hearing it! Then the emails began… and they have not stopped. 🙂
This is the original video.
When we woke up we were greeted by an inbox flooded with emails, Ben’s Wish List page on Facebook had gone from a hundred or so Likes to several hundred (and now thousands), and there were a ton of personal messages for us as well. The entire day we were getting more, and the ones that made me laugh were friends and family literally across the nation saying, “I just saw you on the front page of CNN!” or “Why are you on the front of USA Today?” or “You’re on the news in California!” It was spreading near and far!
This is the follow up when Janet brought us into the studios to share what the reaction had been.
SO, we’ve not caught up! We woke up Thursday to such a tidal wave of support that while we’ve done our best to read every single email, we’ve not been able to answer them all yet! It may take awhile, and we really apologize. I like to have messages answered quickly so knowing I cannot possibly respond to everyone right away makes me antsy. But for some reason these six kids of mine still want me to feed them and play with them and thus, the emails and messages wait. 😉
Please know in the meantime that we have treasured every single one of you taking the time to write and share your support, suggestions, inspiration, and generosity. Words are failing us because while we knew we lived in a great community, while we treasure our fantastic village of people, we hadn’t anticipated Ben’s story being shared so far and so wide. (The messages from abroad began Friday morning!) We’ve been warned, multiple times, that we should avoid reading any comments on websites with our story because often there are internet trolls being hurtful. While I’ve not even seen all the websites on which the story was shared, the comments I have read are all kind and loving and incredible.
We think our kids are pretty fantastic, of course. We believe Ben’s story is miraculous, but we had never, ever imagined that sharing his wish list would lead to this.
There are amazing things in the works and we will be sharing them along the way. I promise we WILL catch up with the inbox and in the meantime, if you have sent something and we have not responded yet but you feel it’s time sensitive then PLEASE feel free to send it again to firstname.lastname@example.org as that’s the best way to catch me.
Also, we will be updating Ben’s Wish List as they are fulfilled. For some of his wishes we’ve been sent a couple opportunities and we’re trying to make sure that everyone is told THANK YOU, but that we’re not accidentally duplicating efforts when everyone is being so generous. I apologize that the page is not updated yet – until I finish the inbox I’m not sure what the status is for some things. If you’ve sent a message to help with one of Ben’s wishes please know how grateful we are, and we promise we will respond ASAP!
I admit that touring a water tower struck me as possibly the weirdest of Ben’s wishes. A water tower?? Huh?? But apparently to a nine year old that was fascinating, we just had no idea how we could make that happen. Water towers tend to be surrounded by locked fences, and we weren’t sure that they routinely host field trips! So you can imagine our surprise when we were contacted by Jennifer at the Mustang Special Utility District and she was offering Ben a tour!
We drove out one afternoon to check out the office and the kids saw how the water levels are reported for each tower to the central office. They had lots of questions and were fascinated by the map. I think J, our five year old, wins for most entertaining inquiries! They also gave the kids some really fun goodies – I snitched one of those flashlights for my doula bag, and the cooler bags and cups are being used constantly. (Who knew utility districts had such fun swag, right?? Frisbies??) Then we drove down the road to the water tower itself – and it was huge, and I tried to NOT think about the fact that we were standing inside a water tower under this massive amount of water. The kids had lots more questions and they thought the echoing tower was way too much fun and Ben learned lots about how it all works.
Jennifer & the Mustang folks had learned about us through the Denton Record Chronicle article in February and they invited the paper to come back out for a follow up story. Though I admit we were really surprised to see the kids made the front page again! Both stories were really sweet & well done and we’re always happy to share Ben’s amazing story. He’s a pretty fantastic kid, and he’s grateful that so many people have been helping make his wishes come true – however funny and random they may be! Thank you to John and David for the great article and you can read it here, see some more photos, and read J’s funny questions about the towers. Thank you to Jennifer for providing all of these photos in the gallery, and thank you to all the folks at Mustang SUD!
It’s been a busy couple weeks. We had an insane hail storm one day and after it passed we took the kids to their adaptive PE program at UNT. While there the second wave of the storm hit along with the tornado warning and funnel clouds near campus – complete with loud sirens and us spending half an hour in the tornado shelter with six very anxious kids and about 100 university guys all crowded into the men’s locker room. It was an adventure! Unfortunately our car and roof didn’t enjoy the storm, and later that night a THIRD wave of huge hail hit. Quite the day (still working on getting the car and roof repaired.)
When we woke up in the morning there was a series of emails from my father sharing the news that my grandmother had been taken to the hospital with some concerns (she had surgery last month but was back at her assisted care center.) I saw there were several more emails and my stomach sank as I read through them, including that she had been admitted to the ICU, put on oxygen, and the last message shared that she had passed away just before 3am. She turned 91 at the end of March so she was elderly, but it just seemed to come very quickly! We called my dad that morning to find out plans for her funeral service, talked with my sister and Kit’s work, and within a few hours we were packing and getting ready to leave the next morning to take 10 kids and 3 adults from Texas to Minnesota. All while being swarmed by roofing contractors wanting to pressure us to sign and have them fix our roof.
Early, early the next morning we headed out to drive the 9 hours to Kansas to meet up with my parents and stay a couple days then to do the 6 hour drive the rest of the way to Minnesota. We stayed a couple days there seeing extended family, as I had not been to Minnesota in over 20 years! The kids had a really fun time exploring the farms and behaved (for the most part) really well through the funeral service and burial and the constant changing schedule. I’ll have pictures of that to come, along with a few adventures we’ve already had since!