By Kevin Fox
"I got to feed Shamu!" stated a very excited Garet March when asked about his trip to Florida.
Garet, the son of Jacob and Erin March of Luray, had been nominated for selection by the Make-A-Wish Foundation that grants wishes to children with life threatening diseases. After being selected, the March’s traveled to St. Louis where they met with officials from Make-A-Wish to learn what Garret’s wish would be. Garret expressed the one desire that he had wanted to meet and feed Shamu. For those unfamiliar with Shamu, he is an Orca (Killer Whale) at the Sea World in Florida.
So plans where set into action for the entire March family to travel to Florida. The family left on September 25 and a going away party was held in their honor at Chucky Cheese in St. Louis that was hosted by Garet’s wish givers. The family arrived in Orlando where they were met by a greeter who took them to their rental car and directions to "The Village" which is an estate that was built by Henri Landwirth, a Jewish concentration camp survivor. When he came to America he bought a hotel. Later, when a young person lost their wish because there were no hotels available, Henri decided he would let them stay at his hotel. And as more Make-A-Wish children begin selecting Florida, Henri went to all his friends and asked them to help him bring these special children to Florida. Soon, families from all around the world were arriving in Orlando and had the opportunity to meet Mickey Mouse and visit Walt Disney World. Henri knew that all of these children needed a special place to stay. He bought the land where he would build the 35-acre resort, Give Kids The World Village.
At the time that Garet’s family was there, there were 59 Make-A-Wish children staying at The Village. The Village would be the March’s home during their stay in Kissimmee, Florida.
"It was just unbelievable," stated Garet’s mother Erin. She continued, "That alone was a great vacation. They had gift baskets for the kids and the rooms would have your favorite snacks and soft drinks in the refrigerator and each day would have a different theme, such as Saturday is always Christmas. And all volunteers ran it."
The next day, the family went to Sea World where they were received as VIPs and given their own tour guide and did not have to wait in line for rides. Garet got to touch a dolphin, stingray, penguins, and a shark. The following day was to be the day that Garet would receive his wish of touching and feeding Shamu. Erin takes the story from there, "When we arrived at the show we noticed that the whale in the show was quite a bit bigger than the whales that had been in the show the day before. We also noticed that the show wasn’t as long as it had been the day before. The real Shamu was doing the show and he was there just for Garet. Shamu’s trainer Lora took us back stage and told us about Shamu and taught Garret some of the signs which Shamu would do tricks for. These tricks were waving, and jumping and spin in a circle. Garet held fish for Shamu to give him once he did a trick. While a lot of people have gone back stage to see Shamu and his training session only two people have ever been allowed to touch Shamu and Garret was one of them." Garet added that Shamu "felt slippery". Shamu weighs in around 8,000 pounds and even in his 7 million gallon tank he "Looked as big as a school bus" said Erin March.
Garet’s family also went to Walt Disney World, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, and the Epcot Center. All in all it was a trip of a lifetime and one that the entire March family will never forget and the entire trip was free. Besides Garet and his parents, Garet’s brother Levi and sister Alexis also went on the trip. There are countless memories of adventure and pirates and knights as well as Pluto and Mickey Mouse all there for Garet.
In a world full of hate, it’s heartwarming to see love and compassion for young people still exist and that dreams can come true.