A number of area youngsters recently enjoyed the magic of Walt Disney World, thanks to to a dream-fulfilling trip to Florida courtesy of the Blue Ridge Chapter of Dream Come True.
For 17-year-old Shauna Brown, a graduating senior at Lehighton Area High School, her dream trip became a reality when she visited Kennedy Space Center, Walt Disney World and many other area attractions. Shauna, who has a genetic liver disorder, said one of the highlights was playing a live Candyland game at Give Kids the World, where the family stayed in a luxurious condo, enjoyed meals at the Gingerbread House and swam in the pools.
Another memorable experience was for Shauna was appearing on "Mickey's Jammin' Jungle" parade float at Animal Kingdom. She traveled to Florida with her parents, Ricky and Vicki Brown, and friend, Katie Smith.
Elijah "Eli" Imler, 6, of Towamensing Township, his twin brother Ben, and younger brother Riley, also experienced their trip of a lifetime, despite the family being stuck for nine hours in Philadelphia Airport.
The mid-to-upper-80-degree temperatures in Florida suited Eli and his brothers just fine, since they love to swim.
When Eli met the legendary Mickey, it was like stepping up to see a super hero.
Eli developed serious health conditions shortly after his birth, which was 13-1/2 weeks early. A kindergarten student at Towamensing Elementary School, he has a shunt in his head because of the hydrocephalus. That didn't stop him from being one of the boys in Florida.
Parents Robert and Sharona Imler of the Forest Inn area of Palmerton were thrilled for their young sons.
"They had a blast," said Sharona Imler. "It was great to forget about doctors appointments for a while."
Makenzie Baird, 9, of Jim Thorpe, whose cancer's is presently in remission, also enjoyed her dream trip of taking her family to Florida. Her greatest joy was petting the sting rays at Sea World and meeting all the princesses.
"We had a great time," said Makenzie's mother, Missy. "We really want to thank everyone from Dream Come True for making Makenzie's dream come true."
Dream Come True, an all volunteer organization, was founded in 1984 by local businessman Kostas Kalogeropoulous as a tax exempt nonprofit organization which seeks to fulfill the dreams of children who are seriously, chronically and terminally ill and reside in the Pennsylvania Greater Lehigh Valley Area. In March of 2004 Kostas Kalogeropoulous and Fred Reinhard, president of Pencor Services, Inc., signed a charter formally establishing the Blue Ridge Chapter of Dream Come True.
The Blue Ridge Chapter serves the areas of Carbon County; Eastern Schuylkill County (McAdoo, Kline, Rush and West Penn townships, and the boroughs of Tamaqua and Coaldale); Northern Lehigh County (Washington Township, Borough of Slatington); and Western Monroe County (Polk, Chestnut Hill, Eldred, Hamilton and Ross Townships).
To refer a child, write a letter and mail it to Dream Come True, Blue Ridge Chapter, PO Box 344, Palmerton, PA 18071 or for more information, call 610-826-4080 or see the website at dreamcometrue-brc.org.