About a month ago, I applied to participate in an event for a foster organization that is trying to change the experience for kids going through the system. Zero expectations left me with the mentality of “what could it hurt” so I applied. Apparently 550+ applications later, I was one of the 22 who were chosen.
Last week I got to watch 200 or so kids who are currently in the foster system be reunited with their siblings for a day at Disneyland. If that doesn’t make your heart grow ten sizes or cry all the cries, I doubt much else will. Now that I’ve had a chance to nap and kind of recover from it all, here’s exactly what happened:
There were 20 groups total, on the itinerary we received at the beginning of the day, we were told to meet up for volunteer shift changes. Fortunately for the group I was in, the volunteers committed to the whole day. We were expecting 10 kids to be in our group, we ended up with 6. Every group had five adults and one photographer. So our ratio was 1-1 and we all agreed that this and the lack of a shift change completely was how our kids had such great attitudes all day long. ZERO MELTDOWNS for the Pirate group. HUZZAH. The ages of our kids ranged from 4-13. We had two sets of siblings: a brother/sister pair, and a group of four that were brothers book-ended by sisters. Two of the girls were 9 and they were fast friends, the younger boys were 6 and 8 and followed the oldest (who was WAY too cool for this) around all day.
First ride of the day was Indiana Jones, unfortunately, the littlest was just a hair too little for it. So two of the other leaders took her on Jungle Cruise and Winnie the Pooh. Which left four leaders with the five older kids. We demonstrated our best animal sounds which were quickly followed by our best hand fart sounds. The fart sounds ended quickly once I said we were done, and didn’t happen again all day. (Seriously, some of the most well behaved kiddos.) The boys all agreed that Indiana Jones was scary, but the girls thought it was the best.
Immediately following Indy was lunch, which were all mostly melted (turkey sandwiches with cheese). One of the other leaders had gone ahead and grabbed fast passes for Haunted Mansion, and we needed to kill a little time before we could use them. So we hit Big Thunder Mountain, and luckily enough, the littlest wasn’t too little to ride it. Oh, she was our little daredevil. I got to sit in front of her and listen to her squeal with joy. I’ve honestly never heard a sweeter sound. Some of the organizers of the event met up with us after we got off the ride and handed us money for ice cream.
Haunted Mansion was a much needed dose of air conditioning. We were all perfectly hydrated, but we didn’t use the bathroom once all day because of how much we were sweating. The ice cream we picked up after was incredible. I’m just saying, Mexican fruit popsicles are AMAZING.
Star Tours was next. Again, bless Disneyland and how hard they pump the AC wherever they can. The kids were all giggles and smiles the entire ride. I think I had the two littlest convinced we actually went to space, probably not, but they seemed to love it. They all wanted to souvenir shop, so naturally we hit the gift shop that you’re spit into at the exit of Star Tours. Two of the boys got lightsabers, the other got Legos, all of the girls got candy, the littlest got hand sanitizer. Yes, hand sanitizer. In a Minnie Mouse key chain.
Buzz Lightyear was the obvious next choice, followed quickly by the Astro Orbiters. At this point, the littlest wouldn’t leave my side if she didn’t have to. We made our way through the gift shops in hopes of some relief from air conditioning before heading to dinner with the rest of the group. It was one of the biggest pizza parties I had ever seen, but our kids very quickly were ready to get back in the park and go to Splash Mountain. At this point, the littlest wanted me to carry her everywhere. The four kid’s social worker joined us for Splash Mountain, and yes, it was dark and our clothes were dry 15 minutes after exiting the ride. We split up for the last ride of the night because I wasn’t going to let a four year old go on Matterhorn with that damn snow beast. Instead, we went on the carousel and the ride operator yelled at me for facing the wrong direction while standing (which made me laugh). The group met back up at the Main Street Train Station for churros, the parade, and fireworks. And that was that.
I don’t think there are enough words or photos to do justice to that day. I’ve always loved Disneyland, but seeing kids experience it for the first time is just the thing to remind you of exactly how magical it is. At one point, the littlest slipped and called me “mommy” and my heart broke in every way. At the very end of the night while I was waiting for my photos to load onto the organization’s computer, she buried her face in my chest and wouldn’t let me leave. As I was walking back to my car I sent a text to the boyfriend and told him I can’t justify having babies when kids as amazing as those ones are walking this earth. I think that was the night I realized exactly why I’ve never felt the draw to pregnancy or the necessity of sharing biology with a tiny human.
Guys, if there’s any organization you need to support, it’s Together We Rise.
And seriously, if you haven’t ever considered fostering a kid… Well. You should.