All too often, we take the simple things in life for granted – we get caught up in our daily routines and we fail to take a moment to appreciate what we have. Unlike most of adults, five-year-old Ileina lives for those simple moments of joy – her smile can remind us all that those moments are the ones worth living for.
Ileina suffers from a respiratory condition that limits her muscular ability, but her brilliant smile is out of bounds! On her recent wish trip to Disney World® with her mom, dad, and two brothers, Ileina’s adorable smile transformed strangers into new friends! Characters from Give Kids the World, Universal Studios and Disney World all fell in love with Ileina and her genuinely beautiful smile and lively spirit!
Arriving at the Give Kids the World village, Ileina and her family immediately knew they were somewhere very special – every staff member was extremely inviting and kind, a gift bag was given to them every day of their stay and there was an endless amount of ice cream on hand whenever they wanted it! The village was a magical home away from home that brought something new with it every day…it even had a place for all their visitors to see the one and only Santa Claus!
From Disney World to Sea World and Universal Studios, Ileina and her family embarked on a new adventure every day of their trip, not letting a single day go to waste! The family spent their first full day at Sea World where they got wet on some exciting rides and watched “One Ocean”, the impressive Orca show.
The second day was spent at Universal Studios where Aaron, Ileina’s father, saw something that touched his heart…something he didn’t quite expect. As Ileina and her family made their way through the huge park going from ride to ride, Aaron noticed that every Universal employee was going out of their way to see how they were doing, offering awesome perks along the way. But it wasn’t just the extra care that impressed Aaron, it was the fact that people were addressing Ileina directly.
“People don’t know how to interact with her, or they see her and assume that she can’t really do that much or understand, so it was really touching to see so many people who had no hesitation in taking her hand, looking her in the eye, and giving her direct attention,” said Aaron. “She loved it and was so excited!”
As characters from Universal Studios, Give Kids the World and Disney World interacted with Ileina, her smile lit up and she beamed with pure joy! Perhaps one of the most memorable character interactions was with Santa himself. Instead of having Ileina sit on her mom or dad’s lap for a picture with Santa, jolly Saint Nick offered to carry Ileina himself and she couldn’t have been happier.
“It never occurred to me that every other time Ileina has gone to see Santa, one of us has been the one to hold her as we sit NEXT to Santa and take a picture”, said Aaron. “This would be the first time that she would actually get to sit ON Santa’s lap (like so many millions of other children have done)– and this Santa was willing to hold and support her, because he understood that she doesn’t have the muscle control to do it herself. He was so gentle and engaging with Ileina and she immediately responded. Watching her face light up and seeing the glow in her eyes (which everyone else around us started to comment on out loud) was such a humbling experience.”
From start to finish of their week-long wish adventure, Ileina and her family met people who showed genuine kindness – sharing a special love and attention that brought out Ileina’s sweet smile.
“I’m convinced everybody is captivated by that smile!” said Ileina’s dad.
Who wouldn’t be touched by it? We’d bet that every single person who sees Ileina smile comes a little closer to knowing what happiness really is. This princess has a smile that is pure, beautiful and one-of-a-kind.
Check out Aaron, Ileina’s father’s blog to read about the entire trip!
Special Thanks: Wish Granters, Brian and Candis, Platinum Limosine, American Airlines, Kallarny from Give Kids the World, Give Kids the World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld.