Simon Hatcher, of West Towson, set off on a weeklong dream vacation with his family Sept. 22. With the help of the Casey Cares Foundation and American Airlines' Something mAAgic Foundation, Simon, 8, was selected for an all-expenses-paid family trip to the Give the Kids the World Resort and Walt Disney World and other Florida theme parks.
Simon is a tough little dude, battling cerebral palsy and epilepsy like a champ. Recently, he has been losing some of his sight and hearing, and mobility is difficult.
His parents, Brian and Laura Hatcher, found out in August that the family had been selected to make the trip to Give Kids the World, which is a storybook-themed Florida resort that accommodates children with medical issues and special needs.
Amy Rosewater, of Casey Cares, asked the Hatchers if they would be interested in being considered for the family vacation. The Baltimore-based Casey Cares Foundation provides activities and programs for more than 700 critically ill children each year in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Initially, Simon's mom, Laura, was hesitant, because the prospect of traveling has become more medically challenging for the family in recent years.
Laura runs Hatcher Design Office, a graphic design company, while dad Brian works at Loyola University of Maryland. Juggling complex medical needs, work schedules, school, and extra-curricular activities leaves little time for vacations, particularly when they require additional precautions and planning.
Rosewater persuaded the Hatchers to give it a try, and Laura is appreciative of her encouragement.
"I don't think I realized how much we needed this trip," said Laura, just days before the family's departure.
They told Simon the news Sept. 18 and he was delighted. The American Airlines' "mAAgic Flight" departed from Reagan National Airport. Even the sendoff last Thursday was quite a production, with fanfare rivaling a Disney parade.
A huge fan of Disney and pirates, Simon was even treated to a special pirate adventure on the trip. Adding to the excitement, Simon's big sister, Olivia, celebrated her 14th birthday in Florida — a magical and enduring memory for all. Happy Birthday, Olivia!
Give Kids the World has welcomed more than 146,000 children and families from around the world for cost-free vacations with amazing extras that cover all the bases, from doctors on site to 24-hour ice cream.
Donated admissions to Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando and others round out the experience. "mAAgic Flight" travel is supported by a network of hundreds of current and past American Airlines employee volunteers.
Laura Hatcher has a lesson for all of us: "You are only given so much time . . . so you have to find ways to make it count."
She is determined to take advantage of the now, and to be present in each moment.
And what was she was most looking forward to on the trip? "Just seeing Simon have fun!"