Kayla Vanvalkenburgh

Day 1- August 13
We left home at 4:30am for Bishop International Airport (the plane ride was a surprise! My brother and I thought we were driving). The ride was awesome! I really enjoyed looking out the windows, and listening to my mom sing airplane songs to me. We arrived early in the morning at the Orlando airport in Florida which gave us a whole day to explore the beach!? Beautiful palm trees, blue water, waves and lots of white sand. Wow!! We spent the first sunny warm day on Cocoa Beach and had our first yummy seafood dinner that night- what a nice welcome to Florida!

Day 2- August 14
Today we went to Sea World for a full packed day of Stingrays, water roller coasters, Shamu’s, sea lions and lots more. My step dad surprised me with special arrangements for a private meet and greet with Elmo, Big Bird and other Sesame Street characters. The moment was priceless and captured on film to share with everyone back home. I had some other special arranged photo moments too- with one of the sea lions and the pirate cast, and another with a Shamu trainer.? That night I out ate everyone at dinner- I had the biggest, fattest pizza ever and boy was it yummy!

Day 3- August 15…. My dream came true
Today we went to Discovery Cove. This was a tropical paradise like none I have ever been to before. There was water everywhere, which is my most favorite place in the world to be. There was fresh water and saltwater with different temperatures. Personally I enjoyed the warm lazy river. ? The highlight of this day was my face to face swim with a beautiful dolphin. She was kind of rubbery feeling when I touched her and she made a lot of squeak sounds. My step dad took pictures of mom and me during our ride on the dolphin and then he and my brother joined us for more pictures. After our dolphin time we went to another part of the Cove that was a coral reef where we snorkeled with over 1000 different types of tropical fish, including sting rays! That was amazing!! Then, on to the bird Atrium where my brother and I fed a whole bunch of different tropical birds. One actually landed on my brother’s shoulder and picked at his eyelashes. ? The lunch and snacks we had that day were soooo yummy. After having our tummy’s filled it seemed right to go into the lazy river where I held on to my mom and went through waterfalls. This day was incredible and one never to forget.

We revisited Sea World after the Cove to see the night shows, and I about burst with happiness on the nighttime rollercoaster.

Day 4 – August 16
Today was a surprise day that we started out not knowing what we were doing. The Florida B4K director had been calling my parents and told us to come to the west side of Florida and plan to spend the night. We left for the unknown in Clearwater that morning and met Jerry and Kim Stevens. It was then that we learned that they arranged for us to go on a pirate ship and later stay at a hotel as close to the ocean as we could be. The pirate cruise was super hot but I really enjoyed the wind blowing off the water when I was on the top deck while my brother and step dad were having water gun fights with others below deck. After our cruise we went to find our hotel in Redington Beach. It was beautiful! We stayed at the Doubletree Resort and it was just what Jerry and Kim told us, right on the ocean. The staff at the Doubletree treated us so good. They offered for us to stay a second night and they surprised me and my family with a tray of cookies, milk and balloons one afternoon when we came back to our room. The Doubletree has the best cookies, not to mention being close to one of the best restaurants, the Conch Republic where I ate a mound of loaded mashed potatoes.?

Day 5- August 17
Today we drove to Jerry and Kim’s house in New Port Richey to spend the day on the Gulf on the “Aqua Holic”, which is their boat. Jerry wanted to take me to my own special island, and he did. We took a lot of pictures and boy was I happy. I loved the ride on the boat and I loved the ocean water. It was so warm and clear and the ground was soft and sandy. My brother, step dad and Jerry searched for a bunch of seashells that we are going to use to decorate in a room my parent’s are building for me. We decided on this trip that it is going to be a tropical theme so we brought back some decorations for it. I got to drive the boat on our way back and that was cool. Thank you Jerry and Kim!! It was a wonderful way to end out an amazing week.

Day 6- August 18
We headed back to Orlando since this was our last day and we were flying home that night. After such an incredible week we were bummed to be leaving so we spent our last afternoon being tourists at Old Towne which is a created “town” with rides and a lot of shops. From there we were on our way to the Orlando airport where I was able to see what it was like to fly during the sunset. We didn’t get home until late that night, but I stayed awake the whole time, too afraid my dream was only a dream.