Union County MS – When 7-year-old Benjamin Bullock alights from the plane in Orlando on March 7, he will begin fulfillment of a wish fit for most any young boy. He will get to meet The Incredible Hulk and that superhero’s colleagues, as well as many other characters and even some living creatures the entertainment centers in central Florida have to offer.
You see, Ben, as he is generally known, has cystic fibrosis and has been given a trip to Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld Orlando. The week long excursion includes his siblings, 9-year-old Averie and 2-year-old Josiah (Jojo), and parents Bethany and Cody Bullock. The residents of the Dry Creek community in northeastern Union County fly out of Memphis on the 7th and return there March 13.
The trip is the result of several factors, which begin with Ben’s congenital disease (his brother Jojo also has cystic fibrosis), and the generosity of donors to the Make-A-Wish Mid-South foundation. In Ben’s case, the major donor was Memphis-based LSI Graphics, a maker of corporate ID badges and grand-format printing of wraps for buildings, vehicles and other large surfaces.
Ben said he is most looking forward to the rides in Disney World and Universal Studios: “But I don’t know which rides, yet,” said Ben, an active youngster of usually few words. His sister is looking forward to visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: “I’m excited about Diagon Alley,” Averie said. (That’s a wizarding shopping lane in the Harry Potter book series recreated in Universal Studios.) Brother Jojo knows something is going on, but isn’t real sure what it is.
“I’m excited about Star Wars, too,” said mom Bethany. Dad Cody went to Disney when he was 9, but that was 25 years ago, so he figures it will be a brand-new experience.
In spite of a dream, once-in-a-lifetime vacation to one of the premier vacation spots in the world, it is not a getaway from everything: Cystic fibrosis, a potentially fatal condition, continues and must be dealt with daily. The elder Bullocks explained that their sons’ medical appliances and multiple medicines must be taken to Orlando where they will continue to receive twice-daily breathing treatments as well as their doses of digestive enzymes, appetite enhancers, decongestants and other meds.
Cystic fibrosis creates mucus buildup in the lungs that must be loosened and removed, as well as complications in the digestive system and other organs. Approximately 30,000 people are affected by it in the United States; Cody said the median survival age is 37½ years of age.
Make-A-Wish provides wish-fulfilling trips to children with critical illnesses. The MAW Mid-South, said Amanda Wiig, marketing and communication director for the chapter that covers Arkansas, West Tennessee and North Mississippi, grants about 300 trips per year. She said the trips range from Disney – the most popular – to cruises, shopping sprees, Hawaii trips and international destinations.
“We partner with individuals, schools, businesses and groups to fund the trips,” said Wiig. She said the Disney trips and other, longer, more distant wish trips average more than $8,000 and, with in-kind donations such as resort hotel rooms, meals, airfare, car rentals and other incidentals, can easily top $10,000. Wiig said LSI’s donation came from an employee donation funding drive.
“We all chipped in through 2019,” Chris Coles, LSI director of brand and marketing, said of the employees’ efforts to fund a trip. “It’s the first time we’ve done this (direct funding), but we’ve been involved in Make-A-Wish for years.” He said LSI’s donations in the past have been in-kind services and monetary donations.
For more information about applying for trips or funding opportunities, see the MAW website at http://www.midsouth.wish.org or their Facebook page at Make-A-Wish Mid-South. You can also call them at (901) 680-9474.
“We are always looking for big-wish donors,” said Wiig, “but no donation is too small, from $10 to a monthly donation.”
And if you happen to be in Orlando March 7-13, keep an eye out for Benjamin. He’ll be the kid with the big grin on his face.Cystic fibrosis, LSI Graphics, Make a Wish, Northeast MS news