Pictured above: Spencer, being awesome! Photo by Dale Porter
I had been to Michael Nunez’s Celebration Florida Charity last year, but I had so much more fun this time around. I’m not sure why but it just seemed so much better than last year, at least for myself.
It could have simply been the fact that there were a lot more reality and television stars this year. I love coming to these events and meeting all the crazies that show up; either meeting up with old friends or making new ones. I am just amazed by the differences of opinion, background, and personality between all the reality contestants, and somehow all of us kind of act as a family (at the Mona Lisa Suites hotel my waitress commented on how comfortable we all are with each other, even guys rooming with girls, sharing clothes, sharing drinks, etc.)
Some highlights include getting crap from Mikey B for voting him out (apparently my vote counted for 8 on our season), meeting the newbies of Nicaragua, Redemption Island, and Expedition Impossible, getting shots from James the Gravedigger, floating down the “stressful” river at Aquatica theme park, and being knighted Sir Draw by the cape clothed Trent and Brad (Brad and Trent??) of world-famous Cape Nation (check it out at http://twitter.com/#!/capenation).
The charity itself is such a worthy cause too. Give Kids the World grants families with a terminal ill child a weekend free of worry and inspired with hope. They haven’t turned a child away since the village has opened, and with all the flights, meals, shows, and theme parks for every family that in itself is incredible! It is located in beautiful Celebration Florida and the whole place looks like a fantasy land of cute little gingerbread houses and palm trees.
When we pulled up to the village and started talking with the families and playing with the kids it was just amazing to see how excited and full of life GKTW is. I had a ten minute sword fight with a little guy and after I declared him the victor he was so excited he spontaneously gave me a hug. He was having a blast!
I met a family from Wichita Kansas who had just arrived when all of the reality stars stopped by the village. We talked in the lunch line about the fake tattoos all over my arm, Survivor, and about the weather in Kansas. They were super nice folks but they looked bewildered at all the activity going on around them; they really had just flown in and I think were a little in shock at how much was going on. Beauty queens and pirates and volunteers all running back and forth tend to do that. I mentioned I was volunteering on Sunday so I would probably see them again.
Lucky enough on Sunday I saw them a second time, and they were so happy! I don’t know what fun stuff they had been up to but they really were just so much different then when I first met them. Knowing I was a guy from Survivor the father asked me if I was Christian.
“I don’t consider myself Christian, but I, uh, wouldn’t say I don’t believe in God,” I said. He thought I was Matt Elrod from Survivor Redemption Island! “I guess I would be considered agnostic,.. or just spiritual.” There was a Candy Land game going on around us and the rest of the Wichita family moved away, and I was left talking with the dad. He opened up to me more about his son’s illness and how strong the family’s faith was. “Do you know the story about footsteps on the beach?” the boy’s father asked me. I didn’t, so he told me:
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
Mary Stevenson, 1936
There is a lot of truth in this story, and that there is more to life then what we see. In spite of the illness that has befallen his son, which can be interpreted as a sign of an unfair and unjust world, he remains hopeful and determined in his beliefs. That is truly inspiring, and it is fantastic that he can share those beliefs with his family.
Anyone who takes a dire situation and can infuse it with a sense of hope and strength from within has earned my admiration. There have been moments in my life where I didn’t believe there was any kind of higher knowledge or meaning in the world and it was just blind cruel chance, but at this moment I felt quite the opposite. I really came to an agreement with his thinking; that there is sunlight on the horizon. That you’re not alone.
I spent a little more time talking with the family, but they had a long day of fun and excitement and we all had to get back to the hotel and see ourselves off in the morning. I left with a little bit of that family still with me, and I am sure they will remember their time at GKTW long after they head home.
If you are a fan of reality television or just looking for a fun weekend in Florida I cannot recommend this charity enough. Do yourself a favor, do some of these families a favor, and I’ll see you next year!