As if Derek's wish to go on a cruise wasn't special enough, he got to swim with dolphins!
Derek, age 13, wished to take members of his family on a cruise. When his wish was granted, he was treated like a Very Important Person from the very beginning of his trip. It started at the airport when Brendan, one of his wishgranters greeted the family at the airport for a huge sendoff. AirTran had set aside a special VIP area for Derek with special decorations of palm trees, dolphins, and an entire motif set up for the cruise. The Wichita Wings soccer team sent representatives, including their owner, to come see him off at the airport.
Upon arrival on the cruise ship, he family saw that the cruise line had taken the time to make some special arrangements for Derek, including a special care package of souvenirs just for him! The ship's Children's Director met with the family and introduced them to several of the crewmembers that were going to make sure that Derek had a good time while on board the ship. The cruise line did a special Walk for Wishes on board with a one-mile walk around the entire deck of the ship. Derek got a Walk for Wishes® T-shirt and the family was able to participate in the walk with them. The ship had a climbing wall that Derek was interested in going up, so he had a chance to participate in a speed climbing competition. The director of the climbing wall took a special time out, just to recognize Derek and share that he was a special VIP on the ship for the trip. Next in line was meeting with the Captain and crew in the control room. Derek was able to sit in the Captain’s chair, control the steering wheel, and see how the entire ship can be managed from the one room.
Finally came the moment Derek had really been waiting for, as if the trip had not already been special enough…it was time to go swimming with the dolphins! The family temporarily left the cruise ship to get on a smaller boat that took them to Dolphin Encounters for the swim. The experience is beyond description--they took time to teach Derek about the different types of dolphins, and the type he would be swimming with. Then it was time to head into the water; a simple “Everyone in…1…2…3!” and Derek and his family were all in the water and the dolphins were in there with them. Derek got the chance to pet the dolphins, then exchange a hug and kiss, and then even get a foot push, where the dolphin propelled him through the water. It was an experience of a lifetime!
Derek's last few days on the cruise ship were spent with his enjoying time in the Teen’s Lounge where he had the opportunity to make friends from all around the globe, participate in scavenger hunts around the ship, meeting more of the crewmembers, and just generally having a good time.
It was an outstanding, breathtaking experience for Derek and his family. He still smiles at the remembrances of the encounters.