Twenty-four physically disabled children from across the country, ranging from ages 8 to 22, spent Monday morning on a $100 shopping spree at Toys R Us in Burbank.
The 24 kids, 18 from New York, one from Houston, and the other five from Los Angeles, were accompanied by about 50 staff members of the non profit organization Kids of Courage to help them live out their dreams. Some of the injuries affecting the children receiving the shopping spree are spinal-cord injuries and muscular dystrophy, said Sara Kaplan, a nurse who accompanied the kids on the trip.
The “Tour of Courage” is a five-day event that started Sunday at Disneyland. The tour will also travel to Universal Studios and SeaWorld during the next few days before the kids have to travel back to their homes on Thursday.
This is the first ever time the organization has done the “Tour of Courage”, said Co-Founder Stuart Ditchek.
“The goal today was to surprise the children,” said Ditchek. “This trip is like make a wish on steroids.”
The trip will end up costing the organization about $100,000 total for the hotels, plane tickets and the other events. One thing Ditchek preaches to his children and also others is that there are no differences between anyone.
“We’re all equally able, we’re all equally disabled,” said Ditchek.
Abe Foxman, a volunteer for Kids of Courage for the past five years, said the opportunity to watch and support these children makes him a better person.
“I learn from them, the more you see them, the more you appreciate life and learn to become a better person,” said Foxman. “Some of them are not going to have the longest of lives, so this is like a once in a lifetime opportunity for them, this is their dream coming true.”
Foxman said many of the children had just taken their first ever plane flight to Los Angeles, and also had taken their first ever roller coaster rides on Sunday at Disneyland. The child he sponsors, holding his brand new iPod in hand, said that the roller coaster ride has been the most exciting part of his trip so far.
“I got to go up and down on the roller coaster. It was really fun.”
Ari Adlerstein, a co-founder of Kids of Courage, said he was very thankful for everyone who made the tour possible.
“Everyone has been so generous, from Continental Airlines to SeaWorld to Toys R Us today,” said Alderstein.
Lindsey Teel, a department supervisor at Toys R Us for five years, said this event was a good change of pace for her and that the children’s energy was great.
“They are so full of energy, it wakes me up” said Teel. “It’s like we’re back in Christmas season.”
Kids of Courage is a non profit organization with sponsors completely volunteering their own time without being paid. The organization is a Jewish organization, but Ditchek said if a kid has a need, they don’t discriminate against that child, so it’s really more non denominational than anything else.
The tour was originally supposed to take place in January, but got moved back two months later due to the economic recession, said Ditchek. He said many people stepped up with financial donations to ensure that the children could still make the trip.