By Gary Lloyd
TRUSSVILLE — Janet Hurley thought she and her husband, David, would never vacation again.
Since 2005, the Trussville couple has adopted six special needs children from various parts of China, after visiting orphanages in the large country.
“Our hearts broke for them,” Hurley said.
None of the couple’s six adoptive children — A.J. (11), Emmi (10), Avery (8), Jenna (9), Wes (9) and Waid (8) — were related before coming to Trussville.
The oldest of the children, A.J., has Trisomy 8, a chromosomal disorder caused by having three copies of chromosome 8. A.J. had open heart surgery when he was 3 and is missing his corpus callosum, a part of the brain that connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres and facilitates inter-hemispheric communication. The condition is so rare that most babies born with it are stillborn or miscarried, Hurley said.
“Just the fact that he can walk and run and write his name is amazing,” Hurley said.
Hurley said she filled out paperwork last year for Magic Moments, a wish-granting organization dedicated to children living in Alabama with chronic, life-threatening diseases. She got a phone call in November saying her paperwork was being reviewed. She didn’t think the family would be granted a Magic Moment.
Another group, Gardendale-based Mission:118, made T-shirts to sell to help fundraise for the Magic Moment. The group is made up of Gardendale High School seniors Lexie Bear, Tiffany Otis and Kennedy Webster. All Mission:118’s funds go to a charity of choice each month.
Then, Hurley got a call a month ago, saying A.J.’s Magic Moment had been granted and that the family would be going to Disney World this year.
“I was about screaming and crying and trying to drive and not let six kids know what was going on,” Hurley said.
The six kids, however, didn’t know about the trip until last Thursday, when it was revealed to them at a party at the Masonic Park in Trussville. The Buzz Lightyear-themed party featured a bouncy castle, Bubble Fun blow bubbles, pizza, cupcakes and candy. The cooler filled with water had a label taped to it, titled “Space Ranger Fuel.”
The best party feature, though, was a near-life-size balloon of Buzz Lightyear, with a speak bubble that read, “CALLING ALL SPACE RANGERS…NEXT STOP: Disney World.” The Mission:118 group presented that balloon to the family.
The timing of the trip is great for Jenna. She is legally blind and her vision is deteriorating rapidly. Doctors estimate she has about two years before she will be totally blind.
“With the timing of the trip, at least she will be able to see the things she can get up close to, and have those special memories,” Hurley said.
The vacation means a trip the six kids would never have gone on otherwise. It means great memories. Hurley said she and David have two grown children, who they took to Disney World when they were young. The more the couple adopted, though, the more impossible a trip became financially.
The feeling now?
“Amazing,” Hurley said. “I’m just so thankful for the organizations that put this together.”
The T-shirt A.J. wore for the reveal fits the day and the upcoming trip. The turquoise shirt features a quote scrawled in blue, words spoken by Walt Disney.
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible,” it reads.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.