/ Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

by Makena W.

On Wednesday nights in The Box I have been asked many times how I raised over $1,000 for the Dream Team.  I decided to write a blog about it and maybe inspire someone else to give to a charity they support.  For those of you who couldn’t make it with us on the cruise, I surprised Lou by hopping up on stage and presenting him with a huge, over-sized check to benefit his organization, “The Dream Team Project”, which sends Make-A-Wish kids to Walt Disney World.  Here is the journey of my big check – from just an idea to a presentation at the farewell party on the WDW Radio Dream Cruise 2.0.

I thought of this idea during the 5 Hour Show in February, when Lou and crew were getting a caricature for the next Dream Team auction (ironically enough, I won the auction for this item!).   It was easy to see how much the Dream Team meant to Lou.   Just a few weeks prior to this show I found out that I was going to be onboard for the Dream Cruise 2.0, and I wanted to use the opportunity to do something special to thank Lou for all he does for us (entertaining us on live shows and keeping us informed with the podcasts) and also let him know how much WDW Radio has come to mean to me.  Anybody who knows Lou knows that you can help him by helping someone else so what better way to say thanks than to raise money for the Dream Team.   As soon as I came up with this idea, I ran with it.  I remember I was chatting with Christy soon after I came up with the idea, and she said that I should go for it.  I don’t think either of us realized how big of a project this would become.

I approached my parents, and they thought that this was a great idea.  We originally set a goal of $500, but I quickly raised it to $750.  I wanted to make a HUGE difference, and I thought that $750 would do it.  We thought up ways to raise the money by the cruise, and came up with many ideas that didn’t make the cut, including a car wash and asking for sponsors for us to run a 5K (a VERY strong storm called a derecho hit our area on June 30 and it took my community all summer to recover so most of the summer fundraising ideas had to be cancelled and replaced with storm cleanup).  A few ideas were successful though, including not one, but three bake sales.

In February I made an appointment with our school district superintendent, Dr. Fipp.  We sat at a very large table and I explained that I wanted to have bake sales in March, April and May to raise funds.  I explained the Dream Team in detail and my desire to help kids get to Disney.  We discussed prices, location and times.  Then she told me that I had to get it approved by the Board of Education.  I wasn’t sure why things had to be so complicated, but I went before the Board with my idea, answered their questions and got approval.  When you think bake sales, you probably think of a table of cookies.  Oh no, not these three!  Our first one was kind of a test run in April.  We wanted to see what we needed more of, less of, etc. for our next one.  My mother and I made 3 dozen of everything from cookies and cupcakes to chocolate-covered strawberries and chocolate covered pretzels.  It was held after school in an area that you have to pass in order to leave the building.  We were SWARMED!!!!  People came from all directions, and a few friends and I struggled to keep up.  We were sold out in 15 minutes. We definitely learned to make MORE next time.    Our April bake sale was just as successful but this time parents were sending in requests and teachers were ordering food in advance.  The May bake sale was a month later and a little different. Instead of selling the items after school, we sold them during lunch for the elementary kids and middle schoolers (I was in eighth grade at the time).  We made a lot more items including a few items aimed for the younger kids like Dirt (gummy worms in chocolate pudding covered in crushed Oreos) and Jell-O and some for the teachers, like strawberry shortcake shooters.  We did so much better this time!  The elementary schoolers came in with envelopes that their parents gave them with money so that they could buy a treat.  I remember that one boy gave me and envelope that his mom wrote on. I thought it was just so cute and it was the moment when I realized the caliber of what I was doing – I will help change somebody’s LIFE!  I actually saved it and it still sits on my dresser.  I took a photo of it so you guys could see.  It said “Money to buy a treat at lunch for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.”  Everything at these bake sales was 50 cents each.  Think about that for a second.  That is a LOT of baked goods! And let me tell you, we could NOT get the smell of cookies out of our house for DAYS!

Another thing that I did was hold a letter campaign for relatives.  We sent out letters bearing the Dream Team logo and explaining what I was trying to do in May and June.  I got a lot of donations just from sending out a simple letter to a few people.

I was able to hold a yard sale over the summer.  It was in late August, and it was HOT!  I woke up early in the morning to set up and stayed out in the heat until late in the afternoon. We sold a lot of items, but still left with more stuff then we were hoping for.  The deal was that if I helped out during the yard sale, all of our profits went to the Dream Team Project.  Since I did this, more money was added to the grand total.

Our last fundraising effort was a coin drop at school in September but that had to be cancelled, as well.  Another side effect of the June storm was mold in the school so we didn’t go back until the very end of the month.  That was okay – I had already passed my goal of $750 and was excited to see what I would actually end up with.

Of course, I thought it would be REALLY fun to present Lou with a giant check like they do on television shows.  Presentation matters, right?  We ordered it towards the beginning of October and it came two weeks before the cruise.  I was so excited!  I was actually going through with this.  And in just a few more weeks, I would be on a Disney cruise holding it once again.

November 4th came faster than I could have imagined.  The months had flown by and I was on the ship, in the D Lounge talking to my new friends before we sailed away.  I knew then that I wasn’t going to be as shy as I usually am when I get up on stage.  In the blink of an eye, it was (sadly) the final day of the cruise.  I woke up and went to Cabana’s for breakfast.  My brother and I ran around finding a few picture frames to finish our Midship Detective Agency missions (an activity on the ship that we did) before it was time for the WDW Radio pool party.  After the pool party, there was about an hour before the farewell party.  We got dressed in our dinner clothes (dinner was held immediately after the party) and I grabbed my speech and the check.

Then came a feeling that I had never felt before.   I was SO excited and nervous at the same time that I thought I was going to explode.  I was literally pacing around the room with my speech in hand, reading it over and over again.  I started sweating about the small stuff.  What if I unroll the check upside down?  What if I drop something?  What if, what if, what if.  That’s all that filled my mind on the way to the farewell party in Club Evolution.

When we were waiting to get in, I held the paper so that the words would face me and practiced over and over again.  I was surprised that nobody mentioned that I was talking to myself.  What seemed like an eternity later, we finally walked in and took a seat.  We were lucky enough to get seats right in front of the stage and right in front of the steps.  I talked to a few other Box People like Fran and AJ before Lou and Beci approached the stage.  I got chills.  Keep in mind, I knew that I was supposed to receive a cue, but I had no idea when or who was going to give it, Christy or Beci.  Lou thanked us all for coming and announced the winners for the flag and door decorating contest.  Next was the auction.  The auction was for the Dream Team, so I knew that my time was coming soon.  Christy grabbed the mic from Lou, so now Beci and Christy had the microphones.  After revealing the total from the auction, Beci and Christy started a “But wait, there’s more” banter.  Beci said, “I think that there is someone in the audience who has something to add to that”, and I finally knew that it was my cue!

You could tell that I was happy because I SKIPPED on stage which just shows how excited I was.  (I had no idea that I did that until my parents told me later.)  I said hi to Lou and he replied “oh…hi,” almost as if it was a question.  I could tell that he was expecting anybody but ME to be on stage.  I turned to face the audience and Lou grabbed my shoulder.  “For the record, I have no idea what is going on,” he said giving off a laugh.  I knew deep down he was probably VERY nervous because of the surprise on the cruise the previous year when he was roasted.  Beci gave me the microphone.  I held up my paper, and started to recite my speech.  It was my time … what I had been waiting for.

Re-watching the footage that my parents took, I thought it was interesting how the mood changed as soon as I mentioned The Dream Team.  Lou looked down and it got very quiet in the room. Everybody realized what I was about to do.  However, before I mentioned the check, I talked about how I got involved in WDW Radio.  When I said my screen name in the box, everybody clapped and made noise, which made me feel great.  I knew I was in a room with people I had talked to before.  I went on, talking about how I raised the money.  Soon enough, my brother handed me the check, and I unrolled it. Everybody clapped even before I said the total (the grand total ended up being $1067.00!).  I looked to my left and saw Lou looking back, smiling very wide.  He hugged me, and said things like “Way to go, kiddo” and “I am so proud of you.”  I don’t think I could have smiled any more.  We broke apart and we took pictures together with the check.

You might not know it, but I am really, REALLY shy.  I only stuttered once, held the check correctly and everybody laughed when they were supposed to.  I was so comfortable on that stage that it was unbelievable (but I was really happy to get off the stage anyway).  I think that the reason I wasn’t as nervous as I usually am in front of people is because I knew I was in front of my friends!  I wasn’t in front of a classroom, where I am only comfortable with a few people in the room.  I wasn’t performing in front of a bunch of strangers.  I was in front of people that mean a lot to me.  I knew that everybody would understand the jokes and there wouldn’t be awkward silences.

The moral of the story is that doing this brought me a lot of happiness.  My parents have always told us that it’s better to do for someone else than for yourself.  No matter how big or small the donation – or even if it’s not money but time, food or toys – we can all make a difference in someone else’s life.  My suggestion is to find a charity that supports a cause that is meaningful to you and then look for a corresponding group of people that work to aid what you love.  My brother, Austin who is 11, raised money for the ASPCA because he loves animals.  Both Austin and I have fundraised for the Special Olympics and a good friend of ours, Courtney, collected thousands of stuffed animals for the kids in Haiti after their natural disaster.  When you help somebody to this magnitude, you feel so joyful and blissful afterwards.  It’s unlike any other feeling.  It is probably the best feeling you can ever have.

Do you have a charity that you are passionate about?  Do you have any questions for me?  Leave a comment below!

Congratulations to Lindsey D. who got last week’s “Where in the World?” correct.  It was the top of the Adventureland sign in Magic Kingdom.

This is my final blog.  No not forever, just of my first year.  That’s right!  My 1 year anniversary is coming soon!  December 6th is the big day.  I can’t believe it’s been a year already. I am looking forward to all the fun we will have together in my next 52 blogs!

See ya REAL soon!

Quote of the Week:  “Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever.” –Walt Disney



7 thoughts on “The Journey of the Big Check on the WDW Radio Cruise 2.0”

  1. CriesDuringWishes says:

    Hi Mak & box peeps,
    This is such a great story. I know this seems silly but I am relieved I finally understand how you transported that giant check in your luggage (rolled up…. Duh!)
    The Dream Team rocks and Make A Wish is such an awesome charity. But my fav is the CHARGE syndrome foundation, because my son has CHARGE. Check it out 🙂
    See ya Wednesday!

  2. Fran Cassano says:

    You really impressed all of us in the audience with your dedication, poise and heart. We were clapping so hard for you and there were some tears welling up, too. There aren’t a lot of people who do what you accomplished. The backstory alone is incredible. And boy, did your treats sound yummy! We all enjoyed getting to know you and your family as friends, but we left the ship looking up to you as an inspiration.

    What a wonderful post to commemorate your first year of blogging!
    : ) Fran

  3. Tony E says:

    Awesome job Mak! 🙂 I got teary eyed reading about all your fundraising. The world needs more people like you.

  4. Kathy H. says:

    Wonderful blog Makena! I am so proud of all the hard work you did to bring that check to Lou! And, to get on stage too! WOW! That is so awesome!

    I had tears in my eyes while I was reading your post. So, so wonderful. Just think of the kids you helped!

    Hope to meet you someday!

    (AskMaggie’s Mom)

  5. Jim O says:

    Great story Mak! You’re an inspiration to all of us! Would love to see the video of your speech and Lou’s reaction.


  6. Jamie R says:

    AWESOME job Mak!! 🙂 SOOO very PROUD of you!

  7. Alyssa (ajwiseman09) says:

    Seriously, I am sitting here crying while reading this. You are an amazing person Mak and your parents should be so proud.