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In 2010, a client of Excel’s Gerard Raymond Centre suggested that he would like to go on a trip to Florida. He spent lengthy hours researching what to do there and landed on Disney World as the place he wanted to go. The idea floated around but staff had never taken clients on an international trip before and there would be lots to do before it could happen.
It took two years and lots of planning just to get the trip organized. Planning involved more details particularly as it pertained to client safety. Since the clients who wished to go were deaf, three of Excel’s deaf staff would accompany them on the trip. Funding was organized through client parents and guardians. Plans were made to help clients through the airports, passports had to be arranged and there had to be backups for everything including medications, insurance, how to handle flight delays and shuttle service. In addition they had to plan to cover the costs of everything.
The Alberta Motor Association assisted with travel details and staff worked on details of who was responsible for what, getting signatures on forms and fundraising. There was so much details that tips have been gathered to help with future trips. Disney World became the target destination with accommodations arranged at the Embassy Hotel. The hotel offered free shuttle service to Disney and to Universal Studios and it worked well.
“If we did one thing wrong,” says Sarah Gautier, “It was in planning the trip on a “Red Eye” flight. It proved to be a very tiring first day after the long night flight.” Beyond that it was a good time with lots of rides and fun experiences. The group event went out to a Dinosaur Restaurant for supper one evening and it was a lot of fun. The trip lasted for five days and could have gone a week to cover all the things to see. Rushed though it was, the clients each bought lots of souvenirs, t-shirts and memories a plenty.
While everyone was glad to get home again, conversations on the trip went on for days after. The Rocket ride at Disney was a favourite and Universal Studios had lots of movie experiences including one on natural disasters that left you feeling like a real earthquake was happening. The clients had carefully budgeted their spending money and came back with money to spare. The biggest shock was getting off the plane in Florida to find no snow, just palm trees. Reality struck when they returned to winter in Edmonton. The food was good although too much of it. Never the less it was a Dream Come True for the clients and staff and definitely demonstrated the “Magic Kingdom” at its best.