Editor’s note: Louie and his family visited the Village in October 2018. His mom, Kristy, wrote about their journey – from Louie’s adoption, to life at home, to their magical stay at the Village.
Ice cream is such a simple pleasure. It is something many of us love and crave and look forward to as a special treat. It brings joy and smiles and sometimes a sticky mess! That also describes life for my son, Louie. Louie loves and craves life, but along the way there have been plenty of messes to overcome.
I met Louie when he was 4 years old. He and his brother Peter bounced around various foster homes as it was discovered that Louie was delayed in all areas of development. He learned to walk when he was 3 and said his first word at almost 4. The state foster care system told us he had a chromosomal abnormality so rare it doesn’t have a name.
The first 45 days Louie was with us, I took him to 24 different doctors, therapists, and assessment appointments as we worked to form a plan. On September 22, 2014, my husband and I stood before a judge and committed our lives to raising these two very special little boys.
Just as we thought we had a handle on parenting, Louie’s health spiraled downward when he had his first seizure in the summer of 2017. Since then, his major systems have been failing. He wears braces to walk, is fed through a tube for nutrition, struggles to communicate, can no longer write, has seizures often, and much more.
Yet along this hard road, Louie always keeps a sparkle in his eye. He never aches for what he can’t do, but instead embraces what he can with great passion. I often get so discouraged about how hard life is with his 17 medications, three medical supply providers, 10 hours of therapy a week … the list goes on and on, but he remains sweet like ice cream, bringing happiness and smiles.
When we learned Louie would receive a wish trip with Make-A-Wish Mid-South, we had no idea how it would change us in so many ways. We knew the theme parks would be great, but there was one thing we were not prepared for: Give Kids The World Village.
When we walked into our villa, we found our freezer filled with “Louie’s Cookie Dough Delight.” Louie’s face lit up as he realized there was an “ice cream with my name on it!” But not just any ice cream, his favorite ice cream! Starting with personalized ice cream in our freezer (and in the Village’s Ice Cream Palace), the staff and volunteers made Louie feel like a star all week.
One of my favorite memories is mealtimes at the Village. Louie doesn’t eat much by mouth, so most meals he just sits with us as we eat. But during one meal, Louie said that he would eat pizza but wished it had his name on it, like his ice cream. Next thing we knew, there was a pizza with “Louie” written in pepperonis and black olives on our table, and he ate a whole piece!
Then there is Mayor Clayton and Ms. Merry. Louie danced with them and held their hands, they gave hugs and kissed noses. He still goes to sleep every night only after tucking in his Mayor Clayton doll. Mayor Clayton’s and Ms. Merry’s love and acceptance for Louie made him come alive like I have never seen before – so much so that I cried saying goodbye to two human-sized rabbits.
Give Kids the World opened our eyes to a way of life we didn’t know existed, a way of cherishing and enjoying children of all abilities like never before. We never fathomed a place that would deeply love and embrace our son in all of his uniqueness. A place where we could forget how hard this medical journey can be and enjoy the presence of others who “get it.”
I have never seen Louie so happy, so proud of himself, so filled with life! It was a beautiful week our family will cling to forever and remember with deep gratitude, especially when we eat ice cream. We are forever thankful for Louie’s Cookie Dough Delight!