When Kerry Cutrer learned she would not survive her battle with cancer, her first thoughts were for her daughter. The 31-year-old wife and mother wanted to leave her six-year-old daughter, Heather, with one last happy memory.
The Cutrers had talked a lot about a vacation in Disney World. Kerry knew it was now or never and decided that she would find a way to take Heather on the trip she had promised for so long. She called a travel agent and began planning.
When palliative care nurse Debbie Bourgeois found out about Kerry's plans, she stepped up to help. Debbie understood how important this final task was to Kerry and her family, and vowed to help make the trip the very best it could be.
Debbie enlisted the help of the Palliative Care team, the hospital's Foundation and Kerry's physician, Dr. Jayne Gurtler. Together, they began gathering funds and services to make the Cutrers' trip truly special.
The Foundation staff immediately hit the phones, calling local companies and Disney personnel to ask for their help. They also donated funds for the trip through the Rich Mauti Cancer Fund.
The first challenge was to make sure that Kerry would have everything she needed medically, and that she would be able to get around the park. Egan Healthcare Services was contacted and generously donated a wheelchair for Kerry, as well as funds for the trip. New Orleans Limousine Service and Windsor Limousine made sure the family got to and from the airport in comfort and style.
Once the family arrived in Orlando, they were given VIP treatment by Disney staff. "Disney really pulled out all the stops," says Foundation Development Specialist Darlene McGarry. "They added a lot of extra magic."
That extra magic began when the family arrived at their room in the park's Pop Century Resort. The room was filled with stuffed animals for Heather and gifts for her parents courtesy of Disney Hand, the corporation's community outreach division, and the hotel's front office team.
"She was just stunned," says Kerry of her daughter's reaction. "She was speechless - and that's unusual for Heather!"
But those weren't the only surprises in store for the family. Walt Disney Studios arranged a special VIP meet-and-greet with Heather's favorite Disney characters. Although bashful at first, Kerry says Heather had a great time having her picture taken with the characters.
Kerry says the family had a wonderful trip that was more special than she ever could have hoped for. She is grateful to everyone who worked so hard to make her wish a reality. "They made my dream come true," she says.
If you'd like to make a donation to the Foundation of East Jefferson General Hospital, or to the Rich Mauti Cancer Fund, please call the Foundation at (504) 780-5800.