Brooke & Brielle Make a Grand Entrance at Magic Kingdom Park!

Did you know that each day, two lucky families visiting Magic Kingdom Park randomly are chosen to serve as grand marshals for the afternoon’s Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade?


Grand Marshals in the “Celebrate A Dream Come True” Parade in Disney World.

It was my dream come true. I’ve always wished to give this experience to my children and today was a very special magical day for our whole family! We met our new friend, Mr. Dean at the fire station on Main Street at 2:30pm and there, he greeted us with Mickey Mouse hats/ears with our names embroidered on the back of each and a special certificate to honor our family as the Grand Marshals of the day.

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After that, we were led back behind the gated doors to the specially designed car, modeled after a 1912 touring car that serves as the first float in the parade. The car features a few special Disney touches, including Mickey Mouse-shaped silhouettes on the tread of each tire.

Photo Via Disney Parks Blog

We were helped inside the special vehicle and found our seats and magically, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother appeared at the side of our vehicle to greet us! She gave us a handful of magic sparkles for our journey. Next, we were greeted by Aladdin and his Genie, Ariel and Prince Eric, and MICKEY and MINNIE Mouse! After lots of hugs and kisses by all of them, we were next greeted by Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder! Eugene (Flynn’s real name) showed us Rapunzel’s REAL crown inside his satchel! After a little princess talk with Rapunzel, Brooke and Brielle continued the princess conversation with Belle and the enormous BEAST! The girls were a little scared at first but Belle showed them how sweet and kind the Beast is. That helped them become brave enough to pet his furry paw and arm. Next up for hugs and kisses were Peter Pan, Wendy, Goofy, Tiana and Naveen (The Princess and the Frog), the MAD Hatter, Snow White and the Snow Prince! Then came along Cinderella and Prince Charming with the mice and the evil step sisters! Drizella asked Brielle if they could trade out sisters for a day! Brielle said, “no way!” :) Next they gave lots of hugs to Woody and Jessie the cowgirl, tweedle dee and tweedle dum, the rabbit from Alice and Wonderland, The Queen of Hearts, Mr Smee and Captain Hook, Chip and Dale, Abu the monkey and so many other characters in the parade and even all the dancers!! The girls LOVED all of the special one on one attention and hugs and kisses from everyone. It was absolutely INCREDIBLE! To see our girls SO happy made Eric and I both want to well up with tears. It was one of the best moments of my life, Eric’s life and especially Brooke and Brielle’s life.

After all of that excitement, we heard our names introduced over the loudspeaker as the Grand Marshals of the parade and the doors swept open and away we went, leading the parade down Main Street. It was a good thing I had sunglasses on because “the moment” hit me and there went my happy tears again. Our super awesome friends, Miss Kelly and Mr. Brandon took pictures and videos the WHOLE parade route for us. Miss Kelly was right outside the gates and the first person I saw and she had happy tears just like I did. :) It was such a surreal moment. We all started waving our best Princess waves (except Eric, he waved like a Prince) and I’ll tell you what - Brooke and Brielle kept their arms in the air, waving for the WHOLE parade!! To have SMA and wave your arm for about 45 minutes with no breaks is a BIG DEAL! They were really into it with their slow Princess waves and even blowing kisses to special people in the crowd. I think they won the hearts of many that day. Mr. Dean commented that Brooke and Brielle could give cupid lessons!


Can you see our faces in the middle?

At the end of the parade route, they had a special roped off area for us to watch the parade go past. Each character made a special acknowledgement to B&B as they went past. Eric and I just couldn’t believe it.

Reflecting on our past and all the rough patches we’ve been through as a family. We know what our worst days have been, starting with Eric being deployed for training while Brooke was born, to Brielle’s diagnosis of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), then Eric being deployed to Afghanistan 5 days after her diagnosis, and then Brooke’s diagnosis a few weeks after that. Suffering through my father’s death, a clinical trial commitment for Brooke and her emergency feeding tube surgery in Utah (you can read all about that here). All while trying to learn the most we can about the diagnosis of SMA. We’ve come a long way but I think Rapunzel said it best… but for the 4 of us - that day in Disney World was the Best.Day.Ever!!

Brooke and Brielle now share something in common with a few famous faces, such as boxing champion Muhammad Ali, comedian Bob Hope and Walt Disney’s nephew, filmmaker Roy E. Disney. They have all served as grand marshals in the “Celebrate A Dream Come True” Parade in Disney World! It is a day that we will never forget!

Thank you Disney World for this very special day. We will cherish it forever!

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Our Never Give Up shirts are from the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation merchandise shop.  Get yours here!


on 2012-07-28 22:35 by Sarah

Miss Kelly made this super awesome video for us!  


Part 1:

Part 2:

A Disney Princess Wedding & More Magic At Disney World!

Brooke and Brielle were lucky enough to be flower girls in Miss Kelly’s (a.k.a. “Cinderella!”  -Don’t tell Brielle, she doesn’t know Cinderella isn’t real) wedding last week!  We were so excited to be a part of her special day and it was the most beautiful wedding.  When we planned our trip to Florida, we added in a couple extra days so we could partake in some more of the magic of Disney World!  Unfortunately, Eric could not come with us because he was not able to get the time off of work.  Luckily Miss Heather (a.k.a. “Super Nanny”) was able to step in to help out for this once in a lifetime trip!

We arrived at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Thursday afternoon, Nov 17, and we were told to wait at the entrance because the “lighting of the torch” ceremony was just beginning.  In true Polynesian style, all of the torches were lit and then there was a special fire dance and we had front row seats!  It was a great start to our vacation.

Friday, Nov 18 -

The day of the big wedding!!  We headed to the gorgeous Bohemian hotel in Celebration, FL to get ready with the other guests in the bridal party.  It was fun to get ready with everyone else and be involved in the hustle and bustle of pre-wedding preparations.  Everyone looked so beautiful – like real life princesses!   All of the flower girls were given sparkly Disney crystal tiaras from the Bride!  Once Brielle put her tiara on, she never wanted to take it off.  Brooke was just the opposite; she thought it was funny to flip it off her head…  I guess that comes with being 2 years old.  The girls were both in awe of the bride, “Miss Kelly” with her breath-taking wedding dress, veil and elegant hair and make-up.

After everyone finished getting ready, we headed to the church and the ceremony started right on-time.  Brooke and Brielle were pushed in their wheelchairs down the aisle by two other flower girls, Hailea and Bella.  Brielle did her best princess wave all the way down (flower petals were not permitted).   They both did great sitting still and the only bump in the road was Brooke singing, “Sing sweet nightingale” during the ceremony so we had to make a quick exit because she liked the way her voice echoed in the church.   

Next up was the reception and the girls were excited to dance the night away!!  They made so many new friends and partied late into the night.  What a super fun night and so very memorable for all of us.

Saturday –

We spent the day at Hollywood Studios!

We had VIP seating at the “Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage” show and it was incredible!  Brooke and Brielle were captivated the entire show.  Brooke did not like the end when Gaston and the Beast fought.  First her hands started to tremble and then her whole body started to shake.  She calmed down pretty quickly after seeing Belle in her beautiful yellow gown dancing with the Prince. 

We were also lucky enough to see the “Voyage of the Little Mermaid” show and “Disney Junior – Live on Stage” - it was Minnie’s birthday!  The girls absolutely loved the “Toy Story Mania!” ride.  We put 3D glasses on and shot our spring action shooters at targets on all of the walls. 

One thing Brielle REALLY wanted to do again was to have dinner at Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare to see Cinderella, the step-sisters, the Prince and Lady Tremaine.  Brooke and Brielle absolutely LOVE the movie Cinderella so it’s a real dream come true to meet some of their favorite characters.

After dinner we visited the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian and looked for hidden Mickey’s!  They have a little shop there where you can even buy a piece of the gingerbread house, yum!  We spotted a little boy in a prince costume and just had to get pictures.  He was such a little charmer!! 

Just as we jumped on the monorail to head back to our hotel, we realized it was almost time for the fireworks!  So we decided to go to the Magic Kingdom and see them up close, they were so amazing!  The girls were doing really well so we rode a few rides and then stayed for the night parade.  So many characters waved to them, shook their hands, blew kisses, etc.  They really felt special getting all of that attention!  We headed back to the hotel with two tired little girls and slept in the next morning.

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Sunday –

We spent the afternoon in Magic Kingdom and it was such a magical day.  We had a special meet-n-greet with Tinkerbell and her friend, Terence, in Pixie Hollow.  It was so much fun to see a Disney fairy up close!  Brooke and Brielle touched her wings and felt her hair.  She gave them some special pixie dust and then we were on our way to the castle for dinner with the princesses!  Thank you, Miss Jodi!!

Miss Kelly made special reservations for us with her friends at the Royal Table.  When we arrived, we found 2 huge princess balloons at our table!  When the princesses came to visit our table they already knew Brooke and Brielle’s names!  How special is that!!  After dinner a royal staff member brought out magic wands for Brooke and Brielle on a pillow!  Wow!  Just when you think it can’t get any better, our waitress brought out a cake with a chocolate glass slipper on top filled with chocolate mousse.  YUM!!  It was extraordinary and we really appreciate the extra effort that was put into our reservation to make it so memorable.  Thank you, Miss Kelly!!

Brielle has been wondering where all the other princes are in Disney World so our friend, Jodi, made another impressive thing happen – we were able to meet Prince Phillip, Snow Prince, and Prince Charming with their princesses at the castle after our Royal Table dinner!!  It was like a dream come true.  There they stood, waiting for us to enter.  Brooke and Brielle had the biggest smiles on their faces with their eyes as big as saucers and hands slowly waving hello.  They all came forward to greet us and crowded around Brooke and Brielle and had royal conversations.  I tried to take pictures as fast as I could and capture those once-in-a-lifetime smiles.

All of that magic and we weren’t done yet!  We still had to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse!!  The wait was only about 15 minutes and then we were greeted by Mickey Mouse himself!  They spent so much time with us and even took the time to dance with Brooke and Brielle!  Awwwww, it made my heart melt!  They were both SO happy and kept telling Minnie “Happy Birthday!!”  As we left, we followed a hallway out that ends in the gift shop, so OF COURSE we had to buy little Princess Minnie and Magician Mickey Mouse stuffed animals.  The girls clung to them the rest of the trip.  We traded pins with the cast members in the gift shop and then they brought out a big stuffed Mickey character with a pin lanyard and Brooke and Brielle were able to trade pins with” Mickey” too! 

Our last Princess to visit was Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen from the movie, “The Princess and the Frog!”  The girls admired Tiana’s beautiful ball gown and all Brooke wanted to do was snuggle up with her.

The park started to get really busy towards the evening so we ended our night in our hotel pool watching the nightly fireworks over the castle.  It was magical and we reminisced about our days in Disney.  There were so many precious moments that we will treasure forever. 


On our last day we were able to meet another friend, Brittany, who has SMA type 3 and works at the Polynesian.  She was so sweet and the girls loved meeting another friend with SMA.  She will be such a great role model for the girls as they get older.

Special Thanks-

We would like to give special thanks to Miss Jodi and Miss Kelly for making Brooke and Brielle feel like very important princesses all weekend.  Also thank you to Miss Kelly’s awesome friends, Miss Katy and Miss Jessica for driving us back and forth and Miss Beth and Mr. Mike for being tour guides in the parks!  You guys were amazing and we were so glad to meet you!  Thank you to Miss Heather for all of your help there and back, we couldn’t have done it without you! 


Surprise!!  WE’RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!!!  …again!

Princess Cinderella …from the castle …at Magic Kingdom …in Disney World …is getting married …in real life.

She fell in love with Princesses Brooke and Brielle when we visited last June for the FSMA Conference.  Since then, we have become friends and she has learned so much about Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  She is such an amazing person who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. 

The exciting news is that she has asked Brooke and Brielle to be FLOWER GIRLS for her wedding… in Disney World.   OMG!!!!!!  We are beyond excited here at the Kennedy household. 

We will be traveling in a few weeks and CAN NOT WAIT for another magical trip for a fabulous wedding for the most beautiful princess … Princess Cinderella!

Families of SMA Conference at DISNEY WORLD!!

After almost a year of planning, research, and making reservations we finally made it to DISNEY WORLD!!  It was the trip of a lifetime and worth every second of planning.  It was every bit as magical as everyone says.  We were fortunate enough to have Grandma and “Aunt Ten” come with us and it was so helpful to have them there.  We were all so excited that I don’t think anybody slept well the night before our flight to Florida.  Once we boarded the plane we all sighed with relief that we were on our way!  Brooke and Brielle were great little travelers and Brooke even took a little nap in between playing games on the ipod.  Once we landed and made it to our hotel, we freshened up and then headed to the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show for dinner.  It was a very entertaining luau with a traditional Polynesian band, hula dancing, traditional Samoan dances and the best part was a fire twirler!  At one point the cast asked kids to come up on stage to learn one of the dances.  They were asking Brielle to come up there on stage and she really wanted to go, so I went up there with her and helped her dance.  She had such a fun time and loved being in the spotlight!  After the amazing show was over, we started our walk home and looked up to see the castle in lights and fireworks above it.  It was a wonderful start to our vacation.

Day 2

“My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party” at the Grand Floridian was beautifully executed to transform Brooke and Brielle into young Royals!  They participated in storytelling and songs and then Princess Aurora appeared from the back of the room and surprised all the little princesses!  It was the first princess they saw on our trip and she took Brielle right by the hand to sing a song.  There was plenty of time to visit with Sleeping Beauty and the hostess, Rose Petal, as they came around to every table so we could get autographs and hugs and kisses.  After that, they participated in a Princess Parade around the lobby of the Grand Floridian and had pictures taken on the second level of the stairway.  After this event, Sleeping Beauty was their favorite princess, hands down.  :)

“1900 Park Fare - Cinderella’s Happily Ever Dinner” was our first glance at CINDERELLA!! 

Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine (The Step-Mother), Anastasia and Drizella were all present and the girls could. not. wait. for them to visit our table!  We watch the movie, “Cinderella,” at least 3 times a day so they know the movie by heart.  We also have the movies “Cinderella 2 &3” and the girls watch them just as often.  It was so exciting for the girls to actually meet the characters.  Brielle brought her miniature dolls of all the characters and they were a big hit, especially with Anastasia and Drizella.  The Step-Sisters played for a long time with them, made up stories, and had very bad manners.  They were pushing and shoving each other and yelling across the room in very loud voices to their mother.  It was hilarious and they had 100% of Brooke and Brielle’s attention the entire time!  The Step-Mother liked Brooke and Brielle because they were so quiet.  She told them that children should be seen, not heard!  Their eyes were as big as saucers when she was around and they were on their best behavior.  It was so much fun to experience this through their eyes, they just could not believe they were seeing the real characters.

Day 3

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique…….  ahhhhhh, what more can I say.  Mommy and Daddy were teary-eyed watching our princesses turn into sparkling princesses!  The Fairy Godmothers-In-Training gave them up-do’s, painted their nails and did their magical makeup.  It made my heart swell and I could have filled a 16GB memory card with pictures on just this, but I’ll spare you of that and give you some highlights.  :)

After getting all beautiful we walked across the hall of Cinderella’s Castle to have dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table.  Brooke and Brielle were greeted by Cinderella and we took lots and lots of pictures.  They were fascinated with her long white gloves.  They were both given an “Honorary Princess of the Day” sticker and a plastic sparkling wishing star.  After that, we went up the winding staircase to the dining room and were seated at our table decorated with Princess confetti.  While we were eating, we were visited at our table by Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Belle and Snow White.  Later, a cast member quietly asked us to come back downstairs because Cinderella had something special for the girls.  She was waiting for Brooke and Brielle with two little purses in her hand that matched the girls’ princess dresses.  Brooke and Brielle could not have been any more excited to spend more time with Cinderella!  As they opened the purses, they found their own little white gloves inside.  It was the sweetest gesture and they were so eager to put them on ASAP!  Cinderella even helped the girls put them on and was so sweet to take many more pictures after that.  That was another moment that made my heart swell with happiness.  We loved every second of this day and it only got better.  We had a special meeting with another favorite Princess… Rapunzel!! …and we were told that someone made reservations for us to have VIP seating for the night parade.  WOW! 

The parade was past Brooke’s bedtime so she stayed back in the hotel room with Grandma.  When we got seated and the floats started parading past, it seemed magical just because it was at night and everything was lit up.  We were so close to the action and some of the characters even came up to give Brielle a kiss on the hand.  She loved all of the attention and waved back at every single float that went by.  :)  One of the cast members came up to her before the parade started and gave her a little packet of pixie dust and said it was from Tinkerbell!  The cast member told Brielle to watch for Tinkerbell in the parade because she was going to blow her a kiss!  Sure enough as Tinkerbell went past she waved and blew kisses.  We all felt so special!  After the parade was over we got to keep our seats and stay for the fireworks show.  It was a perfect end to a more than perfect day.

After the parade, we decided to ride some of the rides at Magic Kingdom since the lines were so short!  Brielle loved all of them and she said her favorites were “The Mad Tea Party” tea cups, “Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel”, “Dumbo The Flying Elephant” and “It’s a Small World.”  We stayed out super late and we watched the clock strike midnight!

Day 4

Chef Mickey’s for breakfast was our first meeting with Mickey and Minnie Mouse!!  The girls absolutely loved meeting all the characters here and gave out many hugs and kisses!  The food was great too, the girls enjoyed Mickey Mouse shaped waffles, yum!

Dinner at the Garden Grill was another character meal starring Chip and Dale!  As the chipmunks were walking around we weren’t sure which was which until Brielle enlightened us that Chip has a brown nose like a chocolate chip and Dale’s nose is red.  It really surprised us that she knew that!!  This restaurant was really neat because it slowly rotated while you ate so you always had different scenery from the “Living with the Land” attraction and it finished up in the location where you started. 

Day 5

“‘Ohana’s Best Friends Breakfast with Lilo & Stitch”

We spent Day 5 in Animal Kingdom exploring in dinosaur land and playing the bongo drums in Africa.  We spent time looking for giraffes, lions, antelope, rhinos, warthogs, and zebras in the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. We were lucky enought to have front row seats at the “Finding Nemo” musical!  It was all so amazing!  On the monorail ride home,  Brielle spotted a cloud in the sky shaped like a dinosaur!

Day 6

We attended The Families of SMA (FSMA) Opening Night Meet & Greet with families and researchers.  They had a super fun carnival theme and the girls te too much popcorn, cotton candy, snowcones, etc.  :)  It was so much fun to meet other SMA families and researchers that are working so hard to find a cure!  Brielle raced against Dr. Kaspar (Gene Therapy Program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at OSU) in her manual wheelchair and WON!  Yay Brielle!!

 Day 7

We spent the day at the conference and then had dinner at Norway’s Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot! 

Princesses Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Ariel were there!  Brooke and Brielle even danced with the waitress.  :)

Rain, rain, go away!  It rained on the FSMA dessert/fireworks event at Epcot that night but it didn’t stop Brooke and Brielle!  They still visited Jasmine and Aladdin, got their faces painted and played with Children’s Hospital Boston friends in the alternate location inside!

 Day 8 - Fun in Epcot!

We had so much fun in Epcot that we just had to go back and spend another day after the conference sessions were over.  It rained again but we didn’t let that stop us.  The girls got to travel around the world and get stamps in their Epcot Passport and collected a button at the end!  They traded pins with cast members, got henna tattoos in Morocco, colored pictures in Italy and found Mulan in China.  We ended the day at “Mickey’s Backyard BBQ” and danced the night away with Chip & Dale, Minnie and Mickey, Goofy and Pluto!  At the BBQ, they asked all the kids to dance in the aisles with the characters.  We turned Brooke and Brielle around so they could dance in their chairs to watch all the fun and chipmunk Dale noticed them.  He came right over and danced with Brooke and Brielle for a really long time.  It was very sweet and they enjoyed dancing to the music.  It made our last day end on the best note.    

After all this magical fun, we were exhausted!!  It was an amazing trip and we wanted to make it as special as we could for our girls because we never know what the state of their health will be or the path that SMA will take our lives.  This has been a vacation and conference that we will all remember and cherish for the rest of our lives!  After we got home, Brielle said she wants to go back to Disney in 2 more days.  :)