2 Cook Children's Employees Surprised with Disney Trips for their Families Thanks to Kidd's Kids
Story by Sydney Hanes
Cook Children’s employees Ashley Pagenkopf and Danny Peltier were in for a big surprise Tuesday when Kidd’s Kids announced their families are going on an all-expenses-paid trip to Walt Disney World!
Every year, Kidd’s Kids takes 30 to 50 children with life-altering or life-threatening conditions and their families on an all-expenses-paid, five-day trip to the magic kingdom.
Emergency medicine physician Dan Guzman, M.D., who serves as a Kidd’s Kids board member, and Cook Children's team members surprised the two families with the announcement, Disney-themed balloons and pairs of Mickey Mouse ears at the Child Life Zone.
“We’re going to Disney!” said Ashley Pagenkopf, a child life specialist in the Cook Children’s emergency department. “I can’t believe it. None of my kids have ever been and I was 12 years old the last time I went, so it’s really exciting. We wanted to take the girls but we cancelled a trip because it was just too much. None of us expected this!”
In April 2022, Ashley’s middle daughter, Averly, began having seizures and was diagnosed with a glioneuronal tumor. She underwent surgery in August and has been seizure free since. Every three months, Averly visits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for follow-ups.
“She’s doing awesome – clearly!” Ashley said. “She’s so crazy strong. Kids are so resilient.”
Ashley said she looks forward to experiencing moments of magic with her girls and other families on the trip.
Danny Peltier, practice manager for Cook Children’s Outpatient Psychiatry, says he also looks forward to building memories with his family at Disney World.
“It’s just something we weren’t able to make happen on our own yet,” he said. "So this is going to be a lot of fun for the family!”
Peltier and his children, Will and Evelyn, have a rare genetic condition called hereditary spastic paraplegia, which presents similarly to cerebral palsy but only affects their lower extremities.
“I’m excited to see their faces once we get through the gates and they can just take it all in,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun!”
Kidd’s Kids is a nonprofit founded by the nationally-syndicated Kidd Kraddick Morning Show based on 106.1 KISS FM in Dallas-Fort Worth. The annual Kidd’s Kids trip is made possible by donations and an army of volunteers, including doctors and nurses who make the trip to help the families.
“We take a team of physicians, nurses, paramedics, child life specialists and respiratory therapists,” Dr. Guzman said. “We go and serve the kids.”
Dr. Guzman says oftentimes the children and families who go on the trips have been patients at Cook Children's. The medical team’s goal is to make sure that the children enjoy the parks without having to worry about any medical needs. If any issue does arise, the team is there to help the children get through it safely.
“To be there, to enjoy it, to watch their faces and see that love – ah, it’s amazing - you can’t script that at all!” Dr. Guzman said.
Kidd Kraddick founded Kidd’s Kids in 1991 with a dream to make a difference in the lives of children and their families who were dealing with life-altering or life-threatening conditions.
Initially, the program began as a bus ride to Sea World in San Antonio, Texas. Thanks to the volunteer efforts from our partners, donors, and medical professionals, along with the Kidd Kraddick Morning Show listeners’ willingness to embrace our mission, Kidd’s Kids has grown at an exponential rate.
Since 1991, the charity has sent over 1000 kids and their families on a trip of a lifetime to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Our goal is to continue to grow that number each year.