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Free Disney World trip for DC-area military families fighting cancer

The group has landed in Orlando and is about to board the Disney Express to Disney World. (Courtesy Ashy Palliparambil)

WASHINGTON — Eighteen D.C.-area military families fighting cancer are enjoying a free Independence Day holiday weekend at Disney World.

The all-expenses-paid trip was organized by the USO of Washington-Baltimore in partnership with Disney and American Airlines. Recipients of the trip are either service members or military spouses being treated by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Oncology Department.

“It’s going to be an awesome trip,” said U.S. Army veteran Evan. “I’m a cancer survivor, I’m a soldier, I’ve been to Iraq, I’ve been to Afghanistan and I get the chance to spend some time with my family. So, I love the opportunity to be able to do that.”

The group was given a celebratory send-off Thursday morning at Reagan National Airport.

Before boarding a plane to Disney World, two of the group’s military children lead the party in the Pledge of Allegiance. (Courtesy Randy Stillinger)

After pumping up the children by leading them in a group shout about going to “Disney World,” WTOP Senior Sports Director Dave Johnson, on behalf of all those gathered, thanked the military families for their service.

“We enjoy each day because of what all of you do,” Johnson said. “I just hope you enjoy each minute, each hour as you get on that plane and just have some fun — enjoy!”

Service member Sean described the moment as overwhelming.

“It means a whole lot,” he said of anticipating being able to hang out with his kids and watch them have fun. “I’ve been in the Marine Corps for about 25 years and I’ve missed a lot of them growing up.”

Ashy Palliparambil, the USO-Metro’s manager of resiliency programs, said that on last year’s trip, many families who were sharing so many similar challenges bonded during the experience and remained friends.

“Our mission is to lift the spirits of the service members and their families,” she said. “And this is definitely one amazing way to do that for them.”


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