In 2002, Stacey Weiss co-founded Bert’s Big Adventure along with Bert Weiss, host of the morning radio hit “The Bert Show.” They set forth on a mission to take kids battling chronic and terminal illnesses on the trip of a lifetime: Disney World in VIP style, with all the magic possible. The founders read “The Disney Way,” establishing the nonprofit using the Disney principles to create a charity phenomenon championed by listeners across Atlanta. Bert’s Big Adventure was further embraced when “The Bert Show” went into syndication across other states. Just returning from the 13th annual excursion, Stacey proudly shares insight from the heart of an organization that’s now joined together 157 families and sprinkled them all with a heaping dose of pixie dust. Meet today’s FACES of Atlanta profile, Stacey Weiss.
Where did the idea for Bert’s Big Adventure originate?
When Bert was working in radio in Dallas from 1996-98, he participated in a similar organization called Kidd’s Kids. It impacted him so greatly that we decided that when we had our own show we would do something similar. Fast forward to 2001, we started “The Bert Show” in Atlanta, and six months later, the birth of Bert’s Big Adventure began.
How are the families selected each year?
Interested families must first fill out an application to be considered. We receive hundreds of applications each year, so the review process is pretty extensive. Because we are limited by the number of seats on the plane, we are limited in the number of families that we can take each year to Walt Disney World. For that reason, our selection committee — made up of doctors and nurses throughout the community — painstakingly struggles over each application. However, while it’s an EXTREMELY difficult decision for the committee, the families that are selected typically have some of the most difficult day-to-day struggles and the longest battles, while still maintaining the most positive attitudes!
Who funds the trip?
An amazing outpouring of generosity from the community. The entire adventure is funded by donations from listeners of “The Bert Show,” corporate sponsors and grants.
This is much more than a trip to Disney World, isn’t it?
Yes, it’s about connection. Families of children with special needs often feel isolated and alone. Bringing together these families of similar circumstances for a shared experience initiates an almost-immediate bond. They are able to support each other, because they totally understand what the other is going through and can be there for each other in ways that others can’t. We help maintain those connections through our various reunion parties and other events. I can’t even begin to describe the joy that brings!
What have you been most surprised to learn about yourself along this journey?
I have learned humility. Because I am a mom, I bond with the mothers of these children quickly. They show me what true selflessness is all about and influence me to strive toward that goal in all aspects of my life.
Do your own children participate in Bert’s Big Adventure work and activities?
My own children attend all of the local events and are so kind to all of the families. They make me so proud with their loving-ness. They will not attend the trips until they are old enough to be completely selfless as a staff person — at 12 and 7 years old they aren’t quite there yet.
How can the community get involved with the BBA team?
- Host a fundraising event or help find new partnerships
- Volunteer as a Fairy Godparent
Check out the website at bertsbigadventure.org for all the specific information.
In which areas do you need major support?
Cash or in-kind donations … as I mentioned, the generosity of our community continues to humble every single one of us. Yet the more we grow, the more we need. For instance, right now, we need to find a larger plane to be able to transport the whole group together on one plane down to Orlando.
What’s your long-term vision for the Bert’s Big Adventure program and family?
That it will continue along the current path and, at the same time, that we will be able to afford to grow the adventure nationally along with the syndication of “The Bert Show.”
OK, let’s have some fun with a Disney-themed Lightning Round. Give us your:
- Favorite ride: Tower of Terror
- Park treat of choice: Mickey-shaped Rice Krispie Treats
- Top Disney sing-along song: “Let It Go” from Frozen
- Cartoon alter-ego: Tinkerbell
- Signature princess story: Brave
Where are some of your favorite local spots for shopping, dining or just hanging out?
- Shopping: Swoozie’s, Michael Kors, Fab’rik
- Dining: Avellino’s, Davio’s, 10 Degrees South
- Hangout: Tin Lizzy’s, Smokebelly, Big Ketch
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
Just about anything by David Baldacci.
Name three random, lighthearted things you cannot live without.
My lash extensions, my nails and hair bleach.
Stacey, your incredible work and the enthusiasm of your entire team is awesome and inspiring. Thank you for filling us with your spirit of hope and adventure!