In January, Caroline Kraddick — daughter of the late DFW radio personality Kidd Kraddick — announced that she was about to fulfill a longtime dream: A Kidd’s Kids trip for teen-agers and their families.
The charity, founded by her father in 1991, has annually taken terminally and chronically ill children and their families to Disney World. But the trips were limited to children 5 to 12 years old. Caroline Kraddick, now CEO of Kidd’s Kids, wanted to expand the age range with a trip for children 13 to 18 and their families.
During the weekend, the first Kidd’s Kids trip for teens took place. It was a smaller affair than the longer-running Kidd’s Kids trip: While that November jaunt takes 50 families, this one took along only about a dozen to Give Kids The World Village in Orlando.
“It was supposed to be a dozen,” Kraddick says, “but last-minute we had one family that couldn’t make it. The mom has cancer, so they weren’t able to come, but we’re going to send them on their own when they’re all in good health.”
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Kraddick — who used to go by Caroline Cradick but has changed her last name to her father’s professional spelling — says the charity wanted to start small with its first teen trip, which made for a more intimate trip. During the main Kidd’s Kids trips, Kraddick and the “Kidd Kraddick in the Morning” cast often bond with certain children and families, but the size of the trip makes it difficult to get to know everyone. But the teen trip was different.
“They were very aware that this is kind of my baby and a labor of love,” Kraddick says. “They really were very appreciative of me, so it was very sweet to see them. I got to bond with a few of them in particular, but I got to know all of them, which was great. Because when there are 50 kids, its nearly impossible to meet all the kids. But this way I got to know them on a much deeper level.”
She got particularly close to one family. the Garcias, who have three teen children. The youngest, 14, had just been diagnosed with cancer in November.
“It’s not a prognosis that they’ve been aware of that long, so they’re still figuring everything out,” Kraddick says. “A lot of the kids that we have contact with, their parents have things down to an art form on how to deal with their children’s illness. But they’re still in the throes of trying to figure everything out, so everything with them is very fresh.
“That was pretty heartbreaking for me to see,” Kraddick continues, “but she has a big brother who’s 17 or 18 and he just graduated high school, and just to see him take care of both of his little sisters was really awesome. He actually told me after the trip that he thinks he wants to go into nonprofit [work], just seeing what we do. He was really inspired, so that kind of made my whole trip.”
Give Kids the World Village provides housing for wish-granting organizations such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Kidd’s Kids. Kraddick says it’s like its own amusement park, with 24-7 ice cream, a miniature golf course, a water park and other amenities for the children and their families. Kraddick says the trip also included a visit to the Magic Kingdom and to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
“It was pouring rain pretty much the whole time we were there, but the families did not let that affect their trip at all,” Kraddick says.
Laura Marano, one of the stars of the Disney Channel series “Austin & Ally,” made a surprise appearance. “She’s filming a move right now with Robert De Niro, so she flew in from Atlanta,” Kraddick says. “She’s our Kidd’s Kids ambassador this year, so she’s been spreading awareness. She came on the November trip as well. The teens just went absolutely crazy about her.”
For Caroline Kraddick, the personal side of Kidd’s Kids goes beyond it being founded by her father, who died July 27, 2013, at age 53. She was a key inspiration for Kidd’s Kids.
Kidd Kraddick was inspired by a news story about a woman whose car had been stolen but who was far more concerned that her 7-year-old daughter’s wheelchair had been in it. But for Kraddick, there was another factor: Before Caroline was born in 1990, doctors told Kraddick and his then-wife, Carol, that their baby might be born with a twisted femur and be unable to walk.
Kraddick has said that he struck a deal with God that if his baby was able to walk, he would use his radio show to help other kids. Caroline was born healthy, and her father kept his end of the bargain.
“Even though it was raining, we were all sitting there watching the Epcot fireworks show, which is one of my favorite things to do,” Caroline says of the trip. “I was just crying because I felt like I’d fulfilled my dream of what I wanted to do. I knew how proud my dad must’ve been on all of our trips, because this was his baby and how big it was.”