Although her children were a little shy about talking to a reporter, Amanda Ballard has a pretty good idea of what they think about taking a trip to Disney World with Kidd’s Kids, the charity founded by the late DFW radio personality Kidd Kraddick.
“They are excited,” said Ballard, who came up from Nagodoches for the Thursday morning departure from Love Field.
“They’ve been counting down the days. They keep telling me they’re ready to get on the airplane.”
But what Ballard is especially looking forward to is not Disney World.
“I just want to see the excitement on their faces,” Ballard said. “That’s all that I want to see.”
The family at the airport included Amanda’s husband, Marcus; her Kidd’s Kid, also named Marcus; and Marcus’ sister Tiana, who did show off a temporary tattoo.
They were among about 25 families who attended a send-off party Thursday for the Kidd’s Kids trip. Another 25 or so families from other parts of the country will join them at Disney World for a five-day trip.
Families apply for the trip — occasionally children are nominated by a third party — and are required to meet specific criteria, such as showing a need for financial support or living in an area where the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning Show is broadcast. The syndicated morning radio show, which originates from studios in Las Colinas, is heard on stations in about 80 markets, including in DFW on KHKS/106.1 FM “KISS-FM.”
The Kidd’s Kids charity, which sends terminally and chronically ill children and their family to Disney World every year, was founded in 1991 by Kraddick (whose real name was David Cradick). He 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 his daughter 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, Kidd Kraddick in the Morning, to help other kids.
Caroline Cradick was born healthy, and he kept his end of the bargain. When her 53-year-old father died unexpectedly July 27, Caroline Cradick took over leadership of the Kraddick Foundation, which includes Kidd’s Kids.
“It’s grown so much,” said Cradick, who had not gone along on a Kidd’s Kids trip in several years. She recalled an early trip to Sea World when “we had three kids in a van when I was like 1 year old.”
The growth showed at the send-off event, which turned a hangar at Southwest Airlines headquarters into a ballroom, with catered food and high-volume Top 40 music. Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders danced with some of the children, Southwest pilots and other flight personnel met with the kids and their families, and of course the cast of Kidd Kraddick in the Morning — Kellie Rasberry, Big Al Mack, Jose “J-si” Chavez and Jenna Owens — posed for pictures with the kids.
“This year being the first [trip] without Kidd, it’s going to be emotional and bittersweet,” said Rasberry, who had worked with Kraddick for 20 years. “But my whole goal is to do him proud. And so not to be weighed down by sadness, but lifted up by the joy and my determination to make sure these kids have the time of their lives.”
The importance of the event to the show’s crew was made clear in that even producer Shanon Murphy attended even though she is recovering from surgery Nov. 11 to remove a benign brain tumor. Murphy usually goes on the trip but can’t this year.
“It’s good to see everybody that I haven’t been able to see in a while,” said Murphy, who is known on the show as “Psycho Shanon” because she started with Kraddick as an intern and essentially never left, so she was given a position with the show.
“And I hadn’t met all these kids, so it’s nice to finally be able to meet them.”
Singer Tim Halperin, the TCU grad who made recurring appearances on Kidd Kraddick in the Morning after Kraddick thought he was eliminated far too early on American Idol, began going on the trips in 2011. Halperin just moved to Nashville, but he returned because he wouldn’t miss going on the trip.
“I love getting to know the families,” Halperin said. “So I made a point to fly back.”
All the cast members had high praise for Southwest, which not only donates the hangar for the party but donates the plane for the trip, with flight crews volunteering their time. Other sponsors include Raising Cane’s, which donated some of the food for the party. Medical staff also accompany the families on the trip, which is supported in part by donations from Kidd Kraddick in the Morning listeners.
The climax of the event was a boarding ceremony in which the show’s cast and Cradick announced the name of each Kidd’s Kid and their family, and they walked a red — well, purple — carpet toward the plane as fans and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders cheered them on.
Fort Worth’s Corbin Cox was the first name called. The 9-year-old’s mother, Laci Rosas, said that Corbin and her daughter, 4-year-old Isabela, were overwhelmed.
“They just found out last night,” Rosas said. “They’ve never been to Disney World before. They thought we were going to Abilene, so [Corbin] was still asking if we were going to Abilene on our way.
“But I know Corbin is sad. He wanted to meet Kidd.”