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NORWALK — Next winter, as you’re battling the weather and the cold, Angie Daniels will be on a cruise to the Bahamas and a visit to Disney World.
“I’ve got butterflies in my stomach,” Daniels said excitedly in the lobby of STAR, Inc., a nonprofit that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Me too,” said Trish Elmore, who will be attending Camp Horizons for a week this coming summer.
The two had been granted their dream trips, all expenses paid, by Friends of G, a nonprofit based in Glastonbury.
The day they were given the news, STAR staff invited them into a room where a suitcase with a camper’s pillow and sunglasses and a Mickey Mouse balloon taller than Angie awaited.
Angie grabbed the balloon and hugged it so hard the head popped off and floated up to the ceiling, where it smiled beneficently down at the scene of excitement.
“When I saw that, I knew I was going to win,” Elmore said. “I was so happy!”
“I’ve never been on a trip, so it’s been my dream for a long time,” Daniels said. “I’ve never been on a big boat. I’ve never been in a hotel. I’ve never been on an airplane — and I’m afraid of heights. Oh, boy!”
Friends of G was started by Kate and Dan Okun — whose daughter, Gianna (or G for short), was diagnosed with autism and Rett syndrome at a young age — and Kate Okun’s mother, Lynn Damon.
“We wanted to help people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism on the spectrum — adults,” Kate Okun said, explaining adults often don’t have as many resources as children. “We want to help adults with disabilities live the best life that they can.”
This was the first year that the nonprofit has worked with STAR. Okun said in addition to funding Daniels and Elmore’s dreams, Friends of G funded over a dozen wishes throughout the state during the holiday season.
She described getting to meet Daniels and Elmore as heartwarming.
“I don’t think they even understood that they made our month,” she said. “We were so happy for them, and they’re just genuinely the nicest people ever.”
The two had the same to say about the Okun family. Then the conversation turned back to daydreaming about their upcoming travels.
“I’m getting a new swimming suit,” Daniels said animatedly. “I’ve never met Mickey!”
“I’ve already got a swimming suit,” Elmore said. “(Camp) will be fun — with people and everybody.”
Those interested in learning more about or contributing to Friends of G can visit www.friendsofg.org.