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This article was published 15/9/2011 (2078 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BEFORE three-year-old Noah Loewen died, he was granted his wish to go to Disney World.
Noah's huge smiles in photos from the trip show how much he enjoyed his time meeting Tigger and characters from Dr. Seuss books.
Because of that wish, Noah's parents, big sister and big brother are preparing to uproot from Winnipeg and move to Florida so they can volunteer for one of the organizations that helped make their son's dream come true.
Brad Loewen said his family is busy making plans to move to Florida at the end of the current school year so they can volunteer at Give Kids The World Village, the non-profit resort that hosts kids with life-threatening illnesses who are granted wishes by organizations such as the Manitoba branch of the Children's Wish Foundation.
Loewen said memories of how much they and Noah loved the place and how touched they were by the kindness of all the volunteers are what's driving his family's life change.
"It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime events that really affects your perspective of what's important and what's not important," he said.
"We've dubbed it Operation Migration. It's not all about the nice weather -- if it was in Nunavut, we would go there."
Noah was born on Sept. 21, 2005, with a rare chromosome 12q deletion. It's so rare that fewer than two dozen children worldwide are known to have had it. The condition left Noah with myriad health issues, including developmental delays, multiple infections and cleft lip and palate.
Noah was in hospital so much during his short life that "we spent 600 days in the Children's Hospital -- two out of every three days that he lived," Loewen said.
"It's hard on the other children (in the family), too. Give Kids The World didn't just do stuff for Noah, they treated our other children like kings and queens."
Noah was granted his wish to visit the theme parks in Florida by the Children's Wish Foundation, and the whole family, including mom Nichole, sister Kailyn, now 11, and brother Joshua, now 9, travelled there in spring 2009.
Noah died a few months later on July 29, 2009.
Loewen said he is able to move his family because he owns two businesses -- Find First Aid, which offers cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and automated defibrillation training, and SMART (Southern Manitoba Academy of Response Training), which trains paramedics and firefighters. He can run the companies from Florida, with trips back here, and has launched a similar company in Florida to train emergency responders.
"I love being in Winnipeg. I have grown my businesses here and I would never abandon them... but I want to give back to these kids."
Maria Toscano of the Children's Wish Foundation said she is thrilled that what started as granting a wish to Noah will result in lasting help for Give Kids The World.
"They are an incredible organization," Toscano said.
"They are a home for families around the world. Some families say Give Kids The World ends up being the wish because it is such a wonderland itself."
Toscano is hoping others can come to The Forks on Oct. 1 at 1 p.m. to help her charity's annual walk "so we can send even more kids down there (to Florida)."
Colette Krahenbuhl, a spokeswoman for Give Kids The World, calls the family's plans "tremendous.
"In our 25-year history, we have only had one or two other families move to Florida solely for the purpose of being closer to our 'village.' Give Kids The World relies on the support of our Angel Volunteers to help fill 1,500 shifts per week.
"We are thrilled that Brad and the rest of the Loewen family will soon be familiar faces around Give Kids The World."