WILTON — Christmas came a little early for 5-year-old Cora Gargano on Thursday.
Gargano learned that she, her 8-year-old sister Chloe, mother Kelly and father Anthony would be going on a trip to Florida to see Disney World and other attractions through Baking Memories 4 Kids.
Cora has spent much of her young life in the hospital after being born with a congenital heart defect and has chronic kidney disease, which will both require surgery. She also has had strokes and lives with developmental delays and epilepsy.
“She has a complicated medical history. Most adults will never go through what she’s been through,” said Kelly Gargano, who works in human resources at Saratoga Hospital.
Baking Memories 4 Kids founder Frank Squeo showed up at the family’s Wilton home on a Wilton firetruck to present Cora with a large stuffed Minnie Mouse and tell her the good news.
“This is absolutely amazing,” Kelly Gargano said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s definitely a dream come true. It’s something we would have never done for sure, so for someone to do this for us ...”
“Is amazing,” Anthony Gargano finished. “God bless their heart.”
“It’s going to be amazing just to have the family together in a resort that’s just kid-friendly, and Cora-friendly,” added Gargano, who owns a deli/pizzeria. “Finding a safe place for Cora is hard at times, but the resort is incredible. We couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Chloe was also excited for her little sister. “I’m shocked,” she said.
Her mother said Chloe helps care for her little sister by making breakfast and helping her father get Cora ready for school. Cora attends Geyser Road Elementary School and Chloe attends Dorothy Nolan Elementary School.
Cora does not talk too much, but her mother said she can say the word “Minnie.”
Squeo said some friends of his nominated the family for the trip, and they will be staying at a resort that caters to families of children with special needs.
“They don’t have to worry about, ‘Can the child get into the room, is there a wheelchair access?’ The pools have ramps. The children can sit in the wheelchairs and go into the pool,” he said.
Squeo, who has a home in Lake George, started the charity in 2012. Through money raised by selling jars of chocolate chip cookies, the organization has given 143 families week-long all-expenses-paid vacations to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World and several other major attractions in Orlando, Florida.
“The reason why I started Baking Memories 4 Kids is to give families, deserving families, a week to create memories of a lifetime,” he said.