By Ashley Wiehe
Going on vacation should be easy, right? Well, add a wheelchair, sun sensitivities and other medical equipment, and it might not be.
After struggling to find a trip for members of her own family, Becky (Agness) Kirby, a 1994 graduate, decided that there has to be a better way.
“I wanted to find someone who would plan a trip for (my sister) and her husband,” Kirby said of her sister, Laura (Agness) Everill, a 1990 CLHS graduate, who has spina bifida. “Since we did so much searching and couldn’t find anything, I though it was a niche that needed to be filled.”
From there, her travel agency and not-for-profit business was born. While the agency provides travel for anyone, The Greater Go also facilitates “positive travel experiences for individuals and their companions: really anyone affected by special needs,” according to her website.
“The idea is that we want to make travel as possible as it can be,” she said.
Through her business and feedback from others, she researches destinations, means of transportation and other needs that may arise for someone with disabilities or other special needs.
Through her business, she has also developed The Greater Go Foundation that provides free trips to those in need while also providing that feedback to help others.
“It’s not just someone who needs a trip but someone who could help us share out that information,” she said, adding that with any trip booked through her company she is able to make more and more contributions to the foundation to open the opportunity to more families.
The first trip that they awarded was to Sean and Allison (Resch) Breininger, 1997 and 1998 CLHS graduates, respectively. Sean was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia and needed special accommodations to make their trip possible. With Kirby’s help and their own feedback sheet, the Breiningers set off on their Caribbean cruise vacation.
“To go from spending days, weeks, months in the clinic and hospital to being on a seriously luxurious and swanky cruise ship where everything was thought of and taken care of and the views were right out of a screen saver, was ... I don't even have words for it,” Allison wrote in her blog after the trip.
The trip was a much-needed break for the couple that had faced new diagnoses and ongoing doctor’s appointments.
“We were in a place where everyone went above and beyond to make sure that everyone’s needs were met. They thought of everything before we could even ask, and if we did ask for something, it was always met with a smile and a, ‘My pleasure!’” Allison Breininger wrote. “It was a complete 180 from the life we typically live, and it was such a welcome change!”
Throughout their trip, they both kept notes and feedback on the experience — how Sean was able to stay out of the sun on the ship and on shore excursions, how the motorized scooter that he used was difficult to keep charged and functioning, and what areas of the ship worked best for their situation. They even ran into another couple that had similar travel issues and talked about the challenges they were facing on board.
“We exchanged stories and contact information, and we told her about The Greater Go,” Allison wrote. “She seemed relieved to know that an organization like this exists and can be helpful to them as they travel.”
While the free trips are limited, Kirby hopes that she can keep expanding the foundation to offer this opportunity to more and more couples.
“We are starting to do more of the things that we want to do,” she said. “I really feel good about where we are at.”
For the Breiningers, this trip was a godsend.
“All in all it was an absolutely dreamy week, and we are so grateful to The Greater Go for the opportunity,” Allison wrote.
Find out more about The Greater Go at http://thegreatergo.com.