A Dream, A Vision, A Memory
Once upon a time (in 2004), Jack and Annette Aronson met a young boy named Justin, a nephew of one of our employees. He was 12-years-old and had been diagnosed with brain cancer. He wanted to take a tour of the salsa factory and who better to give it than Willy Wonka himself, aka Jack, with his larger-than-life personality and indelible passion for salsa, chips, hummus and dips.
He walked Justin through the plant in pure Jack fashion, recreating the story and operation with vigor, excitement and unbridled energy. Justin asked questions with a look of enchantment on his face. Their combined enthusiasm was contagious.
Justin connected with Jack and vice versa, two beautiful souls creating an everlasting bond. After the tour, Jack took his family to spy shops and magic shops and performed a few coin tricks he’s honed over the years as a father and uncle. Justin’s favorite buys were the shocking gum and the laughing pig.
Jack and Annette learned that Justin was receiving care at Children’s Hospital but, unfortunately, there wasn’t anything the doctors could do to cure his illness. The staff at Children’s told the Aronsons of a place in Florida called Give Kids the World, a 70-acre storybook resort. Located near Central Florida’s most beloved attractions, it’s a place where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to a weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacation. Together with Dave Zilko, the Aronsons put together the funds and sent Justin and his family to the all-inclusive resort.
Shortly after returning, Justin Hermansen passed away.
There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains. ~ Author Unknown
Fast forward to October 2010.
Michael, Justin’s brother, sent Jack an email.
“It’s Michael Hermansen, Justin’s older brother. I remember about six years ago, Garden Fresh Salsa did so much for my family and me. I was 14-years-old then. From the trip to Florida to the visits at the Ferndale Plant, my family and I got to experience a lot. I just wanted you and everyone else who made that trip possible for our family to know that it was something very special for me and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”
Michael continued to thank him and tell him what an impact that trip had on him.
They exchanged a couple of emails and before you know it, Michael was sitting in Dave Zilko’s office, catching up on the last six years. He again talked about how special the trip to Give Kids the World was and how grateful he was for the memories. He also talked about how the Healing Garden touched his heart and led him to where he sat that fateful day. Michael realized he wanted to dedicate his life to fulfilling the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses and their families to experience a memorable, joyful, cost-free visit to the Central Florida attractions, and to enjoy the magic of Give Kids The World Village.
Justin’s Vision was born.