SeaWorld Inspiring Family Connections Contest Winners
SeaWorld Inspiring Family Connections Contest Winners

Raeanne Sprague—Grand Prize Winner!

Our most special family moment to date was when our daughter wanted to recreate our wedding. My husband and I got married at a local park. Our daughter loves to look at our wedding pictures and talk about that special day. She often tells us she will get married at the same spot, just like Mommy and Daddy. Her groom of choice, her brother.

A few months ago our daughter (age 4) decided that she and her brother (age 1) should get married that weekend. She had a special marrying dress picked out, complete with shoes and a fancy hairstyle, and thought a reception at Olive Garden, her favorite restaurant, would be ideal.

That weekend we got dressed up and went to the park for their wedding. We did a re-enactment of our wedding; parking, walking down to the special spot, they acted out a wedding and kissed and then danced and played in the area we got married. We talked about our wedding day and all the guests that attended and what a special day it was. After the ceremony we took pictures and then drove to the restaurant for the reception.

Our day ended with another look at our wedding pictures and a fun evening at home talking about the event 6 years ago and the special re-enactment with our children. This was an average Saturday that turned into a special moment for us as a family and a chance for our daughter to feel as if she were a part of our special day even before she was born.

Joey Lynn Resciniti—Runner Up

Just before our only child, Julia, turned three, she was diagnosed with a moderate hearing loss. The time between the diagnosis and getting her first pair of hearing aids was trying. It seemed like life might never be normal again as my husband and I both worried about Julia's developing speech and what it would be like to keep the aids in her little ears.

The evening after she first got the hearing aids, we took a family walk. It was the same walk we always took, ordinary in every way, except that this time Julia ran to the guardrail at the end of our street to investigate the line of cars passing by on the road below. She wanted to see what was causing all the noise. She'd never heard the constant whoosh my husband and I nearly tuned out. "Those are cars! You hear the cars!" I told her with a tear in my eye.

I was choked up for most of that walk. Julia stopped to listen as a man dragged his garbage can over his black top driveway. The three of us took time that night to stop and listen to all of the sounds around us. It's been three years since that night and still taking the time to enjoy each and every precious sound.

Ashley Bond—Runner Up

I was grumpy. I had been having a bad day from the start. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Lots of little things added up to make it a very unpleasant morning. We had a lot of errands planned for the day and in the midst of getting the kids ready I needed to just sit and take a minute to relax and regroup. Then it happened and it was really quite simple.

My son, who is 2, was playing in his room and my daughter, who is nine months and just learned to crawl, had made her way to his room. I could hear him in his room but couldn't make out what he was saying. I tip toed to the door to peek in and listen. What I saw melted my heart. He was reading one of his favorite books to his sister and she was giggling. It was such a sweet moment and so endearing that it made me forget all about my bad day. So what if my hairdryer broke and my hair was frizzy and I was out of milk and couldn't find the shoes I was looking for? I had my kids and they had reminded me to not get so caught up in the bad things but to take the time to appreciate all the wonderful little things.

Marcie Sullivan—Runner Up

My favorite vacation was a camping trip where Murphy's Law ruled: everything that could go wrong did go wrong! While driving to the campsite, we were caught in a terrible rainstorm. The weather didn't dampen our spirits, but we were delayed when a tire went flat. While my husband changed it, my kids and I prepared lunch to eat in the car, only to realize that we took the wrong bag: all of our snacks were still in the refrigerator at home! After a quick trip to the fast food drive thru, we arrived at the campsite. It was lovely but very wet and thunderous, so we decided to wait before setting up camp. As thunder and lightening grew worse, we finally decided to spend the night in a local hotel; no camping! But we did make s'mores in the hotel lobby's fireplace and told ghost stories in our hotel room! We still reminisce about this vacation often, and joke that it was the best camping experience yet.

Laurie Harrison—Runner Up

With my two children gone and in college, I feel as though I have lost touch as being what I was born to be, a mother.

I learned long ago that if something has left a hole in your heart, you need to find something to fill it. I took up gardening. I nurtured seeds into plants and tended to them the best I could.

I spent countless hours reading about gardening. If I were going to delve into this venture, I would certainly need guidance to do it properly so I researched expert advice to answer the many questions about being a caretaker of a garden.

What food would grow the plants the healthiest? How do I keep the garden neat, orderly, and weed free? When should the plants be pruned and groomed to produce the best they have to offer?

After a couple months, I realized that I was attempting to replace parenting with gardening. I came to see that the two are similar.

Gardeners and parents, alike, start with a seed and do the best they can to make it grow and prosper. In both gardens and homes, there comes a season when the caretaker's job is finished. The mother or gardener can relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Yes, gardening is much like mothering but the empty hole was not filled all the way and I wondered why?

The answer came. The day my daughter brought her children, my lovely granddaughters, to come and stay with me for three weeks so she could concentrate on her finals in college.

Suddenly, the normally empty laundry basket was full. The clean surfaces of my home were marred with fingerprints and snack crumbs. The floor was strewn with toys. My vacuum lay disassembled on the rug waiting for me to dislodge the wayward crayon after I finished the sink full of dishes.

But all that chaotic mess could wait.

I think that I finally found the missing link. The reason to why gardening just didn't seem to quite fill that agonizing, empty, hole in my heart. I was anxious to see if I was right.

I gathered up my granddaughters and to the garden we went. Soon I had them down in the dirt, digging, laughing, playing, and most importantly, learning.

I talked about seeds, dirt, soil, bugs, compost, and everything and anything that I had been learning.

I knew then, for sure, why my garden didn't completely ease the emptiness.

Sharing and passing knowledge on in any venture is where the true joy lies. To teach yourself is wonderful. To teach someone else what you have learned is even more rewarding. To learn together is the ultimate gratification.

When parenting, you guide your children by teaching them. There is a constant sense of accomplishment in doing so.

The hole is in my heart is no longer empty. Instead of gardening quietly to myself, I share what I learn whenever and wherever I can.

Today, I am sharing this new enlightenment with you.

Gretchen Ough—Runner Up

My children and I share a special everyday moment that brings us closer together and many laughs. At dinnertime, one of us will initiate the High/Low game. This is where we ask each other what the best part of our day was and what the worst part of our day was. It makes us reflect on our day, and spend time learning about our little family's day. My three year old Otto, didn't get it for a while. He would tell us that helicopters and dinosaurs were the best and worst part of his day, EVERY TIME! That would send the rest of us into a laughing fit!! He is starting to reflect now, and I live for this moment!

Renee Karr—Runner Up

Our most special family moment, the one that came to mind first was when my son gave his favorite toys to his baby sister.

Dylan was two years old when I had Jordan. While I was pregnant I did not know how much Dylan understood that he was going to be a big brother.

He got to come up and visit us in the hospital. He would look at her, touch her hand and smile. I wondered how much he understood. It was not until we took Jordan home for the first time did I know.

Once our visitors left from welcoming her home, and we were getting ready for bed Dylan asked me where she was going to sleep. I showed him the basinet in our room. Dylan looked at it, and watched as I placed Jordan inside. He looked up at his dad and I and asked, "Where are her toys?" We kind of chuckled and told him she didn't have any yet. At that moment my son takes off and comes back with his most favorite toys. He placed his small Buzz Lightyear and Zurg in her basinet and said, "Now she has toys" and bent down and kissed her head.

My husband and I just thought it was so loving and considerate. This was the first of many moments between these siblings. Today these two are the best of friends. They have a bond like no other, and it all started with sharing Buzz and Zurg.