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CEDAR FALLS — Thirteen Cedar Valley families return tonight after a once in-a-lifetime trip to meet Mickey Mouse at Disney World.

The event marks the 19th annual trip for the Magical Mix Kids, a local nonprofit. Over the past 19 years, the organization has provided the all-expenses-paid trip to 245 area children who suffer from a chronic or terminal illness.

“It’s hard to believe this was our 19th trip with the kids,” said Jim Coloff, director of Magical Mix Kids. “We are so fortunate to have a very generous Cedar Valley that believes these kids deserve to have their dream come true and visit Disney World.”

Coloff is owner and general manager of local radio station, 93.5 The Mix, which is the main sponsor of the group and started the 501-C3 charity in 1999.

“It was very hot down in Florida and we had some minor health issues due to the heat, but overall everyone did very well from a health perspective,” said Ann Marie Neilson, the area nurse who donates her time and travels with the group. “These kids really deserved a worry-free vacation with their families. And their parents deserved this time together with their sick kids.”

The group raises money with several fundraisers throughout the year.

The next event is the Snowflake Express, a Christmas-themed train ride leaving from downtown Waterloo throughout the day Dec. 1. Another big event is the Charity Auction presented by REMAX Home Group to benefit the Magical Mix Kids, held annually on the last Friday in January.

The group pays for not just the children, but also for their parents and siblings. That includes the airline transportation, busing, hotel accommodations, Disney park tickets, meals and a few souvenirs. They provide a doctor and nurse who travel with the group in case of any medical emergencies.

Dr. Kim Neumann, board member of Magical Mix Kids, has been on the trip for 11 years and serves on the medical staff to care for the children while they travel. “Many of these families have never traveled before, due to the health concerns for their child. We try to give them the peace of mind knowing we are there to help if a problem arises,” said Newman.

Due to the severity of their health situations, special precautions are taken by the charity to ensure for the safety of the participants.

The children must be between the ages of 5 and 18, and are chosen based on their health condition and families’ financial situation.

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