Bert’s Big Adventure 14th annual send-off party photos

Bert Weiss before departing for Disney World for his 14th annual Bert's Big Adventure. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Bert Weiss before departing for Disney World for his 14th annual Bert’s Big Adventure. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Friday, February 19, 2016

Bert’s Big Adventure is Bert Weiss‘ crowning charitable achievement. For 14 years running, the radio host has taken kids with terminal or chronic illnesses to Disney World.

I have attended the send-off party near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for several years running. This year’s was held at the Renaissance Concourse, just a stone’s throw from the hangar where ExpressJet Airlines charters a flight for free to Orlando for the 13 families. It’s a joyous affair with balloons, a bounce house, dogs and make-up booths.

At the actual hangar, the kids are sent off in grand fashion, with dozens of folks dressed in Disney characters cheering them on.

Weiss in an interview said Bert’s Big Adventure has not suffered even as he went through a painful divorce with his wife Stacey, who oversees the organization.

“Any divorce process is a tough one,” he said. “There were ups and downs during that thing but in the overall scheme of things, it was fine. We have remained friends and great co parents. Business is no different. We do what’s best for the organization and what’s best for the kids. I’m not lying when I say things are fine.”

This is the first Bert’s Big Adventure without Jeff Dauler, who left in November and is about to compete against Bert on Star 94. Weiss did find a replacement relatively quickly: Brian Moote, a stand-up comic and actor from Seattle.

“I’ve never been to Disney World,” Moote said. “I’m looking forward to the rides. I’m like a nine year old!”

Six weeks in, he said, reception to his arrival has been surprisingly positive: “Everyone has such a good chemistry. As a comic/radio personality, it is great to hang with them every morning.”

His wife Katie Waissel (an “X Factor” finalist in the U.K. in 2010) was at the party as well but isn’t going on the trip. “I’m so proud of Brian,” she said, holding her shitzu Norman. “He gets to do great things with great people.” (She has a concert forthcoming but she can’t reveal details yet.)

Brian Moote flash

Brian Moote, on his first Bert’s Big Adventure trip, even got his own Disney jacket with his name on it.

Katie Waissel

Katie Waissel, Brian Moote’s wife and a U.K. “X Factor” finalist, was there to support him with their dog Norman. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Every year, Weiss tries to offer special gifts or adventures for his kids. One girl will get to perform with the Atlanta Hawks cheerleaders. Raynel Grannell of Powder Springs will get to “join” the team for a day and also receive a special wheelchair so he could play basketball. And the car-less Ansah family from Atlanta received a free Nissan Altima so they could take their daughter to chemo treatment in style.

“The itinerary changes every year,” Weiss said, about the four days in Disney World. “We change hotels every year. It’s really more for the staff. It’s new to the kids every year. There’s VIP front of the line access, there’s fireworks. We get in the nooks and crannies nobody else can get into.”

Ekuwa Ansah and her daughter Autumn with their brand new Audi. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Atlanta’s Ekuwa Ansah and her daughter Autumn – who has lymphoblastic lymphoma – with their brand new Audi. They did not have a car before so this will enable them to get to doctor’s appointments easier. Ekuwa – who has asthma – was so excited when she saw the car, she had to use her inhaler. A group of Audi employees pooled money together to get them a 2014 Nissan Altima.  CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Raymond Grannell of Powder Springs (right) moved his family from Puerto Rico to treat his son Raynel, who got bacterial meningitis in 2014. He suddenly became ill, lost his hearing and fell into a coma. He is on a slow road to recovery. Raymond, now a Cobb County police officer, said he's just grateful his son survived an often fatal disease. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Raymond Grannell of Powder Springs (right) moved his family from Puerto Rico to treat his son Raynel, who got bacterial meningitis in 2014. Raynel suddenly became ill, lost his hearing and fell into a coma. He is on a slow road to recovery. Raymond, now a Cobb County police officer, said he’s just grateful his son survived an often fatal disease. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Kylin quickly became attached to Bert Show host Kristin Klingshirn. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Kylin, who has multiple heart issues, quickly became attached to Bert Show host Kristin Klingshirn. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

This is my "arty" shot of the day from the bounce house. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

This is my “arty” shot of the day from the bounce house. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Comfort dog Crosby loves to shake hands with anybody. He has Leslie entranced. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Comfort dog Crosby loves to shake hands with anybody. He has Leslie entranced. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Producer Tommy Owen is on his fifth Bert's Big Adventure trip. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Producer Tommy Owen is on his fifth Bert’s Big Adventure trip. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Sean and Holland Muscio of Balloons from Holland have been donating balloon decorations for seven years for Bert's Big Adventure. "I've always been a Disney fan," said Holland. "It's awesome to send them off in style like this." CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Sean and Holland Muscio of Balloons from Holland have been donating balloon decorations for seven years for Bert’s Big Adventure. “I’ve always been a Disney fan,” said Holland. “It’s awesome to send them off in style like this.” CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

At the hangar, I put together a Periscope video where I talked to Brian Moote, Tommy Owen and Kristin Klingshirn. It’s very raw and a bit of a mess but isn’t that the point with Periscope?

And here are photos from the red carpet portion in the hangar.

In the name of security, even the little kids have to get wanded. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

In the name of security, even the little kids have to get wanded. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Brent Hardgrave, a hair stylist at Jameson Shaw, has been Captain Hook for several years now. He used to work at Disney World so this enables him to harken back to his past. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Brent Hardgrave, a hair stylist at Jameson Shaw, has been Captain Hook for several years now. He used to work at Disney World so this enables him to harken back to his past. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Margaret Ussery as Pocahontas buddies up with Darth Vader. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Margaret Ussery as Pocahontas buddies up with Darth Vader. Disney bought out the rights to the Star Wars characters so for the first time, they are now part of the mix. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Hunter on the red carpet send-off at the hangar. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Hunter on the red carpet send-off at the hangar. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Kylin absorbs the excitement of the moment. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Kylin absorbs the excitement of the moment. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Nikki Williams as Tinkerbell says hi to Kylin. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Nikki Williams as Tinkerbell says hi to Kylin. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

The view as folks enter the hangar. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

The view as folks enter the hangar. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Brian Moote on the red carpet. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Brian Moote on the red carpet. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Leslie, who has a tumor on her face, gets on the plane. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Leslie, who has a tumor on her face, gets on the plane. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

The Bert Show poses with the ExpressJet pilots. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

The Bert Show poses with the ExpressJet pilots. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Bert and Stacey Weiss may be divorced but they continue to co-parent their two sons and Bert's Big Adventure. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Bert and Stacey Weiss may be divorced but they continue to co-parent their two sons and Bert’s Big Adventure. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Stacey and Bert Weiss wave goodbye before going to Orlando. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Stacey and Bert Weiss wave goodbye before going to Orlando. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

How is Bert’s Big Adventure doing financially? I don’t have recent data. The non-profit’s most recent 990 release for the federal government, which reveals its basic finances, is from 2013. It was filed in November, 2014. A 990 for the 2014 financial year has not been made available online as of yet. In 2013, the organization raised $685,544 vs. $861, 599 in 2012.

 

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