By RODNEY HO/ firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.)
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.”
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.
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.