CHICAGO -- The Walt Disney Company has surprised a Chicago family with a trip of a lifetime.
Quilen and Hannah Blackwell are the owners of Southside Blooms, and they have been busy making a difference on the South Side of Chicago through their nonprofit, Chicago Eco House. For nearly 10 years they have hired local youth to plant flower gardens in vacant lots. They then sell the flowers as a way to stimulate the community.
The Blackwells are a family that has worked hard to give back to their own community in Englewood, and they were recently surprised with a trip to Disney World.
"I was asking a lot of questions," Quilen said. "I was really trying to figure it out. But this? This blew my mind."
Jasmine Minor, with our sister station ABC7 in Chicago, was there to unveil the surprise and break the good news.
"We've never thought, you know, we could do that extravagant of a trip," Hannah said.
"Every flower in the garden looks up to the sunflower eventually, but it had to start from a very rough and difficult place," Quilen said.
The organization has bloomed opportunities for teens, such as Romell Little.
"I aspire to have a flower shop one day," Little said.
He said at Southside Blooms, his bosses treat him like one of their own.
"I've worked a lot of different jobs, different organizations. This is different," Little said. "They show you that you're actually family here. They actually care about you."
The work that the organization does for the community is the most important thing to the Blackwells. Quilen will make his first-ever trip to Disney World in what he said is a dream come true.
"You guys make my life so much richer," Quilen said. "For it to happen right in the shop that we built from scratch and to know that all the blood, sweat and tears that we put into this place, you know paying off."
The Blackwell family will be featured in the Disney Parks primetime special, "The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration." It airs Sunday, Nov. 26 on ABC.
Disney is the parent company of this station.