Guest Post: Give Kids the World

8 Jul

Today’s plan is to continue getting settled in my new home in Florida and relax by the pool with my parents at their resort. While I’m doing all of this, Alison from The Peacock Diaries has offered to give some insight into an awesome place in Orlando, a place I regret never volunteering at during my previous time spent in Orlando.

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Hi, I’m Alison and I blog about training for my first marathon and other adventures over at The Peacock Diaries! For me, New York City is home and will always be my favorite place on earth, but I love telling people about another place that is incredibly special to me…

Give Kids the World is a nonprofit resort in Florida that exists to fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. It is made of magic, pixie dust, and wishes. And ice cream!

You’ve probably heard of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and you might not be surprised to know that almost half of the children who are granted MAW trips have a wish to visit Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, or something in the Orlando area. When children are granted trips to Disney through MAW (or other similar organizations), Give Kids the World helps make those trips happen.

But to classify Give Kids the World as just a “resort” is a gross understatement. GKTW provides the most magical, the most fantastic, the most memorable experiences for children and their families, giving them a week full of joy, laughter, pirates, princesses, and pixie dust. And ice cream!

It would take a dozen posts to even begin to explain all of the amazing things that GKTW does, so for now I’ll try to cover the highlights:

Families who come to the Village don’t stay in a hotel, they stay in an adorable, fully-equipped villa:

 

Photo credit: Give Kids the World

They can ride on this awesome carousel as many times as they want:

 

Photo credit: Give Kids the World

 

Everyone can explore Amberville, the world’s largest Tinker Toy structure: take a train ride, play video games, shoot pool…

…or play miniature golf on an incredible dino-themed interactive course!

 

Is that not the cutest freaking dino you’ve ever seen???

How about a life-sized Candyland game?

 

Photo credit: Give Kids the World

And then there’s the ice cream. Friendly’s supplies all of the treats for this amazing Ice Cream Palace, which opens at 7am every day. Ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? No problem!

 

And the list goes on and on: horseback riding, a pirate-themed swimming pool, a movie theater, visits by Mickey Mouse and all of his friends, a spa for princess makeovers. Absolutely EVERYTHING, including theme park tickets, meals, and transportation, is included for the special families who stay at GKTW. And those are just the daytime activities. Every night there is a different special event — a Pirate and Princess Party, Mayor Clayton’s Birthday Party (he’s a bunny), Village Idol. And once a week, every week: Christmas! All kinds of winter activities, including cookie decorating, sleigh rides, and falling snow. Santa stops by and every child gets a present (and believe me, Santa’s workshop is LOADED with great toys).

There are so many things that are special about Give Kids the World, but the thing that has always blown me away is this: Give Kids the World is almost entirely run by volunteers. There are over 1,200 volunteer shifts each week, doing everything from running activities, to checking guests in, to serving meals. Volunteers come from all over — community members, groups of college students, corporate teams. And even visiting tourists like me!

I first heard about Give Kids the World about a year ago and I think it is truly the happiest place on earth (if Walt was still here, he would agree). Last year I took a trip to Florida just to volunteer there for a few days and it was such an incredible experience. The families were so lovely, so gracious, so appreciative of any small thing I did. It was both humbling and inspiring, and I left a different person.

As amazing as Give Kids the World is, I do think it flies a bit under the radar – so I am happy to do my part to spread the word. I particularly like to tell my running friends about GKTW because so many of us will end up in Orlando for one of the races in the Disney Endurance Series. It is SO easy to take a day or even a few hours to head over to the Village and donate a bit of your time and energy to helping some really deserving kids have the vacation of their lives. You definitely won’t regret it…and I’ll bet you’ll see Disney through completely different eyes!
PS – You might be wondering how this special place came to be. If so, you should read the biography of its founder, Henri Landwirth — he has an incredible story and a truly generous spirit.
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Alison, thank you so much for sharing this special place with me and my readers. I will definitely be looking in to volunteer opportunities at Give Kids the World!

P.S. Alison has been one of the only people I’ve talked to about my move to Orlando, and I can’t thank you enough for sharing my excitement with me! You’ve been an awesome friend!

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