We had so many amazing opportunities and Wow Moments during our time at Family Forward in Florida this summer.
But none of them have stuck with me quite the way our visit to Give Kids the World Village has. I mean this was one of those experiences that permanently changes you from the inside out in ways you didn’t even know you needed changing.
Life-changing is exactly what it is, for so many.
I want to be honest with you and tell you that I almost chose not to go to this event because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle being around so many sick kids and their families. I was afraid that I wouldn’t know what to say to them.
I’ve never done sickness well, mostly because I never was in the position to have to.
I have a relatively healthy family. The worst thing I’ve had to deal with, besides the common cold when my kids were little, was a couple of stitches.
Shallow… I know.
I am not proud of it, and I do not at all feel that way today.
Today I am SO grateful that I got over my shallow self and allowed God to show me a little bit of his heaven here on earth!
The truth is that while we were there, before actually meeting any of the families, my husband asked the volunteer how she dealt with knowing that these were children who were sick and could likely die and she responded in such a way that took us both by surprise.
She said, “I don’t ever see sick kids when I am here, all I see are really, really happy kids!”
And she was right!
After having the opportunity to talk and spend time with some of the families, I came to understand exactly what she meant. I didn’t see any sick people while I was there either. I saw families smiling, laughing, and enjoying the time they had together without doctor appointments, tests, poking or prodding.
And it reminded me that I am guilty of NOT enjoying the time I have. All too often I take my family and the time we have been given for granted.
These families taught me a valuable lesson that day, and for that, I am eternally grateful!
No matter how difficult things have been or how much their illnesses have shadowed their lives when they come here it is all magical happiness and ice cream!
This is the ice cream palace that serves children ice cream for breakfast!
Actually they serve ice cream all the time, anytime a child wants they can stop in and have any kind of ice cream they want. That is sure to put smiles on everyone’s faces!
I really could not wait to introduce you to this place that has offered hope to so many families over the years – 120,000 families to be exact!
I have never known what it is like personally to live day in and day out with a family member that faces the realities of a life-threatening illness.
While we were at the Give Kids the World Resort, I shared a photo of the BBQ Party on Facebook and wrote about how blessed I was to spend time with these families and was surprised to learn that I knew people who had been touched by this place, including my own cousin and her family.
My cousin Rachel wanted to share her thoughts about their time at the Give Kids the World Resort:
I was given the opportunity to stay at Give Kids the World Resort because my son, Joey, was diagnosed with ganglioneuroblastoma, a childhood cancer, and his Make-A-Wish was to go to Disney World. Give Kids the World is where Make-A-Wish hosts their wish families.
My favorite memory of our stay there is the making/displaying of Joeys star. What it symbolizes and knowing it’s there and will always be there is very special to me.
This is a wonderful program because it gives families a chance to just BE. Your child has been given a life-threatening diagnosis and it changes your perspective on life. You are given the chance to enjoy your family without the distractions of the outside world. Your child can be a child without the worries of treatments, doctors, surgeries etc. I am grateful for the opportunity Give Kids the World gave Joey and our family.
Each child that stays at the village is given a gold star which is placed in the castle forever!
There are literally thousands of these stars covering every surface space.
Seeing all those stars and knowing that each one represented another brave soul that had passed through the village was really amazing. Children who return are able to see their stars any time they want.
And for those whose children are no longer with them, they can come back to the village and see their child’s star where it will forever shine for all to see, making the castle the most beautiful place at the Village in my opinion!
I’d like to share a story that the guide told us on the bus during the ride over to the Give Kids the World Village about the founder Henri Landwirth, or as she affectionately referred to him, the Earth Angel who had the vision to Give Kids the World.
When he was 13 years old he was taken to Auschwitz, one of the worst concentration camps……
One day they lined him up in front of the firing squad with a bunch of other people who were being kept in the camp.
One of the soldiers told the boy to run, essentially saving his life that day.
I believe that God takes the horrible things in this world and makes beauty from them, and this is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever heard!
This one little boy was saved so that he could grow up and one day offers hope to so many other children. Instead of allowing a root of bitterness to harden him, he chose to allow love to grow and overflow into the lives of as many children as possible.
Facts about Give Kids the World Village:
Give Kids The World Village is a 70-acre, nonprofit “storybook” resort located near Central Florida’s most beloved attractions. Children and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacations, complete with accommodations in the Village’s whimsical villas, transportation, donated attraction tickets, meals, and much more.
At the Village, these precious children learn that dreams really do come true, as they and their families are immersed in joy, hope, and nonstop fun for a few unforgettably happy days—a most welcome escape from the weight of their
challenging circumstances. Since 1986, Give Kids The World has hosted more than 120,000 deserving families from all 50 states and more than 70 countries.
This extraordinary, life-changing experience is Give Kids The World’s gift, made possible only through the generosity of dedicated corporations and countless individuals. For more information, visit givekidstheworld.org.
Since 1986, GKTW has served over 122,000 families from all 50 states and more than 73 countries.
- Families enjoy a weeklong, cost-free vacation that includes accommodations at
- Give Kids The World Village, meals, donated attraction tickets and more.
- With the help of many generous individuals and corporations, including Walt Disney World,
- Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, Hasbro, Perkins, Boston Market and many more,
- GKTW is able to serve over 7,000 families each year.
- Each and every day, dedicated volunteers share their time and talents with the Village.
- Each week more than 1,500 volunteer shifts are filled to help wish families experience
- their memorable vacation.
- GKTW maintains an administrative rate of just 8.3% – well below the national non-profit
- GKTW has consistently earned Charity Navigator’s four-star rating and was named the
- most fiscally responsible charity by Worth Magazine in 2010 and MainStreet.com in 2012.
- GKTW is always in need of financial and in-kind support, as well as new volunteers. To learn
- more about GKTW, visit www.givekidstheworld.org or call 1-800-995-KIDS.
A child with a life-threatening illness between the ages of 3 and 18, whose one wish is to visit any of Central Florida’s best-loved attractions, may have their dream vacation come true by first being identified by a doctor as a child with a life-threatening illness. The child is then teamed up with one of over 250 partnering wish-granting organizations from around the world, who then refer the eligible wish child and their family to GKTW Village.
Once a wish has been approved and recommended by the wish child’s local wish-granting organization, their Give Kids The World wish includes:
- Accommodations on-site in one of 140 villas
- Donated tickets to all three major theme-park resorts (SeaWorld Orlando, Universal
- Orlando and Walt Disney World)
- Meals in our Gingerbread House Restaurant and Katie’s Kitchen; and ice cream all day in
- the Ice Cream Palace
- Many other fun surprises
- Everything is entirely cost-free to the family!
Even as I am writing this today, weeks after my visit, my heartstrings are still being tugged.
We have promise to ourselves that we will never turn down a child, and we will not turn down a child ever as long as we’re here – Henri, Founder of Give Kids the World Village
The average cost per family is around $5,000 for everything. They are relying on good people like you and me to help. If you have ever wanted a charity to adopt, this is it!!
Unlike other charities where most of the money goes to the people running it, Give Kids the World is run almost completely by the kind souls who volunteer every spare minute they have.
Because of this, you can rest assured that when you send money for these families, it is the families that receive it!
If you are interested in learning more and experiencing Give Kids the World yourself you can take advantage of this special offer!
3 Night Getaways start from $335* per adult, tax inclusive (No additional fee to volunteer)
- 3-Night Hotel Accommodations
- 2-Day Park-to-Park Ticket^
- Early Park Admission◊ to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ one hour before the theme park opens
- A four-hour volunteer opportunity for you and your family at Give Kids The World
- FREE roundtrip transportation between the hotel and Give Kids The World Village provided by Quick Transportation