In July, I had the privilege of touring Give Kids The World here in Orlando. This incredible organization is a 79-acre, nonprofit “storybook” resort that services children with life-threatening illnesses and their families by treating them to a weeklong, cost-free vacation.
When I decided to write the Saving for Disney and Walt Disney World® Planning Digest, I knew that I wanted to pay the blessings forward. And I knew that this organization was the one that I wanted to give 10% of the sale of every book.
Since 1986, more than 146,000 children and families have stayed with Give Kids The World. Their story begins with a little girl named Amy, a wish, and the desire of one man to make that wish come true.
Amy had leukemia and a wish to visit Orlando’s theme parks. To facilitate this wish, a respected hotelier was asked to provide a complimentary stay for Amy and her family. Although the hotelier gladly obliged, the remainder of Amy’s travel plans took too long to arrange, and her wish was never granted. Time simply ran out, and Amy had passed away.
This unfulfilled wish inspired the hotelier to make a vow that no child in need would ever be failed again. That man was Henri Landwirth, and his desire to ensure that Amy’s story would never repeat itself is a mission Give Kids The World has fulfilled since 1986.
Today the Village is a 79-acre resort with 144 villa accommodations, unique entertainment attractions, whimsical venues, and fun activities for children of all abilities.
With the help of many generous individuals, corporations and partnering wish-granting organizations, Give Kids The World Village has welcomed more than 146,000 families from all 50 states and 75 countries.
When we visited in July, we talked on the drive there about how sad it must be. We almost thought we would be walking into a hospital. We were so wrong! Give Kids The World is a magical, inspiring, happy place. The volunteers and staff are friendly, outgoing and ready to help however they can.
We walked through the resort and heard stories of the beautiful children who had visited the resort over the years. From the little boy who wanted to be a dinosaur (and his wish was fulfilled in the form of a putt putt course) to the little girl who was able to experience her very first Halloween at the village, every story reminds you of the incredible blessings that Give Kids The World provides to families.
Here are a few of my favorite things that I learned:
- Before a Wish child comes, they find out their favorite flavor of ice cream. They stock that flavor and encourage everyone to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Movies are shown nightly by the pool and most are new releases that are still in the theater (they were showing “Finding Dory” in July when it had just hit the theaters).
- There is a putt putt course, train, small carnival rides and a carousel for kids to enjoy. Everything is wheelchair accessible.
- Organizations in the area donate their time, equipment and money. They were offering pony and horse rides on the day of our visit.
- They have an incredible model train set that children can enjoy.
- The siblings of the Wish child are not forgotten. There are many activities that are just for them to enjoy.
- One night during the week they have a special Trick or Treat event. Another night Santa comes to see the children and even brings them a small gift.
- Disney is not the only place families get to experience. Multiple venues throughout central Florida provide free tickets to families who are interested in visiting.
- Give Kids The World is able to bring a child to their facility in as little as 24 hours.
- Twice a week, Disney sends characters to meet with the wish kids and families can have a photo session with Mickey & Minnie. This is Holly S.
- Every child who stays at Give Kids The World is given a star in the Castle of Miracles. Thousands of stars fill the ceiling and adjoining Star Tower and represent all of the lives that have been touched.
There is so much available at Give Kids The World. They really thought of everything! You can see a full list of all the special amenities here.
The following is a list of loved ones of CouponingtoDisney.com readers who have been blessed by Give Kids The World:
- Chloe V.
- Andrew S.
- J. & A. Benson
- Holly S.
- Stetson D.
If you would like your love one’s name added to the list, send me an email at [email protected].