I recently was blessed with the opportunity to visit a place called Give Kids The World Village located in Kissimmee, Florida, right outside of Walt Disney World. Being completely honest, I had never heard of this resort or the charity that runs it. I have spoken to many people and they say the same thing.
After being invited to tour the resort as part of their inaugural Give Kids The World Blogger Bash, I feel compelled to tell as many people as I can about the amazing things they do for children with life-threatening illnesses. Everyone knows about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but not nearly as many people know that Give Kids The World Village is actually the fulfiller of many of the wishes that come into Make-A-Wish.
I’ll give you a little background on how Give Kids The World Village began. It all began when a man named Henri Landwirth, a hotelier became aware that a little girl named Amy had leukemia and had one wish – to visit the theme parks in the Central Florida area. The family was given a complimentary hotel stay which Mr. Landwirth was more than willing to do. Unfortunately trip planning does not just include a hotel. The rest of the planning took too long and Amy died before being able to see her wish come true. Mr. Landwirth was deeply saddened and knew that something had to be done. Something needed to happen to make sure that there would be no more Amy’s, no more children with life-threatening illnesses that would not see their wishes fulfilled. He had a vision for what could be.
This was not the first time Mr. Landwirth would see into the future and know that there was something for him to do. When he was a teenager in Europe, his family was held captive at Auschwitz and Mauthausen. For 5 years he endured horrific events which took the lives of his mother and father. Henri and his twin sister, Margot were able to get out and eventually he would move to the United States. He was drafted into the army and was able to study hotel management which led to a job in the hotel industry. Little did he know where that path would lead him, but one thing is for sure. This world needed Henri Landwirth and his vision!
The drive and determination to survive the horrors of the concentration camps were the same drive and determination that he used to create Give Kids The World Village. Only in existence since 1986, Give Kids The World Village has hosted more than 120,000 deserving families from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. That number is astounding. The most amazing thing for me is not ONE child has EVER been turned away. That is one of Henri Landwirth’s goals. He doesn’t want there to be another Amy.
A few facts about GKTW Village:
- 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 average.
- 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.
Today, under the awesome leadership of its president, Pamela Landwirth, the vision and dream continues. Pamela was named President in 1995 after a long and successful career working with the Walt Disney World Company in resort operations management, human resource development, and project planning. She is passionate about what they do at the Village and inspires her staff and the over 15,000 volunteers she works with on a regular basis.
The motto of Give Kids The World Village is “where happiness inspires hope”. It is my wish that as you read my blog series about this wonderful organization, that you will be inspired to find out how you might be able to help. If you are a mom and your child is healthy, you realize how blessed you are. It’s one thing to know that in your head, but when you look into what GKTW does on a daily basis and then visit the resort and come face to face with families whose lives are changed, it becomes a heart and soul thing. I was deeply moved by my experience and I hope that you will be as well, as I share with you the hope they inspire.
If you do have a child who has a life-threatening illness, I would love to help you connect with an organization in your area that might be able to work with Give Kids the World Village to fulfill that wish. Please email me if you need help finding an organization in your area!
Click here for Part 2!