During my recent trip to the Family Forward Blogger Retreat at Universal Orlando Resort I had the privilege of visiting Give Kids The World Village for a Blogger Bash pool party and barbecue dinner. I had heard about this organization for children with life-threatening illnesses and felt honored that I was invited.
Upon arrival by charter bus our Family Forward group was taken to The House of Hearts (where wish families check in) to get signed in and to be paired into groups for the tour. As we entered, walking through the village, I was amazed at all the things I saw and was anxious to learn more about this organization.
A little background on Give Kids The World Village:
The story begins where a little girl had a wish and the desire of one man who wanted to make that wish come true. This little girl’s name was Amy and Amy had leukemia, and her one wish, to visit the theme parks in Orlando, Florida. To help Amy fulfill her wish, the request of a complimentary stay was made to a respected hotelier. The hotelier gladly accepted, but sadly, Amy’s travel plans took too long to arrange and her wish was never granted. Amy passed away as time ran out.
This unfulfilled wish inspired the hotelier to vow that no child in need would ever have that happen again. The hotelier, Henri Landwirth, and his desire that Amy’s story would never resurface, is when Give Kids The World was born.
Henri Landwirth received the support of colleagues in the hospitality industry, including world-famous theme parks, to help him bring these special families to Florida within 24 hours if that’s what was needed. The project was named “Give Kids The World”because that’s what he intended to do – to provide magical, memorable, cost-free experiences to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.
Give Kids The World Village opened their doors in 1989.
Today the village is a 70-acre resort with over 144 Villa accommodations, entertainment attractions and whimsical venues designed for children with special needs. And with the help of generous individuals, wish-granting organizations and corporations, Give Kids The World has welcomed over 130,000 families from all 50 states and more than 75 countries. That is pretty amazing.
The tour was wonderful. We got to see the Villas where families live during their week stay at the resort. The bedrooms were spacious, the family room equipped with a television, sofa and more, and the kitchen was a perfect family-sized room with an eat in table and chairs set. The bathroom was also quite large with everything available that would be needed for a family.
As the tour continued we got to see where the children and families eat every day at The Gingerbread House Restaurant. The decor is so upbeat and fun and there are over 2000 dolls from around the world and from the thoughtfulness of Angels (volunteers).
The Ice Cream Palace is where kids and their families enjoy a delicious ice cream treat morning, noon or night. I thought this was pretty cool.
The Star Tower – Upon arriving at the Village each Wish Child receives a golden star along with an invitation from a Star Fairy to bring the star to the enchanted Castle of Miracles. They write their name on the star and make a wish and place the star in the Star Fairy’s wooden chest. Like magic the star disappears with a promise that the Star Fairy will gather up all the stars and place them in the Castle sky that night. The next day the children and their families go to the Castle to locate their star knowing they will have a permanent place at the Village. The Castle sky is home to tens of thousands of special stars. This was a beautiful room.
The Park of Dreams looked like a super fun spot. It features an interactive water garden and a wheelchair-accessible pool where children of all abilities can experience a boatload of water fun. This is also home to Serendipity, an 80-foot long ship complete with a stage for nightly entertainment shows.
There’s many more magical venues throughout the resort such as Julie’s Safari Theater, Matthew’s Boundless Playground, Marc’s Dino Putt, Keaton’s Korral, and the Happy Harbor Fishing Pond.
There are many ways in which to help at Give Kids The World. Find out how you can express your compassion by sharing your time, talents, and resources so that they can continue to welcome children to their Village, a place where happiness inspires hope.
Give Kids The World Village
210 South Bass Road
Kissimmee, FL 34746
Disclosure: The Family Forward Blogger Retreat at Universal Orlando provided bloggers and their families with hotel, food and park passes at a significantly reduced price. As always, all opinions are my own.