About a decade ago, I lived in Poinciana, Florida while working in Kissimmee. Every day on my commute, I’d pass this hidden nook that held the most colorful little land – tucked away among clusters of trees. When my young daughter was with me, it would catch her eye too, and she’d get that twinkling look in those beautiful eyes, because this little land looked so magical. We would both gawk at this land each time we passed it, and we were so curious. What went on in there? What was this place? This enchanted land was Give Kids the World Village, and it really is as magical as we expected. In fact, it may be the most magical place on earth.
What is Give Kids the World?
Mission Statement: Give Kids The World is a non-profit organization that exists only to fulfill the wishes of all children with life-threatening illnesses and their families from around the world to experience a memorable, joyful, cost-free visit to the Central Florida attractions, and to enjoy the magic of Give Kids The World Village for as long as there is a need.
Give Kids the World was founded by Henri Landwirth, a man who spent his adult life between military service, learning the hospitality industry, and cooperatively launching charitable organizations, after losing his parents and his adolescence to Nazi death and labor camps. He was named one of the 12 Most Caring Individuals in America by the Caring Institute, Humanitarian of the Year by Parents Magazine, and Floridian of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel. He was so touched by the story of one young girl who passed away from leukemia while waiting to achieve her dream of visiting Orlando’s theme parks, that he personally felt an obligation to see to it that no other child was denied such a wish. Along with a dream team of heavy-hitting corporate sponsors, Henri set forth to ensure that red tape would never delay granting a wish for a child in need.
In March, Give Kids the World will celebrate its 30th anniversary. In that time, Give Kids The World has welcomed over 140,000 families from all 50 states and 75 countries. Give Kids the World Village is a 70-acre resort with 144 villas where families are welcomed for a week of fantasy fulfillment, and given the opportunity to leave their daily struggles behind. They are surrounded by a elements of wonder, magic, happiness, and life. They are embraced by the loving efforts of thousands of volunteers. Well over 15,000 selfless people have contributed their time to making this every bit as magical as it should be. Ranging in age from 12 to 93, this army of kind hearts have volunteered more than two million hours of service.
Give Kids the World has even racked up impressive celebrity endorsements. Most recently, Ty Pennington and Kevin Bacon have embarked on missions to offer support and bring awareness to the organization’s efforts.
Transparency and Legitimacy
I will admit to the fact that I am leery of charity organizations. Perhaps I have trust issues, but haven’t we all heard horror stories about dishonest practices disguised as good deeds? Give Kids the World is widely recognized for its transparency. Their annual financial reports are readily available for review on their website, verifying their pledge “Of each dollar we spend, approximately 91.7 cents goes directly to our families for their cost-free, magical vacation”. Charity watch groups regularly bestow their seal of approval on the organization. “Charity Navigator has awarded Give Kids The World its four-star rating for the past nine years, the organization’s top designation. Charity Navigator also ranks Give Kids The World among the Top Twenty charities nationwide”. Give Kids the World receives extensive support from its corporate sponsors, who offer their contributions without the fanfare of marketing tactics. There is no corporate labeling anywhere within the village. Global powerhouse companies give boundlessly, with no ulterior motive, often alongside some of their top competitors.
There are many ways that you can contribute to the notable efforts of Henri Landwirth and Give Kids the World. For starters, they have a wish list of items that are consistently needed at the village. Of course, monetary donations are certainly welcomed as well.
Volunteer opportunities are readily available. My daughter just completed her orientation yesterday, and I couldn’t be prouder. Frankly, the volunteer positions are genuinely enjoyable, and certainly very fulfilling.
One very easy way to support the organization is through spreading awareness. This is an organization very worthy of attention. You never know who may be in a position to help, or who may be in a position of need. I’ll be singing their praises from the rooftops. Won’t you join me?
Give Kids the World also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, racking up support of all kinds. Perhaps you’ve heard of O-Town MacDown or the Gingerbread Run? This is only the start of the events that raise both funds and awareness for the organization.
It’s one thing to read about Give Kids the World. It’s another thing to see it! Join me on a tour of just some of the highlights that make up this whimsical, magical village of dreams.
Food service options are plentiful in a full-service cafeteria offering a wide variety of meal options from Boston Market, Papa John’s, and more. Dine-in, pick-up, or have it delivered!
You can also opt for ice cream day or night at the Ice Cream Palace.
The Gallery of Hope celebrates sponsors and volunteers.
The Castle of Miracles is the most incredible building – full of tribute, hope, and enchantment. Rusty, the castle guard, eagerly greets you as you enter.
The main area of the castle is open, and ready to host character visits, tea parties, arts and crafts, games, and more.
It also transforms for holiday parties. The village celebrates Halloween and Christmas every week!
Twinkle Hope’s La-Ti-Da Royal Spa is perfect for royal beauty treatments.
The Castle of Miracles is full of thoughtfully adorable features, including a giggle-inducing wishing well that offers a selection of audible surprises when a wish is made.
Father Time comes to vibrant life as well!
And an adventurous mini-forest, reminiscent of the Hobbit’s Shire is fun to explore.
The Magic Pillow experience offers a very special treat to every child of the village.