A few days ago, I had a conversation about Disneyland with my friend, Nicole. We were talking about how awesome it would be if there was a program to help underprivileged kids get to the Happiest Place on Earth. I got pretty excited about this idea and hopped on over to Google to investigate. What I found was beautiful: Give Kids the World.
Here’s GKTW in a nutshell (courtesy of Wikipedia):
Give Kids The World Village is a nonprofit resort in Kissimmee, Florida for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Children between the ages of 3 and 18 who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness by a licensed doctor are eligible for a GKTW Wish. One of over 250 wish-granting organizations worldwide coordinates transportation to Central Florida, while Give Kids The World provides accommodations at its resort, meals for a week-long vacation, and donated admission tickets to local attractions including Walt Disney World Resort, SeaWorld, and Universal Orlando Resort.
So yeah… I’m sure you can see why I love this organization so much. Of course, it’s amazing to give kids who are going through a horrible time in their lives a free trip to Disney World, but it does have the potential to be a stressful situation. As much as Disney tries to be accessible for those with special needs, it’s still not perfect. And even if it was, the general public still has a problem dealing with those of us who are not “normal”. Those who are in wheel chairs or look different or who consistently require medical equipment or walk different or even sound different are still looked at and treated by many people as though they are aliens.
This is why the Give Kids the World Village is so important and wonderful. It’s a place where these kids can feel normal in a society that doesn’t treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. It’s run by people whose only mission is to help these kids and their families have the best vacation they’ve ever had, and the numerous rides and activities have all been made with accessibility in mind.
One of the things that really impresses me about GKTW is the consistent amount of volunteers they attract:
Give Kids The World depends on volunteers, known as our Angels, to fulfill over 1,200 volunteer shifts every week. With countless hours and generous hearts, volunteers of many ages, talents and abilities assist the Village by maintaining our operations and completing special projects that ensure each family has a perfect guest experience.
1200 volunteer shifts a week is really impressive for a non-profit. Although… who wouldn’t want to spend some time making sick children smile???
Also… the founder of Give Kids the World, Henri Landwirth, is a truly beautiful human being. You can read his bio at the GKTW site, but here’s a snippet:
Like the special children Give Kids The World serves, its founder, Henri Landwirth, knows all to well what it is like to give up his childhood. Born in Antwerp, Belgium, on March 7, 1927, Henri and his family were separated and became prisoners in the Nazi death and labor camps during WWII. Henri spent the years between the ages of 13 and 18 in camps including Auschwitz and Matthausen. By war’s end, both of his parents had been killed, but miraculously Henri and his twin sister, Margot, survived and were reunited. Henri worked his way to America on a freight ship, arriving in New York City with $20 in his pocket and little knowledge of the English language; soon after he was drafted to serve in the Army.
Seriously… go to the site and read the rest of his story. I was in tears by the end of it.
Again… I love this program with all my heart. I LOVE IT! Do you love it, too? You do? Awesome! What’s that? You want you know how you can help support this very worthy charity? Well… it’s easy! You can donate directly, purchase some stuff from their online store, or, if you happen to be in the area, you can donate some of your time at the village. I’ve bought some stuff and given some moneys, but I can’t wait until Heather and I finally take our Disney World trip so I can get to the village and help out in person.
P.S. Feel like crying? Watch this YouTube video of one child’s trip to Disney World and Universal Studios while staying at the Give Kids the World Village.