Give Kids the world is a magical village in Kissimmee that families who are receiving their wish trip can stay at. Michele and Scott visited the village in September for a media event and participated in a very successful and fun, one day live stream, raising over $15,000 for the village. A few Main streeters, myself included, joined them at Hollywood studios for their segment in the stream.
I first read about GKTW several years ago. But I didn’t look into it fully until 2016. It was the beginning of the New Year and I decided I needed a change in my life. I was between jobs and considering selling my condo. My first thought of what to do was the village, so the research and planning started. It was very easy to apply as an international volunteer. I received a confirmation email and call soon after to schedule an orientation. They gave me access to the shift scheduler so I could book my shifts ahead of time as I was planning a 3 month trip.
My condo sold quickly and closing date was the end of May. I road tripped my way down to Florida at the beginning of June just hoping this would be an adventure of a lifetime. Driving through the gates of the village my heart was about to burst I was so excited. Orientation was held in Julie’s safari theatre and I could not stop smiling. Those 3 months passed quickly. I signed up for almost every shift they had, wanting to experience it all. I was also able to pick up shifts where the most help was needed and kept signing up for the ones I loved. They are all different in aspects of guest interaction. Some you have more time with families, some less, group settings and also behind the scenes. I have met families from all over the world and always managed to find a Canadian family to talk to, some even from my own city. I have been so lucky to meet the amazing staff and volunteers. What a special place to bring all these people together. This is a happy place, it is whimsical and fun and all who work and volunteer there spread joy to the families every day.
GKTW depends on many sponsors and fundraising events throughout the year. I have been able to help with several events. In 2018 I fundraised and ran the 5K Challenge for hope, which was the same weekend as the TMSM meet up, so that worked well in planning my trip that year. You can also do this run virtually. One of the many things I love about the village is that there are no corporate logos anywhere. Streets/areas/attractions are named after children. That’s what Henri, the founder, wanted. It’s all about the children making magical memories.
So let’s start the day with ice cream for breakfast. The ice cream parlour opens at 7:30am and is one of the most popular shifts. Other areas to volunteer at include nightly parties, food services, rides, pool, photographer, Disney/Universal character meets, tea party, castle, gift giving, horse & pony rides, shuttles, spa, movie theatre just to name a few! I have enjoyed all the shifts, but I especially love that I can drive a golf cart to deliver pizza, cookies, gifts and breakfast. I have as much fun at the parties and rides as the families. How could you not smile seeing the children and parents laugh and play.
I have returned to the village every year since and watched as it has expanded with a condo building, a swing ride and the soon to be opened Starlite Scoops, the new ice cream parlour in honour of Henri. My only regret is that I didn’t start going there until a few years ago. But no trip to Disney/Florida would be complete without volunteering at the village. It has a very special place in my heart. I feel such love, hope and happiness there and the experience has truly changed my life. I just want to be able to spread that joy to everyone. There is a shift for everyone, whether it’s making popcorn for the movie, being a spa transformation artist, Santa’s helper or sending the magical star to Stellar the star fairy, all are needed to help make the children and families’ wishes come true.
If you are local, a snowbird or just heading to the area for a vacation, I recommend applying to be a volunteer and come and see what GKTW is all about.
Follow along on Facebook or at gktw.org for more info, details on volunteering or donating.