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Central Florida's Give Kids The World Village grants wishes for kids wih life-threatening illnesses

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Last weekend, I was invited to tour Give Kids The World Village during the second annual Blogger Bash. This event was designed to educate bloggers, so they, in turn, can serve as "Awareness Angels" and help others learn about this worthwhile charity, which is funded through corporate and personal donations.

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Give Kids The World Village is a 70-acre nonprofit, whimsical resort located near Central Florida's well-known theme parks and attractions. Children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong vacations with free accommodations in the Village's villas.

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But it's not just the stay that is complimentary -- families receive donated tickets to SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World; transportation; meals in the Village's Gingerbread House Restaurant and Katie's Kitchen; and other activities in the Village. The goal is to provide families already burdened with medical expenses with a cost-free vacation so that they can relax and make precious memories together.

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"Hopefully what we are doing is trying to create happiness that will inspire these children to go back and renew their battle against their illness," said Pamela Landwirth, Give Kids The World president. "About half of all children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses wish to come here [to Orlando]."

There are so many fun things to do at the Village that families could be entertained for the entire week without leaving its grounds. Halloween is celebrated every Monday night with costumes, face-painting and trick-or-treating. Every Thursday it "snows" on Avenue of Angels, and families are invited to a winter holiday that includes horse-drawn carriage rides, a traditional Christmas dinner and presents. Other nights have themed activities, as well: a princess & pirate party, a pool party and game night with the world's largest Candy Land board and pieces.

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They try to "bring [kids] into a world where it's life's simplest pleasures to the stuff that dreams are made of," said Landwirth.

One of those simple pleasures is the Ice Cream Palace, which is open from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Children and their families are encouraged to have ice cream as often as they would like. In fact, it's suggested -- quite often -- that ice cream makes a great breakfast!

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Give Kids The World Village has used the novelty of that idea to build its national Ice Cream for Breakfast campaign, which is the organization's signature fundraiser. Emily Ellyn, who has appeared on "Food Network Star" and "Cupcake Wars," is the campaign's spokesperson and spoke at the Blogger Bash.

"I had that tug on my heartstrings, and I tied on my apron strings," said the celebrity cook. She's encouraging families everywhere to host their own ice cream socials. Check out icecreamforbreakfast.org for tips and a tool kit.

So, how does a family arrange a trip to Give Kids The World Village?

The process begins when a doctor identifies a child between the ages of 3 and 18 as one with a life-threatening illness, and the family is paired with one of more than 250 partnering wish-granting organizations from around the world. If the child's one wish is to visit any of Central Florida's attractions, the organization can refer the child and family to Give Kids The World Village.

Since 1986, Give Kids The World has served over 122,000 families from all 50 states and more than 73 countries. The organization was founded by Central Florida hotelier Henri Landwirth, who was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps during WWII. The Village opened in 1989 and grew to 140 villas.

In addition to trips to theme parks and themed parties, visitors also can try other activities in the Village, such as playing miniature golf, getting their nails done at the La-Ti-Da Spa or taking a spin on a handicapped-accessible carousel. Plus, characters from Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and Nickelodeon Suites Resort make special visits to the Village, and there even are resident characters, such as Mayor Clayton and Miss Merry.

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"When the kids get to come to the Village, it totally changes their demeanor and their mood," said Brad Loewen, the father of a former wish recipient, at the Blogger Bash. "It also changes the family dynamic. The siblings are now thankful to that sibling, the Make-A-Wish kid, instead of being a downer. They're the reason that they get to come have " all that fun."

Each week more than 1,500 volunteer shifts are filled to help wish families experience their memorable vacations. If you would like to find out how you can help, visit givekidstheworld.org or call 1-800-995-KIDS.



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Comments (4)

Kelly Green:

I'm so glad you and the family enjoyed attending Blogger Bash! It IS a truly magical place and blog posts like this will help spread the word. It really is a "best kept" secret. Thanks so much, too, for thanking all the local theme parks who donate tickets, too. They help make these magical dreams come true.

Betty Rohrer:

I have spent 2 trips with grandsons at the Village, and I cannot say enough about the stays. They even picked up Mom at 3 in the morning at hospital ER so I did not have to leave boys and get her. Plus, got me a pizza after hours because I missed dinner. All this above the normal things they do!

Margy Poorman:

What a lovely report on GKTW. My family has been a supporter of this organization for 4 1/2 years, but our involvement came about in a different fashion. My sister and I planned a family vacation to Walt Disney World for our parents who had never been there (my sis and our families had been on several trips together and wanted our parents to share the magic!). Sadly, our father passed away very unexpectedly one month prior to our scheduled trip to Walt Disney World. With very heavy hearts we went on that trip (mom stayed home though)...we wanted to do something in our father's memory and decided to donate items to GKTW (mostly Disney items!). So every few months, we gather our purchased items and send down a box filled with new items that they can give to the children and their siblings. While we still miss our father tremendously, we know that he would approve of our helping (in a small way) to ensure that these kids with life threatening illnesses, find some joy on their vacation.

cathy mullen:

Hi,
I nominated one of my kindergarten students for Make a Wish and he and his family really enjoyed Give Kids the World. He called me from there and said it was like another Disney World.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 4, 2014 5:06 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Apply this week for 2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel.

The next post in this blog is Review: Disney on Ice Presents Frozen.

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