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What is it like to volunteer at Give Kids The World Village?

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Almost a year ago, my family and I were invited to a blogger event at Give Kids The World Village that was designed to educate writers about the charity that is located near Central Florida’s theme parks. The 70-acre nonprofit resort treats children with life-threatening illnesses and their families to weeklong vacations, including complimentary accommodations in the Village's villas, meals and theme-park tickets. (You can read more about all the amazing things this organization does in my previous blog.)

Fast forward about six months and my 12-year-old son is inducted in National Junior Honor Society, where there is a requirement of completing a certain number of volunteer hours per year. He had been involved in plenty of community-service events through Cub Scouts, but this was an opportunity for him to choose how he’d like to donate his time. And he was so impressed with what he had seen at Give Kids the World that he asked if we could spend time helping families at there. With his love of and knowledge about our local theme parks, I knew this would be a good fit for him and keep him inspired to help others. At my son’s age, most volunteer jobs require a parent to be present the entire time, which also was a good motivation for me to get started, too. Give Kids the World Village fills more than 1,500 volunteer shifts each week, so we definitely could find a way to be useful there.

Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions some might have about volunteering at Give Kids The World Village is that it’s a sad or depressing experience because the kids are so sick. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, though. The goal of these vacations is to give each family a break from their worries and allow them a carefree time to make memories together. I have yet to see a family that isn’t excited to be staying at the Village, and most are vocal about their gratitude for the opportunity and for the staff and volunteers who help make it possible. Pair that with the whimsical resort and all the exciting activities, and it’s hard not to smile when you’re there.

More than half of all Wish children request a trip to Orlando attractions, and Give Kids The World Village continues to grow to meet that need. At the end of May, a major addition to the Village opened -- the Towne Center -- and my son and I were able to see it for ourselves when we volunteered last week.

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The first floor of the 53,000-foot Towne Center has been designed as a food court and seating for families staying at the Village. Now, all the dining options are available in one place: Boston Market and Perkins menus, plus pizza, a salad bar, and more. Guests can choose to eat in or carry out their food.

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When my son and I worked our first shift, the signature peppermint tables from the Gingerbread House have been relocated, and the main dining room even has a stage so evening entertainment can move indoors when inclement weather strikes.

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So, what types of work do volunteers do at Give Kids the World? As I mentioned, there are a lot of positions to fill each week, which means there is a great variety of jobs for adults – and you get to pick where you’d like to work, based on availability. You can sign up to accompany characters from Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal and the Nickelodeon Hotel to meet children, set up for the weekly Halloween and Christmas celebrations, work in the La-Ti-Da Spa, operate the carousel, and so much more. Volunteers my son’s age are more limited in their choices because of safety issues, so we mostly work in food-service areas.

But, still, even that job brings can bring a lot of enjoyment and personal satisfaction.

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One of the most popular places to volunteer 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. Who can argue with that? My son and I were thrilled to finally be able to work at the Ice Cream Palace. It’s so popular that the shifts book up months in advance, almost like the reservations at Be Our Guest restaurant at Walt Disney World! It was well worth the wait, though, and I even got to surprise my son with my ability to make a decent banana split and milkshake.

A few things to know about volunteering at Give Kids The World Village:

** You must be at least 12 years old, and volunteers ages 12-15 must be accompanied by an adult.

** Anyone who is not an approved volunteer, including other children in your family, may not accompany you to a shift.

** You must complete a two-hour volunteer training session before you can begin working at the Village.

** If you have a group of volunteers, coordinators will work with you to schedule them together if you would like to stay together during your volunteer time. It’s common to see local and out-of-state groups from churches, schools and other organizations donating their time together.

** Volunteers do not enter the guests’ villas, and jobs such as housekeeping, dish-washing and other heavy cleaning are done by paid employees. You may be asked to do light cleaning, such as wiping down counters or vacuuming in public areas, however.

** You will leave Give Kids The World feeling like you made a difference – and you will be correct!

If you are interested in volunteering, you can get started at https://www.gktw.org/volunteer/, where you also can see a full list of the positions available.



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The previous post in this blog was Last days to enter Disney World's Coolest Sleepover Ever contest for chance to win night in Cinderella Castle.

The next post in this blog is Meet stars of 'Dolphin Tale 2' at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in July.

Comments (2)

Collette Beuther:

Thanks so much, Kristin. If I get to retire to the Orlando area (fingers crossed) in the next year or so I will definitely plan to get involved in this. It sounds like a very worthy cause! Love to read your blog, even though I don't have kids or grandkids. Thanks, again.

KRISTIN: Thank you for your kind words, Collette. I hope your dream comes true!

cathy m.:

I had a kindergarten student who was a Make A Wish child and he stayed here with his family and loved it as much as he loved WDW. He called me after his first day and was so happy. His mom said that when they came back from WDW there was a surprise waiting in the room for him. This happened every day. What a wonderful experience for your child. You are so right about it being a happy place.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 16, 2015 5:17 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Last days to enter Disney World's Coolest Sleepover Ever contest for chance to win night in Cinderella Castle.

The next post in this blog is Meet stars of 'Dolphin Tale 2' at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in July.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.