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Give Kids The World Village Archives

June 16, 2015

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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January 28, 2015

Give Kids The World Village needs your help with spring fundraisers

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Central Florida's Give Kids The World charity is asking for your help with some of its fundraisers this spring.

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. I toured the Village and learned about its amazing mission last summer.

This week, readers are invited to join a social media movement called "Hats Off to Keaton" Photo Contest. Through Friday (Jan. 30), Wheaton World Wide Moving | Bekins Van Lines is hosting an online photo contest to honor Keaton White, the inspiration behind Keaton's Korral, the place in the Village where the Give Kids The World children take horse rides each week.

To enter the contest, post a picture in a funny hat to the Wheaton (https://www.facebook.com/WheatonMoving) or Bekins (https://www.facebook.com/bekinsvanlinesinc) Facebook pages. The pictures receiving the most votes will win great prizes. All donations made to Keaton's Korral (www.gktw.org/keatonskorral) through Jan. 31 will be matched by the van line. The goal for the campaign match program is $22,000 and the Village is only $2,845 shy of that total.

On Feb. 25, supporters can attend a special fundraiser luncheon to benefit Give Kids The World at The Ice Factory in Kissimmee. Professional meat cutters from around the country will travel to Kissimmee to compete in the National Meat Cutting Challenge event to determine who will move on to the final round for a chance to win $20,000. Following the competition, Texas Roadhouse will grill the hand-cut steaks prepared during the competition for a luncheon with 100 percent of all sales going to Give Kids The World.

The cost of the luncheon is $10 per person and includes Texas Roadhouse grilled steak, two made-from-scratch sides, fresh baked rolls with honey cinnamon butter and a non-alcoholic beverage. In addition, there will be vendors and live music by the group Hayfire. Guests can RSVP with full name and number of luncheon attendees to kirsten.sands@texasroadhouse.com by Feb. 13.

Give Kids The World's biggest fundraiser, the Black & White Gala, takes place May 9 at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. The evening celebration includes fine dining, auction items and world-class entertainment.

Tables purchased prior to Feb. 15 will include a complimentary room at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, 9801 International Drive, for Saturday, May 9. Tickets and tables on sale now at www.gktw.org/gala. Tables are $3,500 and premium table are $5,000. Individual tickets cost $350.

You don't have to be visiting Orlando this spring or live in Central Florida to help Give Kids The World Village by attending fundraisers. Readers can get involved in this worthwhile cause by spreading the word about the events and, of course, donations are always welcome. Both of those forms of assistance can be done from your home.



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September 4, 2014

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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August 21, 2014

SeaWorld sponsors family friendly mac-n-cheese competition at Orange County Convention Center

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Need a fun, inexpensive activity in Orlando for your family this weekend?

Look no farther than the Orange County Convention Center, which is the location for the first O-Town MacDown on Saturday. Sponsored by SeaWorld, the competition gives professional chefs and amateur cooks the opportunity to vie for the title of Orlando's Mac-n-Cheese Champion. And attendees will benefit from their efforts with an invitation to sample their creations.

Judges include Emily Ellyn from the Food Network, Orlando Sentinel's food editor Heather McPherson, WDBO's news director Joe Kelley, SeaWorld Executive Chef Hector Colon, Louis Perrotte of the American Academy of Chefs Hall of Fame and Disney Chef Michael Bersell.

In addition to the food component, the event will include live entertainment from The SeaWorld Groove Chefs, who transform kitchen gear and BBQ grills into makeshift musical instruments; magician and comedian Tony Brent from the WonderWorks Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show; acoustic guitarist Islay Rodriguez; The Orlando Improv All-Stars; and The Magic and Mayhem Comedy Magic Show.

Celebrity chefs will host cooking demonstrations, too. Look for Emily Ellyn; Jillian Hopke, the owner of Orlando's Jillycakes and a winner on "Cupcake Wars"; Maira Isabel, executive chef at Disney World Golf Courses; Jody McLeod, culinary operations manager at SeaWorld Orlando; and John Radcliff, culinary director for 4R Restaurant Group.

A kids' fun zone will feature face painting, bounce houses and a macaroni art station, and there will be meet-and-greets from theme-park characters, such as Shamu and Dolly from SeaWorld Orlando. Plus, there will be additional live entertainment designed just for kids. Check out the Mad Scientist Interactive Show; Elevate Live, a group of Central Florida kids ages 5-20 who perform a Top 40 / pop-style singing and dancing show; The Bumbles and The Honey Bees Too, a high-energy educational show for 3- to 8-year-olds; The Literacy Alliance: Scrambled Fairy Tales; and Orlando's Mr. Richard.

Attendance and participation at the O-Town MacDown benefits Give Kids The World Village, a 70-acre, nonprofit resort in Central Florida that provides weeklong, cost-free vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Although the deadline to enter the macaroni-and-cheese cooking competition has passed, tickets to visit the O-Town MacDown still are available. Until 5 p.m. Aug. 22, tickets can be purchased online at a discount. Prices are as follows:

** $10 for adults, which includes all the mac-n-cheese you can eat.

** $5 for kids ages 3-12, which includes all the mac-n-cheese you can eat and the Kids Zone. (Ages 2 and younger are free.)

** $35 for VIP tickets, which includes unlimited mac-n-cheese, premium seating in the VIP area, free O-Town MacDown T-shirt and a free beverage.

Tickets at the door are $15 for adults and $10 for kids. Parking will be discounted to $9 at the convention center.

The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Orange County Convention Center, Hall D2 West concourse.




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About Give Kids The World Village

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Give Kids The World Village category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Girl Scouts is the previous category.

Great Wolf Lodge is the next category.

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