In Central Florida resides a bright colored, fanciful village. Some say that their visit there was the first time that they saw their child smile. Others describe it as unforgettable – a place where no one was staring at them because they looked different, but rather it was full of acceptance and love.
It’s a place where dreams become a reality, families unite and joy is tangible. Give Kids the World Village is a 70-acre, nonprofit “storybook” resort where those with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to a weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacation.
It all began on the wish of a young girl named Amy who was suffering from leukemia. All she wanted to do was visit the theme parks in Orlando. To facilitate Amy’s wish, a respected hotelier gladly provided a complimentary stay for Amy and her family. But before her family got their traveling accommodations in order, Amy passed away.
This unfulfilled wish inspired Henri Landwirth, the hotelier, to immediately begin creating Give Kids the World. Henri lost his childhood to the holocaust, thus he developed a deep understanding of the importance of helping children realize their dreams – especially the ones whose lives have been filled more with difficulty than ease. He also realized that the process of securing transportation, entertainment and meals was taking months and something had to be done so that kids who may need to come to Orlando within 24 hours for their dream vacations could do so.
“During its 27 years, Give Kids the World has served over 122,000 families from all 50 states and 74 countries. It is an honor and a privilege to continue Henri’s dream of creating the happiness that inspires hope,” said Pamela Landwirth, the organization’s president.
From the moment the wish families arrive at the airport, they are embraced with loving care. During their stay, they will be visited by beloved characters from Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld and Nickelodeon rather than have to wait in lines at the theme parks to meet them and get autographs.
Extreme Village Makeover
This January, the Village is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an exciting new initiative, the Extreme Village Makeover. Wyndam Vacation Ownership is spearheading the two-week effort from January 12-25 and completely renovating 100 vacation villas in the Village. Thousands of pallets of construction supplies, hundreds of construction workers and volunteers from everywhere will converge at the Village to get the remaining villas into first-class shape.
“The fuel to the passion is truly the smiles on the wish children’s faces when they see GKTW’s six-foot rabbit, Mayor Clayton, for the first time. It is the laughter that echoes from the Enchanted Carousel or the family bonding that takes place when Santa Claus hands out presents at the weekly ‘Winter Wonderland’ event every Thursday night. Knowing the power that a positive experience can have on a person’s life and understanding the value of relieving the stress of our special families provides all the incentive staff, volunteers and board members need,” said Mark Hoewing, public relations manager.