Visiting Central Florida can be a magical experience, but for some families, the experience has even more meaning. That’s because they have a child who is experiencing a life-threatening illness, and he or she made a wish to visit Walt Disney World® Resort!
Once a wish is made, a wish-granting organization in the child’s hometown area, such as a local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, arranges for the family to spend a week together experiencing a vacation of a lifetime.
What is Give Kids the World Village?
The organization Give Kids The World (GKTW) was founded in 1986 by Henri Landwirth. He believed that, “A man is not defined by what he has. What matters are the values he lives by and what he does for others.”
At first, families participating in GKTW were housed in local hotels. But three years into the venture, the whimsical Give Kids the World Village opened. It has grown into an 84-acre resort and has welcomed more than 154,000 families from all 50 states and 76 countries.
Typically, a family will stay for one week in a fully furnished two-or-three-bedroom villa where they can spread out and relax after a day spent in a local theme park.
According to the Make-A-Wish website, “The Walt Disney Company is involved in approximately half of the wishes Make-A-Wish grants.” And Walt Disney World® Resort is a founding partner of Give Kids The World Village. Disney cast members VoluntEAR along with others in the community and even from around the country at the Village each day.
There is so much to do!
The wish children, their siblings and other family members are treated like VIPs throughout their stay at the Village. There are activities like riding ponies or meeting characters in the morning and pool parties or karaoke at night.
There also are three rides at the Village to choose from: a carousel, a train and a soaring “magic bike.” Plus, there are two swimming pools.
Families can receive three meals a day as well as ice cream at any time. Yes, they can even have ice cream for breakfast!
At the end of the night, children can request a “tuck in” from Mayor Clayton or his counterpart, Ms. Merry, who will come to the villa to sign autographs, pose for pictures and turn out the lights so everyone can rest for the next fun-filled day!
Thanks to the generosity of donors, VoluntEARS and other assistance, there is no cost to the families for their stay.
Give Kids The World Village continues to expand and train new VoluntEARS who can help in a variety of positions. Here are just some of the ways in which cast members could get involved:
- Food service (serving breakfast, lunch, dinner or ice cream)
- Pizza delivery
- Entertainment (including GKTW character performer and character attendant)
- Children’s activities (including Twinkle Hope’s Rockin’ Spa)
- Gift givers (to deliver gifts to the villas each day)
- Front desk
- Gift shop cashier
- Digital photographer
- Shuttle driver
Sometimes groups of Disney cast members come to Give Kids The World Village and VoluntEAR as a team. This makes the experience even more fun! Plus, it’s a great résumé builder!
On select Sunday evenings, Disney-sponsored transportation takes interested Walt Disney World College and International Program participants to Give Kids The World Village. Approximately 12 to 15 VoluntEARS are needed each week to assist with a street party held around and inside Matthew’s Boundless Playground, which is themed to look like a giant Candy Land game. Check the DORMS event calendar for details and to sign up.
All VoluntEARS will go through a background check and should attend an orientation prior to their first shift. To learn more about VoluntEARing at Give Kids The World Village, visit their web site at www.gktw.org or stay tuned to your weekly email for upcoming Disney VoluntEARS opportunities exclusive to Disney Internships and Programs participants.