Over the years, some readers who have found the blog helpful have asked if we have any ways they can donate or give back to the site. Up until now, we have not. Given this blog’s emphasis on money-saving tips for Disney vacations, it seems sort of ‘off-message’ to ask for your money in return.
However, one thing that is ‘on-message’ no matter who you are is giving back to worthy charitable organizations. That is why we’re proud to share a way that you can help us to give back: by donating to Give Kids the World Village, a nonprofit that provides families of children with life-threatening illnesses cost-free accommodations during their visit Walt Disney World and Central Florida.
Being fans, I think we all can agree that Walt Disney World vacations are happy, memorable experiences that leave us with lasting memories and make a huge impact on us. The impact and meaning of that experience is definitely greater for some people than others, though…
For families of children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, who have had to rise to the challenge of a grueling schedule of doctor appointments, painful treatments, and escalating medical expenses, having a chance to visit “the Most Magical Place on Earth” is an opportunity for a temporary reprieve from that immense stress and worrying.
A big part of this special experience is certainly Give Kids the World Village. This is a place where magic happens, in every sense of the term. When a family arrives at Give Kids the World Village for their once-in-a-lifetime trip, the team there moves mountains to ensure that each family has an amazing experience. It’s a place where “no” is not in the vocabulary.
You can read the full story of what Give Kids the World is, its history, and what it offers on the GKTW website. In a nutshell, Give Kids the World Village is the place where families stay when they have been given a trip to Central Florida by wish-granting organizations (e.g., Make-A-Wish).
Calling Give Kids the World a “place to stay” is actually a colossal understatement. Give Kids the World Village provides families a 79-acre resort with 168 villa accommodations, unique entertainment attractions, venues, and fun activities for children of all abilities. It’s not “just” a resort or play to stay while these families visit Walt Disney World, Universal, etc., it’s more like an extension of the magic of the theme parks, a place where the families can continue to have a memorable trip when they are not in the parks.
Give Kids the World is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (meaning your donation is tax-deductible) with a perfect 100 score on Charity Navigator. Less than 1.8% of their revenue is spent on administrative expenses, which is an exceptionally low amount. (It should also go without saying, but we are not receiving anything for this ‘endorsement’ of Give Kids the World, and your donation is made directly to GKTW.)
I had first heard of Give Kids the World Village a few years ago when doing a 12-hour live show for Be Our Guest Podcast to benefit GKTW. We had heard about it more over the years, talking to friends who volunteer there, and all of them gushing about just how special of a place it is. So, this week Sarah and I decided to check it out for ourselves, spending some time at Give Kids the World, meeting with the team there to discuss how we could help, and touring the village.
To call Give Kids the World Village a magical place would honestly be an understatement. We were both incredibly moved by the visit. From the enthusiasm of the families staying at Give Kids the World to the passion of the volunteers and staff, there was a palpable energy to the place–like I said, magic.
Moreover, when I say they’ve eliminated “no” from their lexicon, I really mean it. The team shared a few stories with us while we were there, and it was incredible. Their philosophy is that these families face enough trials and tribulations during the grueling treatment periods, and are constantly reminded of limitations–so removing all of those for these families while at Give Kids the World is a top priority.
One of the things on our tour that resonated with me the most was Ice Cream Palace, which opens at 7:30 a.m. each morning (before any other spot at GKTW!) so kids can have ice cream for breakfast. If you know me, I think you know I’m a big advocate of ice cream, and hearing about the enthusiasm kids have for being able to enjoy ice cream for breakfast was awesome.
I was even more excited when the Give Kids the World team shared that one of their big fundraising initiatives right now is for a makeover to Ice Cream Palace, which will transform it into “Henri’s Starlite Scoops” featuring a retro space theme, designed by Walt Disney Imagineering as a tribute to the founder of Give Kids the World, Henri Landwirth. Here’s the concept art they shared with me for the new ice cream spot:
Speaking of Imagineering, they and numerous other departments at Disney offer support to Give Kids the World, in the form of volunteer teams, financial assistance, resources to help improve facilities, and even weekly Disney character appearances. Executives from Disney even sit on the Board of Directors and Advisory Board of Give Kids the World. Suffice to say, Walt Disney World and Give Kids the World work very closely with one another.
Also along the Disney lines is the founder of Give Kids the World, Henri Landwirth, a holocaust survivor with a surreal story of perseverance. What Henri has done since is nothing short of amazing, and in reading his story, I think you might find he reminds you of someone else who has made an impact on the lives of countless children the world over…
I could go on and on about Give Kids the World. From their touching Star Tower to the “Alternative Spring Break” volunteer program, there’s a ton that could be said.
Any amount can help make a difference to a child who has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, and we really hope you’ll consider making a contribution to Give Kids the World.
If you’ve gotten even a “churro’s worth” of enjoyment or information out of this blog, please make at least a $5 donation to Give Kids the World. It’ll make you happier than that churro would, and will make an infinitely more significant difference.
Alternatively, donating your time to Give Kids the World Village by volunteering is an excellent idea. By volunteering, you can help families create special memories that will last forever; the experience will also leave you with a feeling of being a part of something magical.
We intended this to be a concise ‘donation pitch’ but it’s already become long-winded, and I feel like I still haven’t covered all of the good that Give Kids the World is doing. Please read the Give Kids the World website if you have any additional questions. It’s a truly remarkable organization, and one that is deserving of your help.
This is going to be an ongoing fundraiser effort, but to really get things started Sarah and I will match reader donations over Memorial Day Weekend (up to $500). That makes a $1,000 goal through Monday, and we are confident you all will help us come through and hit that target. Thank you for reading, and for your continued support of the blog!
UPDATE: Within an hour of posting this, we’ve already exceeded our goal for the weekend. Wow…we are speechless. Thank you all so, so much–we’ve made our matching donation and are excited to see how much we can raise for Give Kids the World over the course of the rest of the weekend.