Give Kids the World Village


give kids the world

Let me start by saying as a rule I am skeptical of non-profits and charities. My wife and I try to do a lot to help others in our community, but we prefer to do it directly. When large sums of money are involved, I get worried about misuse or waste. There’s too much potential for the darker side of human nature to corrupt the potential good works that the organization originally set out to do. So keep all of that in mind as I describe our recent experience.



I’ve lived in Florida for 40 years, the vast majority of those in Central Florida within a stones throw of the big theme parks. I’ve grown up with the attractions and seen scores of people experience magic that turned grown men and women into giggling children. I’ve even been a part of the magic making and had a hand in making some of those experiences special. We take it for granted living here year round but for many people it is the trip of a lifetime. For some families however, it’s even more than that.



I’ve known about the Give Kids the World organization for quite a while. Working in the parks and visiting often, I’ve seen kids and families at various attractions with the signature shirts and badges. I knew that they gave magical vacations to kids (and their families) with life threatening illnesses but I’m sorry to say that’s about as much as I knew. This past week that all changed, and I can’t begin to tell you how much it impacted me.


give kids the world




For the past several years GKTW has hosted a Blogger Bash event to raise awareness about their efforts and encourage local bloggers to help spread the word and be their “awareness angels.” This year we were invited to attend the event and experience the Give Kids the World Village firsthand. Having never been and with a strong desire to get more involved with local charities, we excitedly accepted.


Give Kids The World is a non-profit organization that exists only to fulfill the wishes of all children with life-threatening illnesses and their families from around the world to experience a memorable, joyful, cost-free visit to the Central Florida attractions, and to enjoy the magic of Give Kids The World Village for as long as there is a need.




What we saw was absolutely incredible. The village itself was like something straight out of a cartoon or story book. The entire
Complex was like a tiny little town with rows of perfect animated houses painted in whimsical colors each with a personalized sign welcoming the family that will live there for the duration of their visit. The houses, streets and common area buildings were absolutely beautiful and kept up to a Disney standard of quality. When kids came here, they truly were transported to another world.



All of the staff are volunteers, most of them teenagers, who attended to us with more kindness and earnestness than most professionals I’ve encountered. They were genuinely overjoyed to be there and to help us, and we weren’t even the real guests. I kept thinking, “What sorcery is this and how can I use it on my teenagers?”


give kids the world



But the thing that struck me the most were the sponsors. Walk around the village, through the food, past the auditorium and pool, and even amongst the rides and theater and there isn’t a single “sponsored by” our “brought to you by” sign in sight. The food in the food court was 100% donated by Papa Johns, Boston Market, Perkins and Krispy Kreme Donuts but there wasn’t a sign or placard anywhere. Seeing those signs elsewhere always made me feel like the donation was done for publicity more than it was to actually help whomever they were giving it to. But at the village there was none of that. The pizzeria was just a a pizzeria and the chicken and mac-n-cheese was just chicken and mac-n-cheese. The overall effect gave the kids a sense of being in a real magical place and not at the center of a charity case. It gave me a whole new level of respect and admiration for the companies who donated.





As we sat and listened to GKTW president Pamela Landwirth talk about their mission and all of the work they’ve done with visiting families, we could see the genuine smile on her face. There was a warmth and genuine commitment to give these kids, who have suffered so much, a few days of incredible happiness. She talked about how low their administrative costs were as a percentage of the donations the took in, an unheard of 1.9%. It was inspiring beyond words. Then we watched the video challenge from Kevin Bacon when he came to the village a couple weeks prior and challenges one of the kids to an ice cream eating contest which led to a challenge to support GKTW. At the end of it all I wanted to stand up and volunteer right there on the spot.


give kids the world kevin bacon



After a brief Q&A the group set out on a tour of the village. The weather wasn’t exactly cooperating (as is typical for a summer afternoon in Florida) so we caught most of the neighborhood through our minivan windows, but I had seen enough. The level of genuine commitment, the lack of sponsor self-aggrandizing, the fiscal efficiency. They really are here to change lives. When they say they “exist only to fulfill the wishes of all children with life-threatening illnesses”, they really mean it and they really need help doing it.



If all that sounds too good to be true, don’t take my word for it. Check them out on the independent charity evaluation site CharityNavigator.com. Give Kids the World earned their highest rating, 4 out of 4 stars, and got a perfect 100 for accountability and transparency.


So the next time you’re planning a vacation to Central Florida or maybe just another day trip to the parks, think about setting something aside to help a family who has been dealing with so much stress and sadness and can’t make it without help. Think about the little girl whose greatest wish after being diagnosed with leukemia was to meet princess Elsa and how you can help make that happen. Take some time or some money and help the people who truly make magic in Central Florida, Give Kids the World.




Click photos to enlarge

Give Kids the World Village

Jason volunteering by stuffing bags with coins for the O’Town Mac Down fundraiser

Give Kids the World Village

Each spoon represents one of the kids who stayed at the Village in the last 30 days

Give Kids the World Village

All food served in the cafeteria is donated by local restaurants but you won’t see any branding!

Give Kids the World Village

Delicious pulled pork (provided by Boston Market) is one of the dinner options for families visiting the Village

Give Kids the World Village

Me with Reme, one of the two adorable mascots who visit the Village every Tuesday to celebrate the Mayor’s birthday!

Give Kids the World Village

Pamela Landwirth, the President of GKTW, addressing our dinner about the organization’s services & needs

Give Kids the World Village

The Gingerbread House is currently under renovation and will soon host the dining area, making room for more indoor activities at Town Hall

Give Kids the World Village

The newly constructed Town Hall currently holds the cafeteria and dining space. The dining space is moving to the Gingerbread House soon to provide more indoor area for activities when the weather gets bad

Give Kids the World Village

What town is complete without a fountain?

Give Kids the World Village

Amberville houses trains of all sizes, including one you can ride!

Give Kids the World Village

Julie’s Safari Theatre is a place where kids can watch movies, perform in the Idol competition, or escape the rain for an indoor version of the pirate & princess pool party

Give Kids the World Village

The ice cream parlor is where Kevin Bacon lost his challenge to Ethan. So, since I stood where Kevin Bacon did that means I’m only 1 Kevin Bacon degree away from Kevin Bacon ;)




Jason Grooms, Owner & Chief Adventurer of The Brainy Tourist, is an incredibly lucky husband and proud father of six ever-inquisitive kids (and one adult). He has his degree in Cultural Anthropology from University of West Florida and has lived in Florida for 40 years, exploring all corners of this amazing state. Jason has been an animal show presenter, adventure guide, field trip leader, archeologist, training developer, writer, photographer, and all around adventurer.


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