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Alternative Spring Break Creates Lasting Love for the Village: One Student’s Story

Editor’s note: As a student and graduate assistant at St. John’s University, Julia Mackey has come to Give Kids The World several times for alternative spring breaks. In today’s guest blog, Julia describes why those trips mean so much to her.

Spring Break is a time where lying on a beach and doing other recreational activities is glorified, but taking the time to embark on an alternative spring break trip leaves you with something that will last longer than tan lines.

At the beginning of my senior year, I decided to take a shot at applying to a well-known service trip to Give Kids The World. I fell in love while looking through the website, seeing how fairy tales, wishes, and dreams come alive at the Village.

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Julia (kneeling down, second in from the right ) poses with her group for a picture in the Ice Cream Palace.

The Village relies heavily on volunteers, whose work is a true labor of love. Each family is unique, but all are connected by the compassion they experience at the Village. For many families, the Village is the only place, apart from a hospital, where they can be around others who know exactly what they are going through. You will see family members laughing together and sharing their stories.

One night while I was working the Winter Wonderland parade, I met a family from North Dakota. The daughter was dancing on the edge of the party because she didn’t want to leave her brothers, who were both in wheelchairs. I asked her to dance and suggested we include the boys by dancing around them. Their faces lit up and both boys started moving in their seats, eager to join in.

Later, we talked, and the kids chatted happily about their plans for the theme parks. As they headed back to their Villa, their dad thanked me for including all of the children in a magical moment – for not letting their circumstances dictate their experience.

Life is sweet when you can scoop sundaes and help a child in a wheelchair ride on the swings for the first time ever. As a volunteer, you might carry the dinner tray for a young princess or Jedi, sing “Happy Birthday” at the top of your lungs, or laugh as a child tries to give you another brownie. Maybe it’s simply being there to take a picture of a family, so Mom doesn’t have to stay behind the camera.

Moments that seem small are actually big, because at the Village, there are no small tasks. I’ve been back a handful of times, drawn by the magic of the Village and everything it offers volunteers and visiting families.

The Village is filled with happiness and it runs on hope. It believes in magic, wishes, and star fairies. The soundtrack is laughter, smiles are the only currency, and the stories of the children, families, volunteers, and characters alike blend together in a mosaic of love. To be part of it, you just have to believe in the power of hope.

 


Julia Mackey is a graduate student at St. John’s University, pursuing a masters in clinical mental health counseling.  As a student leader and graduate assistant she has visited the Village, and every time she comes back she finds something new to love. Whether working the carousel, scooping ice cream, or running the train, there is no place else she’d rather be. A New Yorker at heart, she spends her free time either at the beach taking pictures, writing for her blog or playing with her rescue dog.