Hope comes full circle at the Village as the kindness that our volunteer Angels share leaves lasting impressions on our wish families. Roger and Marilyn Braatz share their deep devotion to Give Kids The World as they cheerfully volunteer in the Gingerbread House Restaurant and at the airport, where Roger welcomes wish families from all over the world as an Airport Greeter. Their years of service to the Village have given them personal joy and provided them with some of their most cherished Village memories.
When the Braatzs decided to move from Owatonna, Minnesota, they knew that Central Florida was the ideal retirement destination for them. However, their powerful love for GKTW was the key element that influenced them to move south. “We moved here just to volunteer at Give Kids The World,” says Roger.
Roger and Marilyn act as GKTW Ambassadors from Central Florida to Minnesota. They are constantly reminded of their presence at the Village and how it has transcended the lives of so many wish families. The Braatzs know what it means to be in the right place at the right time. When Perkins Restaurant & Bakery held its Give Kids The World Pancake Day promotion in 2012, they visited Owatonna’s Perkins to help out. During the 2011 promotion, they raised $700, and in 2012 they raised $1,500. Their goal next year is to increase their fundraising efforts and collect $5,000 – a goal that may seem a bit lofty for some, but not this dynamic couple. They know how to leave an impression on people!
The night before Pancake Day, Roger and Marilyn stayed in a nearby hotel. Roger was approached by a housekeeper who knew she had met him before. In an astonishing coincidence, the housekeeper recognized Roger from her visit to the Village. The housekeeper’s family had stayed at GKTW during a family wish trip, and she instantly remembered Roger and Marilyn from their meals in the Gingerbread House. With a grateful heart, she insisted on buying the couple dinner. With a little coaxing from the family, Roger and Marilyn accepted the family’s kind gesture. In a thank you card from the wish mom, she wrote, “it’s awesome people like you both, who make the world an awesome place; you make children feel like they’re on cloud nine!”
The Braatzs reminisce over their enjoyable years of service and hold wish families close to their hearts with a cherished scrapbook of GKTW memories. Each page is decorated with priceless photographs, thank you letters from wish families, Village news clippings and personal mementos – a full collection of the couple’s incredible journey with the Village.
“Give Kids The World offers a loving community when it is needed the most and we absolutely love volunteering,” says Marilyn, as she thinks about all the wonderful wish families they have met along the way. Generosity and the spirit of thoughtfulness play an extraordinary role in making the Village an awe-inspiring place. We lovingly appreciate Roger and Marilyn Braatz, for the countless hours of service and positive energy you have contributed to GKTW.
If you’d like to follow in the Braatzs’ footsteps, we invite you to participate in this year’s Circles of Hope campaign at a participating Perkins or Marie Callender’s Restaurant & Bakery. From March 11 to April 21, guests can donate $1, $5 or $10 to personalize a “Circle of Hope” to hang in the restaurant. It’s a great way to show your support for GKTW. For more information, please visit our Current Events website.