As we wrap up the month of love at Give Kids The World, we are reminded of how the Village can truly inspire happiness. Caroline Schumacher, Director of Guest Operations, takes a break from her busy schedule to share how the Village inspired love and happiness in her own life.
For me, coming to Give Kids The World was more of a “calling” than a set career path. After volunteering here in 1998, while participating in the Walt Disney World College Program, I fell in love with the Village’s mission and simply discovered that life was much bigger than my world in Ada, Ohio. I graduated from Ohio Northern University (’99) and immediately packed up my car to move to Florida – all with the hope of working at Give Kids The World Village.
By September 1999, I was employed as a Volunteer Coordinator at Give Kids The World Village. After only a few months, the Village was growing rapidly and our entertainment program was maturing right alongside the growth of buildings and venues. This is where David comes into the picture.
While visiting the Gingerbread House one evening in January 2000, I ran into our Entertainment Director touring a small group of friends – visiting from the Atlantis Resort (Bahamas). Among this small crowd, was David. To be perfectly honest, it was not necessarily “love at first sight,” but I knew that “something” was with this guy.
A few months later, David joined the GKTW Team as the new Assistant Manager of Entertainment. This was the man I remembered from the tour, which explained my odd intuition about him – turned out he would be working at the Village too!
It was not long after he started working at GKTW, that we became inseparable. No crazy romance, just dinners after work and a great friendship. The core bond between us was our chosen lifestyle – the lifestyle that included a long-term commitment to a mission we love at Give Kids The World. It was so strong that we had zero problems working with each other. In fact, we loved working together.
By the following June, David asked my parents if he could marry me and my dad wished him all the luck in the world! David and I enjoyed a year-long engagement and were showered with gifts and parties but perhaps the most awe-inspiring part of this time was feeling so loved by our GKTW family. As a new couple working in non-profit we were rich with blessings. The entire Village staff and volunteers came together, hosting a beautiful shower and we were just overwhelmed with everyone’s thoughtful gestures – not the gifts – the fact they cared so deeply about us. Even as I walked down the aisle on September 28, 2002, I remember so vividly the many faces of friends in the church – so many Angels and friends from work. Some still with us today and some not. How amazing to share that one special day with these people.
Today, our life is a little different. David no longer works with Give Kids The World, but I can promise it stays in his heart. We are now able to expand our reach to so many, but keep our commitment to GKTW at the core of our family. Our children, James (6) and Natalie (4), have the same love for the Village and know that the Village is for Wish families who come here for a week of happiness and hope. In fact they have both collected donations for the Village, participated in the annual 5k and ask about “mommy’s kids” every night at dinner. I look forward to sharing this special place with our third child, who is set to arrive in May.
I fell in love with my life partner at the Village, but we fell in love with the Village’s mission. Our love encompasses all that GKTW stands for. No matter where our family journey leads us, the Village is and will always be in our hearts – it is our life.