Nearly 24 years ago, I arrived at Give Kids The World Village to begin the trip of a lifetime.
I had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, at the age of 11 and after enduring almost a year of intense chemotherapy treatments, hospitalizations, and surgeries, I was ready for a break to focus on just being a kid.
During some of the most difficult times, I always looked forward to my wish trip – the light at the end of the tunnel.
I have so many cherished memories at the Village. I will always remember riding the carousel with my sister, eating breakfast with characters in the Gingerbread House, spending countless hours in the pool, and having Mayor Clayton tuck us in for bed. I remember proudly writing my name on my star, for it to be placed among the many others that grace the ceiling of the castle.
There is no other place on earth that can do what the Village does. No child should have to face a critical illness, but to feel the love and kindness of everyone who supports this special place is truly magical. There is a piece of this magic that lasts long after a trip and the effects are uniquely empowering.
In the years that followed my cancer treatment, I decided to pursue a career in medicine. I am now lucky enough to work as a hospitalist pediatrician at the same hospital I was once treated! I get to work with the same doctors and nurses who helped me through those tough times. Over the years, I have met so many children and families who wish to visit Give Kids The World – they are all astounded by this special place!
In November, I came to the Village for a day of volunteering and a Welcome Back visit with my family. It was like taking a walk back in time, reliving our favorite trip memories. My sister – who was 6 at the time of trip – recalled vivid memories as we walked the grounds including “unlimited” ice cream, the magical mirror in the castle, and getting to put a pie in our dad’s face!
Perhaps the most awe-inspiring part was seeing the thousands of gold stars shining from the ceiling of the castle – all representing children who had shared in the special magic of the Village. I have no doubt that some of this magic lives on forever in the hearts of these children and their families. For to be a child with a wish, and have it granted beyond your wildest expectations, is the purest joy one can experience!