Balloons, streamers, and presents are birthday essentials. But when our Entertainment staff surprised wish kid Nicki for her birthday, they went way beyond the basics and included some of her favorite things: books, crafts, and new friends.
Nicki turned 9 during her time at the Village. While visiting local theme parks, Nicki and her family discovered her love of roller coasters.
“I knew she was brave, but I had no idea how much she would enjoy roller coasters,” said her mother, Naliya. “She wanted to ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at least 50 times — I can’t keep up with her!”
This thrill-seeking side of Nicki was a pleasant surprise for her family. Due to her illness, she was forced to give up dance classes and gymnastics, but Nicki refused to let that get her down.
Books are her greatest passion. Nicki loves to read stories and tell her own. She loved the popular “Elephant and Piggie” children’s books by Mo Willems and has even created her own adventures for the characters.
Nicki, who visited from Russia, told Make-A-Wish America that her dream is to illustrate and write her own book. Since her wish trip sent her to places full of fairy tales and adventures, Give Kids The World’s Entertainment Team gave Nicki a journal to fill with stories.
Nicki immediately started writing and drawing in her new book, and, to help her, the Entertainment Team filled the Peppermint Table with decorations, snacks, and craft supplies.
Mayor Clayton and Ms. Merry hopped by to share birthday hugs, balloons, and a ride on the Enchanted Carousel. The birthday girl was also determined to share her special day with other children. Nicki hurried in and out of the Peppermint Table inviting other kids to join her, offering them pizza as they sat and colored with her.
“I love seeing how much she cares for other kids,” said Naliya. “That’s the most important part of her story: her kindness and heart for others.”
You can use your birthday to help make dreams come true for amazing kids like Nicki. With GKTW’s “Give Kids Your Birthday” campaign, you can create a birthday fundraiser and ask your friends to donate to the Village. Sign up by visiting the Facebook Fundraiser page or our website, and you’ll help us fulfill wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. It’s your birthday, their gift.
Sweets & Snacks Make for a Tasty Morning at GKTW
Talk about a special delivery!
The three semi-trailers that rumbled into Give Kids The World Village last month looked like they could have been hauling furniture, but inside was 15 tons of sweets and snacks ready to be handed out to a crowd of waiting families.
The trucks parked near Ol’ Elmer, and Give Kids The World staff members opened the doors to reveal mountains of tasty treats. Hundreds of members of the National Confectioners Association generously donated the snacks to Give Kids The World Village for the third year in a row.
Central Moving & Storage and Boerman Moving & Storage volunteered to haul the treats from the NCA’s annual Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago to the Village. We also had the assistance of more than 30 local volunteers who helped gather and stack all of the donations.
Their generosity and hard work made for an unforgettable morning for all, including Give Kids The World Director of Facilities Philip Torres.
“The Sweets and Snacks Expo is an amazing event and I look forward to it each year,” said Philip. “As we talk with vendors and gather the donations, I can picture the smiles on the faces of our wish children and I can hear the
laughter in their voices!”
Visiting wish kids, held high over their fathers’ heads, reached for boxes of jelly beans and bags of kettle corn. Village staff members responded to shouts of “More!” by tossing sweets and snacks of every kind into the crowd.
Candy lovers leapt into the air to grab Pez dispensers and lollipops, and children huddled together on the ground to snag goodies tumbling from the truck. Everyone got their share, but some of the littlest guests tottered off with the biggest bags. CANDY LAND’S Queen Frostine made the rounds, greeting families, posing for photos, and admiring the mounds of sweet and salty treasures.
Despite the buckets of snacks handed out that day, there are tons left — literally!
The remaining donations will be used for months to come, in welcome baskets, nightly parties, and more.
Eventually, the goodies will be gone, but visiting families will always remember that sweet Monday morning in June when there were no limits, no price tags, and no worries.
Fairy Doors Cast a Magical Spell at GKTW
Magic lives at Give Kids The World Village, but sometimes it takes the smallest of helpers to help you see it.
Stellar the Star Fairy, who watches over the stars in the Castle of Miracles, has lived in the Star Tower since 2012. Her fairy friends visit as well, but until recently, they were without appropriately-sized lodging.
So Stellar invited a special group of friends — volunteer Angels in Training and children of Village staff members — to help with a new project. In June, these 10 young helpers volunteered to be fairy-house builders.
The volunteers first visited Twinkle Hope’s Rockin’ Spa for “fairy transformations,” complete with wings and pixie dust. Stellar flew by to make sure all her helpers were ready for their job and prepared to use human tools.
The group divided into teams and searched the Avenue of Angels for sturdy trees. When they found the right spots, they installed fairy-sized doors at the base of the trees. Every fairy door was decorated with a colorful stone path and greenery.
“I always love being at the Village, but this is my favorite thing,” said Emily, who volunteers at Cafe Clayton with the Angels in Training program. “Do you think if I put a door on the tree in my backyard the fairies can visit?”
The fairy door helpers caught the attention of Village guests, including Lexie and her family, who were here for a Welcome Back visit. The kids invited Lexie to help pick the perfect place for fairy doors near the Ice Cream Palace.
The volunteers wrapped up their day by riding the Enchanted Carousel and giving their wings to wish kids they met on the Avenue of Angels. The fairy doors they installed are an eye-catching addition to the Village. Look for them next time you’re here!
Taka Prepares to Say “Sayōnara” to GKTW
Last October, Takafumi Araki arrived in United States — for the first time — with plans to spend ten months volunteering at Give Kids The World Village.
Fast forward to today, and Taka is preparing to return to Japan with over 1,000 hours served.
Taka learned about Give Kids The World from a short video shown at school when he was 10. NHK World — a Japanese broadcast network — had reported on the Village and inspired viewers to visit and volunteer. At the time, Taka was too young to travel or volunteer, but he was eager to learn more about this magical place.
“I still remember looking up the website and looking at the pictures,” said Taka. “I wondered, ‘Why isn’t there a place like this here?’”
Give Kids The World has served families from all 50 states and 76 countries, but relatively few have come from Asia. Taka asked his father why that was the case.
“He said, ‘The world is not always ideal,’ and usually I agree with him, but in this case, I had to look at what’s possible,” Taka said. “Give Kids The World is a place for wishes, and my wish is that there is one day a place like that in Japan.”
Taka’s wish faded in and out as he grew up, but as he prepared for university and conducted interviews with his mentors, he realized that he needed to visit and volunteer at Give Kids The World to find out what was possible.
Thanks to a special scholarship, Taka flew to Orlando for a 10-month stay. He planned to spend the time volunteering and documenting his experience, but he says he’s gained much more than he expected.
In his first few weeks, Volunteer Services noticed that Taka walked almost an hour to the Village every day. Visiting volunteers from Greenridge Baptist Church bought a bike and helmet for Taka to ride to the Village.
“I couldn’t believe they surprised me with the bike,” said Taka. “I was overwhelmed by their kindness.”
Even more valuable to Taka are his newfound English-speaking and writing skills. When he first arrived, his language was very limited, and he worried about communicating with the families.
“I remember the first time I worked at the pizza kitchen, and John had to keep telling me what kind of toppings the families wanted because I couldn’t understand,” Taka said.
Through his shifts at the Village, staff, volunteers, and even families have helped him learn new words, filling notebooks with the translations from Japanese to English. Taka also found a way to use his language and culture to create memories for families.
Every Monday and Thursday night, Taka creates origami and custom-name designs, writing the names of guests in Japanese. Since December, he’s translated the names of over 800 children and 400 volunteers, creating a one-of-a-kind souvenir for each and every one.
As the end of July draws closer, Taka says leaving the Village and his friendships here will be challenging, but he wants to return soon. He also wants to help children with life-threatening illnesses in Asia as well.
“We may come from different countries or speak different languages, but we’re all human beings,” he said. “We are all people, and we all need hope.”
The First Virtual Challenge was a Success!
After 7-year-old Aidan visited Give Kids The World Village in February, he and his family couldn’t stop talking about their trip. Between the magic of Walt Disney World, and the wonder of the Village, the family wanted to do more.
So to celebrate their memories — and help other wish families create their own – Aidan’s parents, Brenda and Eddie, organized a “virtual challenge” as part of our upcoming Challenge for Hope.
The Challenge for Hope, formerly known as the Gingerbread Run, invites participants to walk, run, roll or stroll through the Village’s 84-acre, storybook property. It will be held on November 11. GKTW invites supporters who can’t make it to the Village the day of the event to create their own virtual challenge wherever they live — just like Aidan’s family.
“Eddie and I wanted to come up with a way we could give back and pay it forward,” said Brenda. “Both of us are passionate about running, and we run for many different reasons, including our health, to spend time together, to be with friends who share the same passion, and to fundraise or bring awareness to a cause close to our hearts.”
In June, Aidan’s family held Aidan’s Friendship Run as a virtual challenge and asked friends to participate however they wanted. Their team of 70 raised more than $4,100 for the Village!
Eddie and Brenda led a run in their hometown of Winnipeg, Canada, but virtual challengers across the country completed mountain-bike treks, skateboarding challenges, even a 68K run! The team shared their successes with one another and on social media using #challengeforhope.
Thank you so much to Aidan, Brenda, Eddie, and everyone involved. Brenda shared this advice for our virtual challengers: “Get a group of people together, and see what amazing things can be accomplished!”
To get involved with the Challenge for Hope or start a virtual challenge of your own, visit challengeforhope.org.
Princess America Contestants Dazzle the Village
June 30 was a royal day at the Village!
For the seventh year in a row, Princess America pageant participants from across the country visited Give Kids The World Village during their national competition in Orlando.
Nearly 50 contestants arrived at the Village ready to have fun, meet some excited wish kids and their families, and support the GKTW mission.
Their day started off with a tour of the resort, followed by a dance party with Mayor Clayton. There was a fairy door scavenger hunt and an exclusive red-carpet photo shoot. During their volunteer experience, contestants worked together to create Halloween masks, pompoms, and Christmas décor to be used at the Village in the coming months.
It didn’t take long for one thing to become clear: the big-hearted girls and young women at Princess America are not the type to shy away from hard work. In fact, crafting masks and pompoms only scratches the surface of what they did for the Village.
This year, participants raised a total of $17,000 for GKTW through their individual and collective fundraising. Donations came from lemonade stands, 5K’s, face painting, auctions, and the Village’s own “Give Kids Your Birthday” campaign.
The top Princess America fundraiser brought in nearly $3,000. The top 10 fundraisers attended a special meet and greet with families inside the Castle of Miracles. There, new friendships formed, and the generosity of the Princess America participants shone as brightly as the stars in the castle’s sky.
Buca di Beppo Pre-Grand Opening
July 27, 2017
Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant turns every meal into a special occasion, and, later this month, Buca di Beppo in Celebration opens! Join us there for a pre-grand opening that benefits Give Kids The World Village. The party is Thursday, July 27, so don’t wait to get your tickets! They are $50 each — all money goes to GKTW — and include food and a selection of beer and wine.
Learn more, and get your tickets here.
Hearts of Reality
August 10–12, 2017
Hearts of Reality is back for its 9th annual celebration! Join popular reality stars from Survivor, Big Brother, Face Off, The Amazing Race, and more as they help to make dreams a reality for our brave wish kids! Meet the stars at an exclusive event at I-Drive 360, and get discounted admission to Madame Tussauds Orlando, SEA LIFE Orlando, The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, and Skeletons Museum. Then join us in Celebration for an autograph signing and 80s party benefiting GKTW. For more information, and to learn about a special combo ticket to the events, visit gktw.org/heartsofreality.
Coasting for Kids
August 16, September 9,
and September 16, 2017
Whether you’re looking for the rush of a pulse-pounding coaster or just want to coast through a fun day with your family, these events offer something for everyone! Join us at Quassy Amusement Park, Frontier City, and Busch Gardens Williamsburg to celebrate your love of amusement parks and help make magical memories possible for families with children facing life-threatening illnesses. Visit our website to learn more and register. Learn more
Holiday Isle Oceanfront Resort
Poolside Beach Party & BBQ
Saturday, August 26, 2017
Get ready to make a splash at the 20th Annual Poolside Beach Party & BBQ hosted by the Holiday Isle Oceanfront Resort in St. Augustine Beach! The event will include attractions, children’s activities, live music, and more. Learn more.
Columbia Restaurant Community Harvest
Give Kids The World Village will participate in the 20th Annual Columbia Restaurant Community Harvest. During September, Columbia Restaurant Group will donate 5% of all guest checks to the nonprofit organization of the guest’s choice. Learn more.
2017 Give Kids The World Black & White Gala
September 16, 2017
Join us for an elegant evening of fine dining and world-class entertainment. The Black & White Gala is the signature event celebrating and benefiting Give Kids The World Village. The evening will feature one of Central Florida’s most celebrated silent auctions and plenty of surprises. Learn More
Perkins Free Pancake Day
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Perkins serves up smiles every day, but on September 28, participating locations will offer free pancakes! Enjoy a short stack of buttermilk pancakes free of charge and donate to Give Kids The World Village. Learn more and find participating locations near you.
Challenge for Hope
November 11, 2017
Give Kids The World Village invites participants of all ages and skill levels to see the property in the most exciting and personal way. Walk, run, roll, or stroll past a magical castle, a snoring tree, the world’s largest CANDY LAND game and more. The spirited 5K — previously known as the Gingerbread Run — celebrates the joys of childhood and inspires hope for kids and families who need it most. Can’t make it to the Village? Become a Virtual Challenger, and complete the Challenge when, where, and however you like. Learn more.
Now – December 2017
We're excited to announce our partnership with Slickdeals for a second year in a row! Want to support Give Kids The World Village by shopping? Go to Slickdeals Gives Back to register for free, then select us as your nonprofit. While you shop, you earn points for Give Kids The World Village. We’ll get double points when you shop at Walmart and eBay! With your support, we could win up to $15,000 if we are the top charity this year.
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
As you prepare to save on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, remember to give back and celebrate generosity with your friends, family and favorite charities. #GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back.
#runGKTW Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend
January 4 – 8, 2018
The Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend celebrates its 25th anniversary next year! You can be part of the dazzling event and support Give Kids The World Village by joining team #runGKTW! Running with our team makes your miles matter for kids with life-threatening illnesses and makes memories for families at the Village. Visit our website to learn more about the different opportunities to join the #runGKTW team! Learn More.