Not all visitors to Orlando and Central Florida come to our area just for our world class theme parks and attractions. Some, solo and family alike, visit local spots just to volunteer their time because that’s how they choose to spend their time away from home – and we LOVE THIS! Some call this kind of tourism and volunteerism hybrid ‘voluntourism,” and we fully encourage all to give it a try.
Even if you’re a Central Floridian vacationing elsewhere or abroad, look into this option on your next vacation. The experience could be far more rewarding than simply visiting a historic landmark or attraction, and it’s a perspective one may not ever experience otherwise.
There are many voluntourist options in Florida and Central Florida. One of our favorite places to hope and help? Give Kids the World Village, the 79 acre, nonprofit “storybook” resort in Kissimmee which provides cost-free vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.
What’s a “storybook” resort, and can I stay there?
Imagine being a kid with a huge wish to visit a place where the Mayor is a rabbit and ice cream is served for breakfast (or any time of day) FOR FREE. This storybook fairy tale couldn’t ever possibly happen anywhere on Earth, right? It’s not possible.
WRONG! This is a huge reality at Give Kids the World Village!
The Village, however, is reserved for very special guests and their families. Children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses already have enough ‘reality’ to deal with in their everyday lives. And, as anyone with a sick loved one knows, there are no days off – for the child or their family members.
While The Village won’t take the illness away, it can absolutely provide a respite for all involved and the closest to a ‘day off’ that a child and their family may experience for awhile. A bit of magic, if you will.
So, no, not just anyone can stay at The Village however, you CAN be part of the magic in helping families in need of a little hope and happiness together.
79 acres? That sounds massive!
It IS. There are almost 20 venues and 168 villas inside The Village itself! More than 154,000 families from 70 countries and all 50 states have been hosted by GKTW thanks to some very generous wish-granting partners, corporations, and individuals like you!
Upon entering, you’ll see the House of Hearts. This is where families check in, and like any resort Guest Services counter, is open 24 hours. You’ll also see Amberville, Julie’s Safari Theatre, Marc’s Dino-Putt, JJ’s Express Train, and the Ice Cream Palace.
The Ice Cream Palace will soon be known as Henri’s Starlite Scoops, named after GKTW founder, Henri Landwirth. Learn more about how you can help The Village’s ‘cool’ fundraising effort called $90 for 90 by visiting http://www.gktw.org/90for90.
Towne Hall is a 53,000 square foot, two story building where families go to eat and experience nightly entertainment. It’s a very new, very sweet addition to GKTW!
If you’ve ever seen pictures of The Village, the Castle of Miracles and Enchanted Carousel will look very familiar. All wish children get to personalize a star inside Star Tower, and the Enchanted Carousel is wheelchair-accessible so everyone can ride. Inside the castle is Twinkle Hope’s La-Ti-Da Royal Spa, which was just remodeled with additions for the whole house and named after the My Little Pony character of the same name! Boys and girls of all ages can visit to get a temporary tattoo, makeover, and more.
You can visit more of the Village online by clicking here!
How can I help? I don’t live in Florida!
Fear not, fair voluntourist and/or virtual friend! You can still help! Some of the many ways you can help as a voluntourist;
Fundraising can be done anywhere. Host a fundraiser at school, work, or elsewhere in your home community! You can donate your birthday on Facebook to fundraise, or make a donation in honor of someone else’s birthday.
Click here to Create Your Own Fundraiser online!
In-Kind Giving is also another big one. The Village is run almost entirely by in-person volunteers, and those volunteers need supplies to keep things sterile, tidy, and sparkly. The Village also hosts nightly entertainment events which also need supplies. Donating goods from this wishlist helps keep costs down at The Village