Give Kids the World is more than just an organization, it is a life-changing experience for so many children and their families. I first learned of Give Kids the World when I moved to Florida back in 1995 and saw the brightly colored buildings from the road one day.
If you are unaware or haven’t heard of Give Kids the World, they are basically an entire village; an 84-acre, nonprofit “storybook” resort in Central Florida. Children with critical illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free vacations in fully furnished and accessible homes. Beyond just the comfortable homes to stay in, the amenities in the village are beyond compare.
Give Kids The World provides meals, transportation, nightly entertainment, and complimentary passes to Orlando’s world-famous theme parks and other attractions. There is never any charge to visiting families, and no child is ever turned away. Since 1986, Give Kids The World Village has served more than 160,000 children and families from all 50 states and more than 75 countries. GKTW is four-star rated by Charity Navigator, with more than 92 cents of every dollar it spends going to program services.
I became more closely involved when I joined the (then) Walt Disney World Moms Panel in 2010 (now the planDisney Panel). We, as the new class of 2010, raised $7500 and delivered it to Give Kids the World back in October of 2010. We were given an in-depth tour at the time and it was an incredibly inspiring visit. That day let me know I wanted to help out Give Kids the World whenever I could from that day forward.
My friends and kids and I have done various fundraisers over the years, usually their annual Gingerbread Run, which is now the Challenge for Hope and you don’t have to run to take part. My youngest son Gio and husband Scott got involved this time and all raised money and ran the almost-but-not-quite 5K Challenge for Hope last November. This year it is a virtual event due to the conditions in the country. Sadly, Give Kids the World village has been closed since March of this year for that reason as well.
Because of the closure, Give Kids the World Village has decided to create some magic for locals, which will in turn help the Village when they are ready to safely reopen.
Night of a Million Lights! Here’s more about it:
For 34 years, the non-profit Give Kids The World Village has been brightening the lives of critically ill children and their families from around the world; and now, local businesses will have the chance to illuminate the Village – literally.
For 53 nights from Friday, November 13, through Sunday, January 3, 2021, the Village will come alive with Night of a Million Lights, a walk-through holiday light spectacular that is sure to warm the hearts of Central Florida residents.
More than one million lights will adorn the 84-acre whimsical Village, including a 150-foot lighted tunnel leading to 33 decorated villas; more than 50 larger-than-life holiday-themed wireframes, some spanning more than 40 feet; an enormous incandescent gingerbread arch; and out-of-this-world space-themed decorations showcasing the Village’s newest centerpiece, Henri’s Starlite Scoops.
Adding to the fully immersive lights and sounds experience, Santa Claus will greet guests from the balcony of Towne Hall, with Give Kids The World’s beloved ambassadors, Mayor Clayton and Ms. Merry, on hand to lend some holiday cheer.
Corporate and community partners can get into the holiday spirit by adopting a villa, with the creative freedom to decorate it however they’d like for display throughout the 53 nights of the event.
Beginning on October 1, guests can purchase tickets on the Give Kids The World website at www.gktw.org to walk among the brilliant lights, vote on their favorite villas, and take part in a variety of family activities in a socially distant manner.
Most of the Village’s wheelchair-accessible attractions will be available at no cost, including The Enchanted Carousel, Marc’s Dino Putt, Kelly’s Sunny Swing, and Lori’s Magical Flight – all elaborately decorated for the holidays. Complimentary hot cocoa and ice cream will also be served throughout each evening.
In addition, guests can visit the Village’s most iconic venue, the Castle of Miracles – featuring a mysterious forest, a wishing well that burps, a magic tree that makes pillows, and more. The Castle is highlighted by thousands of stars that fill the ceiling and the adjoining Star Tower, each placed in honor of a wish child who has visited the Village.
“Children with critical illnesses face countless appointments, treatments and hospital stays, and they are often told ‘no’ due to the limitations of their illness. We feel privileged to give wish children and their families a week of ‘yes’ where they can forget their worries, experience joy, and spend priceless time together,” said Give Kids The World President and CEO Pamela Landwirth. “We look forward to sharing some holiday joy with the community while making it possible for future wish children to have their wishes fulfilled.”
Give Kids The World Village closed to wish families in mid-March due to the global pandemic, delaying more than 4,000 wishes. The Night of a Million Lights is designed to raise funds to ensure that wish trips can return bigger and better than ever before once the time is right to reopen.
I am SO excited to take part in this event. I urge locals or those visiting to fit Night of a Million Lights into your plans as well. It’s such a good cause, and I know we’ve all been missing light displays that we used to be able to walk through at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! We were just mentioning it on our Up the Waterfall podcast, how much we miss the experience. I can’t think of a better way to recapture some of that magic, while giving back and ensuring children and their families will experience all that Give Kids the World has to offer once more. The fact that they are offering tours and additional benefits is amazing, because once you tour Give Kids the World, you will definitely want to do and help more.
I’ll be sharing a reminder when tickets go on sale, so be sure to be following along on my social media accounts to get the latest updates or check with gktw.org for more info!