My children have grown up Disney and it has been a wonderful ride. Now that they are grown, I am sometimes slammed with the reality of how my life has changed. As you might guess, there have been many adjustments made when planning our annual trips to Walt Disney World as they have continued to get older. I sometimes get a little melancholy when I think of all the things we used to look forward to that they won’t do again for a while, such as my youngest son’s previous obsession with Tomorrowland Speedway. Somehow when you start driving, the novelty wears off – go figure! There are a lot of things that have changed in the way we visit “The World.”
When I plan our trips now, I look for things to incorporate that we weren’t able to do when they were small. This year I happened upon a gem! One of the things we enjoy doing as a family is volunteering. Volunteering while you are on vacation is called voluntourism. Some people refer to it as “vacationing with a purpose.” Did you know that there are great opportunities for voluntourism while on vacation in Central Florida? Well, there are, and one such opportunity is at Give Kids The World.
Give Kids The World (GKTW), is a non-profit organization that exists to provide memorable, magical, cost-free experiences to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families from around the world. More than 100,000 children have had their dream come true at Give Kids The World. No child in need has ever been turned away – and no child ever will be, as that was the dream of its founder, a dear man named Henri Landwirth. Through the tireless support of volunteers, employees and generous partners, they dedicate each and every day to the special families who visit there. You can read the heartwarming story of how Give Kids The World got started here.
GKTW works with groups such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and, in order to provide a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime vacation for these families, they fill almost 1300 volunteer shifts a week, every week. They depend on the hard work and dedication of volunteers and they love to work with visiting volunteers who want to spend time with them, even if it is just for a day or two. So, we are really excited about the possibility of serving as voluntourists during our upcoming trip this December.
The buildings in GKTW Village are designed with whimsy and bright, beautiful colors – to me, they resemble those in my very first board game, Candyland. I am so impressed with the job they have done and I cannot wait to see it in person. There are many different ways my family can help while we are there; such as, greeting the families at the welcome center, serving breakfast or dinner to the children and their families, serving ice cream, spending the evenings playing with the children at all of the fun activities provided at The Village, and in many other ways. On our Visiting Volunteer Application Form, we listed the dates and times we will be available and what jobs we prefer. The GKTW Staff will try to accommodate our wishes while trying to make sure all the 1300 shifts for the week are covered.
Volunteering to help make wonderful, memorable, once-in-a-lifetime trips for terminally-ill children and their families will be such an honor for us. I am not sure this is something my kids could have handled emotionally when they were younger, though, so I think it was better to wait. The age requirement for most service positions is 16 and up, although there are several for 18 and up and a few with opportunities for kids 12-15 with an adult. My youngest will be 18 before our trip so we will have a wide variety of tasks from which to choose. This year will be a great time to be able to give at maximum capacity and we are all very excited about it.
As you would imagine, a background check is needed on every volunteer. They also ask that you be flexible in your dates and times but, since we have begun planning so early, they have told me that we should be alright even though our dates cannot be extremely flexible. If you think you might enjoy being a voluntourist, feel free to download a copy of their Visiting Volunteer Application. One of these is required to be approved before you should make any travel plans around your volunteering there.
A little adjustment is necessary when planning your trips to Walt Disney World as your kids get older. There are so many different activities, rides, resorts and events that it makes incorporating new things pretty easy. I do miss sharing Disney with them when they were young, but I am very thankful for the new opportunities to share in wonderful experiences together even now that they are older.
Author’s Note: There are many families that cannot volunteer at Give Kids The World during their visit to Walt Disney World. If you are one such family, but you would still like to help, there is a great opportunity to do so right now called “The Power of 10.” You can read all about it here.
Brenda is a native Texan born and raised on the Gulf Coast. She visited Disney World twice as a teenager and always dreamed of growing her family Disney. She took her first-timer husband and their three children to Disney World in 2000 and they now spend every Thanksgiving there. Brenda writes with a comedic twist on various Disney topics. She will be sharing tips she has learned during her travels and also hopes to enlighten people on little-known freebies that Disney has to offer. She wishes she could have met Walt Disney and considers herself to be a student of Walt. In parallel to his dream it is her wish that everyone would take at least one trip to Disney World in order to share in its magic with their families.