The Most Magical Place on Earth

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
– Winston Churchill
We volunteered at Give Kids the World for our time in Florida. Here’s what we took from it:
“10 young adults came from Richmond, VA to participate in an ASB trip. None of us knew what to expect, but once we got here, we knew we never wanted to leave. This whole experience gave us a greater appreciation for life itself, and has given us more motivation to give back unconditionally to causes like this. It is only right.
God bless all of the families here and everyone involved in this park/village. This gives us a reason to live and be active, so that we can better ourselves so that we can better other people.

Truly a vision from above.
We all were changed because of this, for the better. We wish more blessings on this place as we leave it today.
ย — VCU ASB”

(-the note Nisan left in GKTW Chapel’s black book)
For Spring Break this year I went on an Alternative Spring Break trip, which is basically a week-long volunteer opportunity. It was one of the best weeks of my life. Ever since I’ve been home, I’ve been thinking about my next trip to Florida and how I want to volunteer at Give Kids the World again. Every day we would wake up and go to this magical village where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families had a week off from all the stress and tire of their every day life and just relaxed, went to the most magical places on earth (Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.) all for free. The houses they stay seem to be from a fairytale. When you walk down the road, it feels like you’re in a cartoon and you’re surrounded by little castles that are neatly lined up around this town with a beach, carousel, ice cream parlor (where kids can have ice cream for breakfast!), mini golf course, a cute train, a spa that doubles as a airbrush tattoo parlor, game room for the older kids, and more! Christmas is every Thursday and they actually make it snow! And again, everything is free for the families- From the flight there, to the food, to the theme parks- EVERYTHING). Which is why the place relies almost entirely on volunteers and donations.

we were all really excited about the park, too. SO MUCH FUN! ๐Ÿ™‚
While I was there, I realized how privileged I am, we are. I have a loving family, and all of us are healthy Alhumdullilah. The families I met at GKTW were burdened by frequent trips to the hospital and many other medical strains. There was one man we met who was actually from our home area and his son was in a wheelchair. I’m not sure exactly what medical condition he faced, but when his dad spoke to him, he was unresponsive. It was incredibly sad to think that the dad could not communicate with his son, and probably never would be able to. For another girl who was 9 or 10 years old, her only wish was that her little cousin could have made the wish to come to GKTW before he passed away. I was painting her nails and she was telling me about how much she loved it here and how upset she was that if her cousin had only held on a few months more, he could’ve visited this magical place. The last family I remember belonged to a little girl in a wheelchair. At GKTW, they have the only wheelchair accessible carousel in all of the states. We strapped her wheelchair in tight and started the ride. The look on her face was something I’ll never forget. She was the happiest little girl in the world and for this moment, she wasn’t sick and she wasn’t different. She was a care-free kid laughing and playing like all the healthy children in the world. And her mother’s face. To see how stressed these parents are and then to have it all forgotten in an instant by their child’s smile and laughter is such a beautiful thing.

I felt that the week of my spring break was the most rewarding week of my life, without a doubt. And throughout the trip, I got to know these awesome 9 people I was traveling with, who ended up being some really great friends of mine. We had to work together from sunup to late after sundown. We did everything together, and they’re all such great people. I’m thankful for having the opportunity to work with them, cook with them, laugh with them, change lives with them.
pulling weeds from the village lawns

The founder of GKTW is Henri Landwirth. He was a survivor of the Holocaust and lost both of his parents at concentration camps when he was just a teenager. When the war was over and he came to America, his luck started and didn’t stop. He treated everyone equally, whether they were a street sweeper or a queen. He wrote a book called Gift of Life, and I recommend it to all of you. It’s a really inspirational autobiography and it teaches important life lessons, many of which seem simple yet are still unfortunately overlooked by so many privileged people today. After reading it, I have become a lot more appreciative of all the things I’m blessed with. It ends with the creation of Give Kids the World, which is an entirely new beginning.

Gift of Life by Henri Landwirth
If you ever get the chance to visit Florida, please donate some your time here. It will change your life. Learn more about GKTW; how you can help create magic, celebrate life, and inspire hope like we did during our Spring Break 2011 here. You must register before volunteering. Like the GKTW Facebook page here.

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