Nearly 10 months to the day that it closed temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Give Kids The World Village in Kissimmee has reopened its whimsical gates! On January 17, wish families began arriving at the Village, an 89-acre nonprofit resort that provides transformative weeklong wish vacations to critically ill children and their families at no cost. Each family receives receive transportation, accommodations in one of the Village's 166 storybook residential villas, all meals and snacks, nightly entertainment, donated tickets to Orlando's world-class theme parks and attractions, and unique interactive experiences at the Village.
Since 1986, Give Kids The World Village has welcomed more than 176,000 families from all 50 states and 76 countries – with more than 6,000 wishes postponed due to the closure.
"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 are thrilled to be able to get back to our mission of providing these children and their families with a magical 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.
With safety as its number one priority, Give Kids The World Village will be taking a thoughtful, phased approach to reopening, beginning with a limited number of families and gradually growing its occupancy over time. Nemours Children's Hospital experts led by pediatric infectious disease clinician and researcher Kenneth A. Alexander, MD, PhD, worked closely with Give Kids The World to develop the nonprofit's comprehensive COVID-19 safety plan, which has been in effect at the Village since March.
The reopening marks the culmination of a six-month giving back campaign undertaken by Give Kids The World to support other local nonprofits hard hit by the pandemic, while preparing the Village for its eventual reopening. Beginning in August, the Village donated six tons of food to the Second Harvest Food Bank in support of Feeding America; mailed out 1,800 "Boxes of Hope" to critically ill children whose wishes were postponed; and donated the use of its property to local nonprofits.
In addition, in an inventive pivot designed to raise funds for future wish fulfillment, Give Kids The World created the first-ever Night of a Million Lights: an outdoor, socially distanced holiday lights spectacular featuring more than 3.3 million lights donated by Walt Disney World Resort and hundreds of holiday displays. More than 90,000 guests safely enjoyed the festivities during the 52-night event, which raised $2.8M in gross charitable proceeds to fund the wishes of critically ill children. In addition, to support Toys for Tots, which experienced a significant drop in toy collection locations due to COVID-19, the Village invited attendees to make donations, resulting in more than 100 collection boxes filled with toys.
Give Kids The World is rated Four Stars by Charity Navigator. To learn more, visit www.gktw.org.