A Little Slice of Heaven on Earth

Give Kids The World. The most wondrous, absolutely marvelous place on the face of this earth.

We had the great fortune of spending a week there back in 2002. It happened by chance, as most things in life do, and we are forever grateful to everyone and anyone to have had the opportunity to experience this place of heaven on earth.

The Castle at Give Kids The World. Dee has a glowing star on the ceiling there, forever and ever. Every child who visits gets a star. Just another amazing thing about this place.

I guess "great fortune" is a misnomer in this case, seeing as to get to spend a week here, you have to have a child with a life-threatening illness. Just a minor detail.

GKTW is a tiny little village in Kissimmee, Florida, built specifically to give families with a child who has a life-threatening illness just a little taste of happiness and joy.

The famous Ice Cream Palace. Let's just say we spent A LOT of time there. Doing what, you ask? Eating. Ice. Cream.Sundaes.

We didn't know what to expect when Make A Wish granted us our wish. First of all, we wanted both children to have a say into where we went or what we did because they both suffered incredibly through Dee's cancer. Dee's suffering was obvious, Em's not so obvious. Em dealt with many psychological and emotional issues for years after, and I sometimes think she will always be subconsciously reacting to those early years of fear and the unknown.

As a result, we deeply believed Em's wants were just as important as Dee's when it came time to figure out what our wish would be. Em, being five years old at the time, was totally into the whole pink princess thing, and Dee had recently gotten into dinosaurs, having just turned four when we were told we were getting a wish granted.

This is where the boats and trains live at GKTW. You could spend a whole day just in this building.

Mr. Handsome and I decided Disney World might work for both wishes, and so Disney World it was. As it happens, Make A Wish sends all their families to GKTW, just an additional little perk that, to us, made all the difference. Oh, sure, Disney World is an amazing and magical place. There's no denying it. But Give Kids The World? It is beyond description. That's how fantastic it is. Let's put it this way: given the choice of going to Disney one day, or just taking it easy and hanging out at GKTW, the kids voted hands down to stay. THEY SAID NO TO DISNEY, guys!!

That was only for a day, mind you, but still. Who says no to Disney, I ask? No one, except my kids, that's who.

We've gone back to Disney World a couple more times since that first time back in 2002. Our last time there, back in 2007, the kids really wanted to go back and visit GKTW. And so that was the first thing we did once we had landed and gotten our rental car. We went to GKTW as returning guests, and we spent a few hours touring the grounds, having a free ice cream treat at the Ice Cream Palace, and taking a ride around on their very own train. Of course, my knees were in my mouth as we rode around the grounds. That train is tiny. I'm positive it was built for little rodents.

The kids' favourite place at GKTW. When told they could ride this all day long if they wanted, they opted to stay put for a day instead of going to Disney World.

Besides the talking garbage can, the all-you-can-eat buffet, free ice cream morning, noon and night, a house full of toy trains and little worlds all unto themselves (you can even create thunder and lightning in this place!), and the swimming pools and the merry-go-round (the kids' absolute favourite thing in the world), we got to own our own little piece of the village for a week, living in a sizeable townhome with two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and dining area. And there was food supplied, and everyday when we got back home after a long and draining day at Disney, there would be little surprises waiting for the kids. One day, it was matching ET backpacks, another day there were books.

It was like Christmas everyday.
Speaking of which, they even have one day where it snows, and Santa comes. Maybe a little lame, but the kids adore it.

And because we were "special guests", we got "Front of the Line" passes for Disney World, whereby we didn't have to wait for most rides. That's right. Read it and weep.

It's over seven years later, and whenever I think about this trip, I am still in awe by it all: by the special treatment we all received, by the happiness we were offered so generously by everyone at both Make A Wish and GKTW, and by the absolute joy my children experienced, after such a long and exhausting famine.

I can't wait to go back.


Anonymous said…
While the circumstances over what brought you there were not happy ones, the place is amazing and it sounds like you took away so much from it!
It's sounds a wonderful organisation, and the pleasure it gives the children must be a real bonus. we have similar here in the UK and the way it helps the children and parents is most beneficial. I loved the photo's most uplifting to look at them and count one's blessings, Thanks for sharing your wonderful time.

Ash said…
Carefree days - the greatest gift. For children, and parents. It does the soul good to know that that place exists.

Thank you for sharing.
ShanaM said…
I went to Give Kids The World with Tender Wishes in 2001 with my patient. Plus I was working so I got paid as well, can't beat that. GKTW was the coolest thing. It is so nice for the sick children. I have a whole photoalbum full of pictures from there and Disney.

I have been back to Disney in 2006 with Marissa and she loved it.
darsden said…
Just a wonderful story, totally full of magical fun. Thank you for sharing with us :-)
Unknown said…
OMG, that sounds like a wonderful place for children, especially those in need. Thanks for sharing this; I had not heard of it before.
love post like this...its so good to be reminded that there are good people who do so much good for others....its so awesome that after all that each one of you went thru....this is one of those times that will bring a smile to all of your faces!!!!!
Jenni said…
What an amazing place! I have never heard of it and it sounds awesome! Free ice cream? I'd stay all day, too! Those Make A Wish people are phenomenal...
Michel said…
This was soo sweet and touching! What a great post.
I LOVE Disney! I'm sure I would love GKTW as well! What a wonderful thing they do for sick children~
Have a fantabulous day...
oh how wonderful! (not that there are children that need it, but that it is there for them).

Hopefully someday we won't need it, and it will just be open to all children to just enjoy!
Chris said…
Make a Wish is among the best charities on the planet. Anything that brings kids (any kids, really, but especially those with special needs) is truly exceptional in my book.

Thanks for sharing this. I'm glad I found your site.

A New Yorker said…
I didn't know all this about your family. It's a bit sad to read/learn. But I'm so glad you all found such a fun place that takes your mind off of the subject.
Kristen Andrews said…
looks like you guys had fun, it is magical isn't it, you seem to forget about all your worries while there.
Jasmine said…
free ice cream.... oh my joy!

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