Winston Churchill is quoted as saying “ We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” This quote is a favorite of Give Kids the World (GKTW) founder, Henri Landwirth. I know it is one of mine, too.
Today I am writing about the adult side of GKTW - where the magic and the pain merge. I look at its glory through a mother’s eye. I’m not a stranger to community service but this combines my love of Disney with helping others. Some nights are hard, but it tugs at my heart so deeply that I can’t wait to go back.
|One of my favorite places to help:the La-Ti-Da spa!|
I was thrilled to be at the La-Ti-Da Spa for my first shift at GKTW. I loved painting princesses’ nails and was able to teach about the magic inside the walls of Walt Disney World.
After my shift, I walked alone in the 70- acre village. This was the most worthwhile thing I had ever done and I just wanted to process things. It only took the suns last glance and a spray of color in the sky for my eyes to well up and tears to stream down my cheeks.
When I could catch my breath, I began to hear the muffled sounds of a woman in the butterfly garden next to me, there are so many hurting hearts after long adventurous days.
I didn’t want to invade her private time but she beckoned me to come closer. She spoke in broken English and I do not know much Spanish but I gladly obliged her desire for conversation. Moms that have battled capture my heart. She held tightly to a photograph. It was of a young boy full of life climbing a tree with a proud look on his face. In the background you could see an elderly man with a fishing pole. She said “Me Papa” as she pointed to the man. She pulled out her camera and showed me a picture that was taken that day. It was of the same man with a now bald-headed boy of about 8 or 9. The two of them were fishing at GKTW. She clasped her hands, let out a sigh, and the two of us cried. No words needed. An unspoken trust shared by two moms.
|One of the whimsical villas at Give Kids the World|
The space between the buildings at GKTW brings warmth and comfort. Conversations are a sanctuary to everyone who listens. It lightens their load and you can see it in their face. Their posture and their eyes sparkle with delight.
With a deep cleansing breath they speak of hardships and pain. It takes a lot of faith to believe in the doctors and drugs; and to have a moment where you do not have to think of it is priceless.
Time at GKTW can be emotionally intense. Mourning losses, and grieving relapses find their way into the happy laughter that fills the Village. Gut wrenching sobs from parents not wanting to lose their child.
But there are times of pure joy.
How can I be more thankful for moments beyond price? Living fully for the moment.
When the week is over it does not vanish. The week isn’t lost forever; Disney makes sure of that with pictures. Treasured memories. The families will never be able to banish the memory of pain and sting of what will be ahead. But for one glorious week they find fun and hope and love.
GKTW is a retreat from the hours and days in the grasp of a frantic life with a terminally -ill child. There is a spirit there. Where laughter outshines. As families are immersed in delight, you will know that it was made possible from friends like you.
Giving kids a fantasy trip and the extra nudge to go back home and fight. GKTW and the Angels who volunteer there inspire kids to renew their battle against their illness.
The kids at GKTW know the feeling of their port being accessed and an MRI machine more than the feeling of theme park attractions. But after a magical week volunteers can truly say they gave kids the world!