Over Christmas Break I had the opportunity to travel with ten other Kentucky Wesleyan students to Kissimmee, Florida for a fun-filled week of service. To put into words the impact this trip had – and is continuing to have – on me is nearly impossible, though I truly believe everyone desperately needs to hear the truth that this trip brought to light, and that is a life full of service to others is a life fulfilled.
For those who have not heard of the Give Kids the World Village, through a partnership with the Make a Wish Foundation, they are able to provide families who have terminally ill children with an all-expenses-paid vacation to Florida, where they can stay in the Village and be entertained with daily activities as well as free tickets to the nearby Disney parks. Not only is this special for the child, but it also gives the whole family an opportunity to enjoy quality time together.
Throughout the week, we volunteered in the Village. Whether it was working a ride in the cold weather or washing dishes in the steamy kitchen, no job was too small or less important. There were so many amazing activities planned for the families to enjoy right there in the Village. Each night had a theme (Halloween, Birthday Party, etc.) and there would be a grand party in celebration for everyone to attend. This place can only be described as magical, like its own version of the Disney parks. The children could get their faces and nails painted, their arms tattooed, or even have ice cream for breakfast! The excitement was evident, you could feel it buzzing through the Village. The best part was, we had the opportunity to play key roles in all of these activities. I served ice cream at 8:00 am, painted some of the sweetest faces in the salon, and cooked at least five hundred waffles. Each place we volunteered at in the Village brought new experiences and interactions with different families, who were beyond grateful.
For me, spending time getting to know the families made the greatest impact on me. Hearing about their stories and seeing just how strong and optimistic they are despite their situations was so encouraging. The joy that was evident on everyone’s faces throughout the week proves just how special this time is for these people who have experienced struggles that some of us can only imagine. It puts the small problems that we have in our daily lives into perspective when you see just how many battles these families constantly face. We should be thankful for every day we are given and remember to think of others’ needs, not just our own. The week we spent at Give Kids the World without a doubt touched my heart and opened my eyes, bringing new perspectives on life and how I plan to live it from here on out. If you are interested in participating in this trip next year or simply want to learn more, Dean McQueen, Dean Kramer, myself, or any student who traveled with us would be more than happy to share with you.