This is my third year participating in an AWOL Winter Break trip and yet I am still in awe over how amazing of an experience I had on my trip. My group (10 participants, 2 site leaders, and 1 Graduate Assistant) volunteered at the most magical place on earth- Give Kids the World. Give Kids the World is a nonprofit “resort” where kids with terminal illnesses and their families get to spend a week in Florida, all expenses paid. (There are 144 villas on site where the families stay). During the day, the families have the opportunity to go to Disney World and Universal Studios and at night they hang out and play games at “birthday/Christmas/Halloween” parties. There are other events that take place throughout the week, including carousal, merry-go-round, and train rides, horse rides, all you can eat ice cream, Disney character visits, and magical star games- all of which 260 volunteers put on each day. It was so rewarding seeing each child and their family light up at the different events that we put on each day. All of the participants left Orlando with a new perspective, many new friendships, and a sense of joy. In addition to the memories made at GKTW, we also made memories around the city of Orlando. Feeding alligators, bargain shopping, playing games back at camp, and sharing funny stories during reflection made everyone dread going back home. The joy at GKTW is unexplainable and I think it’s safe to say it was tough leaving such a magical place.
-Katie Barnett, site leader.