Volunteering at Give Kids the World: A Primer


The WDW Merchandise Walking Bible
Jun 27, 2005
There was much discussion during this week's shows about volunteering at Give Kids the World. As someone who has volunteered there several times, I thought I'd offer my insight so that more people feel comfortable signing up to help out.

Give Kids the World

Give Kids the World Village is a 70-acre resort with over 140 villa homes, entertainment options, specialty attractions, eateries, and more. It is designed to provide families of children with life-threatening illnesses a "care-free" vacation. Everything from accommodations to food to park tickets are provided free of charge for these families. All areas of the village are handicapped accessible so that wheelchairs and other special needs of the children can be met.

- from gktw.org

The story of Give Kids The World begins with a little girl with a wish and the desire of one man to make that wish come true.

The little girl's name was Amy. Amy had leukemia and one wish - to visit the theme parks in Orlando. To facilitate Amy's wish, the request of a complimentary stay was made to a respected hotelier. As he had done many times before, the hotelier gladly obliged and Amy's wish was that much closer to being realized. Sadly, the remainder of Amy's travel plans took too long to arrange and her wish was never granted; Amy had passed away. Time simply ran out.

This unfulfilled wish inspired a man, the hotelier, to make a vow that no child in need would ever be failed again. That man was Henri Landwirth and his desire to ensure that Amy's story would never repeat itself is where the story of Give Kids The World begins.

DIS Connection

Mr. Bob Varley, a former podcast host who passed away suddenly, supported this great organization and, as best to my knowledge, is the individual who introduced it here on the DIS. If anyone knows otherwise, please correct me if I am wrong. Bob's family encouraged donations to the organization in his name after his passing. Since then, it has become a major focus of DIS members to support GKTW financially or through volunteering.

Voluteering at GKTW
The Logistics

Give Kids the World relies heavily on volunteers to help man the 1,200 shifts each week at the village. Positions include assisting children during pony rides, scooping ice cream, serving meals, operating the merry-go-round, delivering meals, working the kids' spa, and much more. Groups or individuals can volunteer and should contact Volunteer Services via email at volunteer@gktw.org or by phone at 1-800-995-KIDS or 407-396-1114. In the past, I have organized small groups to volunteer and our contact person was Connie, who to the best of my knowledge, is still working in this department. She is familiar with the "DIS Unplugged Group," and is very easy to work with as are all of the staffers there.

Volunteer Positions

When setting up time to volunteer, you can be either a part of a group or go individually. Shifts range from one to several hours; you may volunteer for more than one shift depending upon your availability. Groups will be given the choice of several areas in which shifts are available. The group leader can then divide them amongst the participants. Please note that most shifts are not near one another. Sometimes one person will be working alone while others will be working in a pair or group of three. Feel free to ask questions about this when contacting GKTW.

Individual volunteers are either assigned or given a choice as to what their shift will be. Please be flexible as you may be filling in a single shift that a larger group could not accommodate. It's a great way to network with social, college, or religious organizations that regularly volunteer at the village.

Groups or individuals who are new to GKTW may request a tour of the village either before or after your shift. This tour highlights the major points of the entire property and really provides a lot of the back story behind each building, how they work with sponsors and families, etc. I highly recommend going on a tour as it only adds to this special experience.

Before Arrival

Before arriving at GKTW, you will be asked to fill out a release form. This will serve as a basic background/safety check to make sure that everyone stays safe. The form will need to be completed before you arrive at the village.

Depending upon your shift, make sure to wear comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing. I have volunteered at the village when it was very cold and very hot. You will enjoy your time there more if you dress for the weather.

Upon Arrival

When you arrive at GKTW, be sure to follow the signs into the parking lot. Park near the main building and report to Volunteer Services. There you will be checked in and instructed accordingly. You may also need to be trained on special equipment and sign an additional release depending on which shift you are responsible for. An example of this would be the merry-go-round which requires special training for its operation and an additional safety release.

After Volunteering & Personal Reactions

Many people think that volunteering at Give Kids the World would be a sad experience. This is certainly not the case. The village is beautiful and very cheerful. The full-time staff does an incredible job of being discrete when emergencies or extraordinary circumstances occur.

Many of the individuals who I have volunteered with or set up volunteering for have told me that the experience really recharged them for daily life. While yes, you may find yourself emotional during the tour or another experience, most walk away feeling very good about themselves and the work they have done. I have yet to meet someone who has volunteered there that felt the experience was not worth it. Most do not want to leave when their shift is over. I have always been one of those people and am sure to visit nearly every time I am in Florida on vacation.

The village has a small gift shop selling t-shirts, snow globes, car magnets, and other trinkets. The proceeds benefit the village and organization itself. You can also order something online by visiting http://www.givekidstheworldstore.org/.

For more information about Give Kids the World and its volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.gktw.org.

To view a video celebrating the great work Give Kids the World does and to see more of the village, visit http://youtu.be/01_f9bTSTJI.

Contact Information:

Give Kids The World Village
210 South Bass Road
Kissimmee, FL 34746
800-995-KIDS (Tel)

OKW Lover

Retired and living 2 miles from The Castle.
DIS Lifetime Sponsor
Apr 29, 2004
Thanks for posting this Nikki!


always emerging from hibernation
Apr 28, 2007
You had me at Amy.

I think a (far too modest) moderator should make this a sticky.


DIS Veteran
Feb 9, 2010
Thank you for the primer. Volunteering at GKTW is on my bucket list. (I live in New York so I have some logistics to work out, but someday . . .)


<a href="http://www.wdwinfo.com/dis-sponsor/" targ
Jan 9, 2007
I had the pleasure of volunteering at GKTW one day in December 2009 with other members of the DIS (including Nikki :)).

I can 100% vouch for the wonderful experience this is. Not at all a sad day- but one that will leave you with warm fuzzies :hug: to last months and years to come.

When Pete announced on Podcast Cruise 2.0 that his wish was to raise $1,000,000 for the wonderful organization, I was thrilled - THRILLED :banana: I was on my feet cheering- so happy!!! :cheer2::cheer2::cheer2:

I would add, that in addition to raising money through the Power of 10 campaign- please try to plan ONE DAY of your next Disney world vacation at this special place. :wizard:


Jul 27, 2008
Thanks, Nikki!

I planned a volunteer weekend at GKTW last fall and it was both humbling and inspiring. I left a different person.

This week I am headed back with my family and I couldn't be more thrilled! It is so easy to make this part of a WDW vacation, and as my family has been visiting Disney for 20 years and know it very well, I would say our two days at GKTW are the part of the trip we're most excited about.

Connie was our contact for arranging our volunteer shifts, so your info is accurate :)

Also, I would add that if there are people who have not listened to Dave Parfitt's wonderful segment on GKTW (from December 2008, I believe), PLEASE do yourself a favor and give it a listen. It was this segment that really helped me understand all that GKTW really does.
  • ADP

    <marquee><font color=red>I'm a huggin' fool</marqu
    Sep 2, 2006
    Excellent idea Nikki! Thanks for putting it together and posting this.

    Sarabi's Cubs

    DIS Veteran
    Apr 3, 2008
    Which podcast did the team discuss this? It's been crazy at work and I'm behind but am hoping to catch up this week.



    <font color=blue>I left the house at 5.45am - that
    May 27, 2008
    Thanks for this fantastic and insightful summary into volunteering for GKTW!

    I am from the UK, and in two weeks time, I'll be heading to Orlando to participate in Disney's International College Program. Honestly, one of the big draws of this program was that it provided me the opportunity to live in Orlando for 3 months, therefore allowing me some time to volunteer at GKTW. I have seen how GKTW has helped a family here in the UK (who is also on the DIS), and I would just LOVE to show my appreciation and give something back to this marvelous place!

    By being in Orlando for 3 months, I'm hoping that I can do at least a couple of shifts at GKTW. I have also been telling many of my fellow ICP participants about this place, and hope to introduce many of them to volunteering here too!

    I am currently a medical student, and am therefore fully aware of how such opportunities can help those children and families who need a break like this. In just over a years time, I will need to undertake my medical elective to complete my medicine degree, and for this I intend to return to the US, and spend a couple of weeks volunteering at GKTW. If they'll have me :)

    Thanks again!


    DIS Veteran
    Jul 8, 2006
    Thanks so much for this information, Nikki! It's one of my goals to volunteer at GKTW when visiting WDW. I've been following Dave Parfitt's experience with his students, among others, and the stories never fail to make me smile. Such a worthy organization! :goodvibes
  • DisMullins

    Disney is my guilty pleasure
    Mar 6, 2010
    Thank you so much for posting this. I've only discovered the DIS a couple of years ago, so along with that came my first hearing of GKTW. I watched the video that was done on the last podcast cruise and was deeply touched. (That video is also a great tool to use to tell others about the program.) I've donated what money I could to them through the site and I am proud and excited to say that circumstances are working out so I can spend one of my Disney vacation days volunteering there this December! :banana: I'm really looking forward to it and thank the DIS for introducing me to this wonderful organization. :hug:


    A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes
    Feb 16, 2008
    Where is GKTW in relation to WDW ? We aren't renting a car but would love to be able to volunteer during our December trip.


    The WDW Merchandise Walking Bible
    Jun 27, 2005
    GKTW is about 15-20 minutes from WDW. I have never rented a car for a WDW trip. Taxi service is available.


    The WDW Merchandise Walking Bible
    Jun 27, 2005
    I actually rode with friends. I'm sure a few others will be along to help answer that, Tobi. :)


    Jul 27, 2008

    I took cabs between the Swan and Give Kids the World last year a few times (seemed easier than renting a car, though it was not cheaper).

    Rates varied, but I'd say $25-35 each way is about right for most places in WDW.

    I was back to volunteer last month, and that time we did rent a car for just 2 days. We rented it right from the Dolphin Hotel (we were staying at the Beach Club) and it couldn't have been easier.

    In the future we'll definitely do the short-term rental. The cabs weren't bad, but it just got expensive.

    Have fun, volunteering is such a wonderful experience!


    DIS Veteran
    May 6, 2008
    Thanks for the info Nikki. :thumbsup2

    After going to the benefit in MA July 2nd, we decided to volunteer for a day when we go down in September. We have already been contacted by Connie, so it is all set. I think we will rent a car to get there and back from the WL.