ACE Cares - Members Volunteer for Give Kids The World
Sunday, May 24, 2020
During 2019, many ACE members participated in Coasting for Kids events across the country to celebrate their successful fundraising for Give Kids The World (GKTW), but did you know that fundraising isn’t the only way to support the organization? You can also give your time by volunteering at the GKTW facility in Kissimmee, Florida. Each day countless volunteers are needed to assist with enhancing the experience that visiting families enjoy around the village. Many ACE members give their time when visiting the Orlando area, and some took time to share their experiences.
GKTW village is a nonprofit “storybook” resort that gives kids with critical illnesses a week away from hospital stays and medical treatments to enjoy Central Florida’s theme parks. Children and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free vacations, complete with accommodations, donated attraction tickets, meals and more. Since 1986, Give Kids The World Village has welcomed more than 165,000 families.
Charles Mann of Lynchburg, Virginia, has volunteered at GKTW Village six times. “Once you enter the village for the first time, it opens your eyes to the real struggles of these families and helps you understand the importance of volunteering.” Why did he begin giving his time to the organization? His aunt and uncle spent their lives advocating for people with disabilities, so he felt it was the least he could do to pay respect to their efforts.
Charles has volunteered in a different role each time and has experienced a variety of roles, like volunteering in the Café Clayton and Café Clayton delivery and as an Amberville attendant, attraction attendant, carousel operator, transportation assistant and gift giver.
His 40th birthday was spent volunteering at GKTW, and the staff surprised him with a birthday card! That morning Charles served on the gift giver staff, which he loved! In that role, gift givers assemble and distribute a daily gift to each villa. Volunteers also set up a welcome gift for each arriving wish family. “It was an amazing experience sharing my birthday with so many people by surprising them in the morning with gifts.” Charles commonly volunteers with his girlfriend and fellow ACE member, Anna Baker, and his mom, Sandra Mann.
An unexpected benefit of volunteering at the village that Charles experienced was that it allowed him to “build friendships with the people he volunteered with and see how amazing people from all walks of life come together for a common goal.” ACEers who volunteer at GKTW Village can see the impact of the funds raised through Coasting for Kids events and the many other fundraisers that GKTW hosts each year. Charles was most motivated to come back to volunteer again because the families are so appreciative of the stress-free environment that the village provides. Getting to be part of the experience with different interactions is part of the charm of volunteering.
What Charles thinks is important for potential volunteers to know: It's very easy to get started by visiting the website and just clicking the volunteer opportunities to see what roles are available and the required training (if any). GKTW is very organized with orientation, training and providing ample opportunities to volunteer to fit anyone’s travel plans. ACE members should know that “giving up just 4 hours of your vacation to volunteer at GKTW Village is an experience you will carry in your heart for a lifetime.”
Chip Sieczko of Marietta, Georgia, returned to volunteer multiple times because he feels that he “gets back even more than he gives.” His first time volunteering at the village was during the village’s appearance on “Extreme Makeover,” so no families were visiting the village at the time, but he made countless milkshakes for the construction workers. In addition to making milkshakes, he has scooped ice cream, helped during mealtimes and operated some of the custom rides. The opportunities are endless to choose from.
Chip builds volunteer time into his vacation plans while in the Orlando area and feels it is important to keep doing so because he “leaves a better person than when he arrived.” How is such an impact possible? When working with the families, everyone has a smile because they are enjoying the trip of a lifetime with all the stress of wondering how to care for their child on vacation removed. As a volunteer, Chip believes that he gets a chance to make those smiles even larger just by being helpful.
If you want to learn more about the opportunities available visit: https://www.gktw.org/pdf/volunteer/opportunities.pdf
Learn more about the Give Kids The World Village here: https://www.gktw.org/about/village-tour.php