It's no secret that we are big Ronald McDonald House supporters and love to support the mission in any way we can. RMH exists to allow families to be close together during medical treatment. It promotes community among the residents, and many people we have met at RMH have become close friends because we have a common bond.
Matt and I observed that GKTW (Give Kids the World) is different than RMH. You don't get to talk to the other families too much. The tables at meals are individual, not family-style. But that's ok. GKTW exists to give families an escape from the medical stuff for a week. Families can just be normal, without feeling like they have to explain away everything they are doing. It's a time for fun and relaxation. So not sharing our medical journeys that week was okay...actually, it was kind of refreshing! I love sharing Abby's story, but it was really kind of nice to just be The Leach Family for the week.
Anyway, let me share a little more about GKTW. First, it truly lives up to its name. They really do try to give kids the world!! You want ice cream at 8 a.m.? No problem! Banana split at 10 p.m.? Why not? Want to decorate and eat 4 cupcakes? Sure! Ride the carousel 5 times in a row? Of course!
Outside of the carousel, which is a central point of GKTW.
The kids get the master suite with the jacuzzi tub and attached bathroom. The gift fairy brings presents and leaves them in the villa for you to discover each evening.
A magical owl creates handmade pillows for you, after asking you questions about your favorite color and interests. (Yes, Abby was magically given a purple one!)
Talking to the magical owl about their interests
The star fairy places a star in the ceiling of the castle for every wish kid who comes to GKTW and leaves a note telling you exactly how to find your star.
Abby decorating her star
There are over 160,000 stars in the castle--one for each of the wish kids that have stayed at GKTW.
This is the "galaxy" that Abby's star is in.
The one lit up in red is her star! If you look closely, it says Abby.
The ice cream palace is open from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and you can eat as much ice cream as you want.
They have activities every night for the kids, including a Halloween party, a birthday party for Mayor Clayton, a Christmas celebration, and a beach party. Seriously, this place is amazing!
Pictures with Mayor Clayton (he photo-bombed us because Abby was afraid of him!)
Everything is for the whole family, not just wish kids (except for the star placement in the castle). Caleb got to participate in everything that Abby did, and he loved every second of it!
Perhaps the coolest thing about this place is that it only has about 170 paid employees...for 79 acres...with 144 villas...and tons of activities every week. Over 1700 volunteers A DAY are needed in order to run GKTW. People come from all over the country to serve. Locals volunteer multiple days each week. We met one retired couple who runs the ice cream palace two times a week. We also talked with several groups that were here on service trips, and even met a family who took time out of their vacation to volunteer! It is seriously run on volunteer power, and is phenomenal!
In another post, I will share more about my favorite moment at GKTW. But know that in the heart of Kissimee, just outside of Orlando, there's a place tucked into a neighborhood behind a Walmart that is doing HUGE things. There's a reason why Abby sobbed on the day we left. They really are giving kids the world!