“Volunteerism is a real extension of the American heart, as well as being the foundation of Give Kids the World. I watched it begin to beat. Give Kids the World simply could not function without the dedication of our volunteers, or as we like to call them, angels.” Henri Landwirth, Gift of Life
The current baseline operation of Give Kids the World requires 1756 volunteers a week. The night our group arrived at the Village, we were given an orientation where information about the Village, including a brief history was shared. The volunteer coordinator, gave the group a tour of the campus and then shared safety dos and don’ts. The integrity of the Village is encapsulated by the idea that the children come first. All the safety information shared was an expression of insuring every child on the campus was as safe as they could be. We were reminded of the medical fragility of some of the children, where a well-meaning hug could dislodge a feeding tube. I was so grateful for the instruction, as there were directives given, which in my lack of experience, would not have known, nor ever thought about. The volunteer coordinator was also free in sharing best practices to connect and interact with the children and family. I found this information helpful and important to remind us that while we would be involved with particular tasks, the goal was to bring joy to these families. With that purpose in mind, even the most menial task seemed important.
On Monday morning, I walked the Village, stopping in the different buildings to get an idea of what each volunteer would be doing, to chat with them, as well as families. My first stop was the Merry-Go-Round where I met the Bobs. These two retired gentlemen, one a Florida Resident, the other from New Jersey, sat and talked with me as they awaited the children to finish their breakfasts and begin to ride. Florida Bob has been volunteering with GKTW for about six years. He began with his church, which would come once a month. Upon retiring, he decided he wanted to work more, so he comes three times a week. He will work the Ice Cream Cart or the Merry-Go-Round. He wears a red and white speckled mushroom hat that mirrors the roof of the Carousel. He has two rules for the riders, have lots of fun and be smiling. He carries with him the cards, drawings and pictures of the children that have visited the Village over the years. “Throughout the week, they become my buddies. The families will bring me these cards to say thank you, or they will give me pictures. I keep them close,” he shared, proud of each one. He also loved the opportunity of meeting volunteers from all over the country and the world. “There was a young man from Shanghai who was here for a month volunteering. He was so impressed by what he saw here, he said he was going to make it his life’s mission to create a Village like this in his home city. That kid was so impressive, I just know he will make it happen.” Bob from New Jersey is retired and flies down to spend two weeks volunteering at Give Kids the World and enjoying the Central Florida attractions. He shared how important it is for him to come and give to the kids. “I know I’m not the only one who flies down to volunteer regularly. There is a man who uses all his vacation weeks—I believe he gets five weeks—to come and volunteer here.”
Our church youth group brought forty kids to volunteer, with 30 kids a day coming to Give Kids the World and the other 10 working at a different program, Clean the World. There were several other youth groups volunteering, as well as a Girl Scout troop, and Florida school students earning volunteer hours. The Volunteer staff ranges in ages from 10 to 90 something. There are previous wish kids giving back to the place that brought them joy, family members of kids who were once guests, as well as corporate sponsors. The volunteers are as varied in their stories as the families who are guests of the Village. A great cross-section of humanity all in one place. Younger volunteers, age 10-13, will need to work side by side with an adult. The volunteer coordinators strive to find a niche for everyone. With the number of jobs to do, there is something for everyone. Volunteers greet the families as they arrive at the airport. They serve food, clean dishes, operate amusement rides, all which are fully accessible. Volunteers do crafts and play games with the families at the nightly parties, as well as dance with children. There is a need for drivers for the shuttles and golf carts that deliver guests, as well as food to the villas. Volunteer shifts begin at 7:00 am and end around 10:30 pm. Volunteers have an opportunity to interact and connect to families from all over the States and the World.
“I just love the ability to make connections with these people who need support and love as they traverse the illnesses they face with their children, “ Stephen, a minister from Kansas City who brings three groups from his church throughout the year. I have met people over the years which I call once a month and check in on. We are here to be the hands of Jesus to people, but often there are families who need ears, and arms and feet, too.” Henri Landwirth, believed Give Kids the World was God’s place, however, it is necessary for volunteers to recognize that the families will pursue conversations of faith, if they want to. Anything that would lead to a family feeling uncomfortable is not acceptable. It was the experience of our group, that families who would like to connect on a spiritual level, reached out. To the families who might not want that type of interaction, the value of quiet service can not be dismissed. “I feel like once a year, someone in our group fields the question, ‘If your God is so good, then why is my child sick?” Stephen shared. “We have made great strides as a church to learn how to carefully provide an answer to this very difficult question. We understand the hurt and doubt that comes in trial.”
I know my family and I will be back to volunteer at Give Kids the World. I would encourage you to do the same. To get more information and to apply to volunteer, please go to www.gktw.org/volunteer. The organization is careful to screen volunteers to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the guests and other volunteers. For those volunteering from the United States you will need to:
- Complete a volunteer application and waiver
- Undergo online check of the Department of Justice Sex Offender Registry
- Parental Agreement: Potential volunteers aged 10-17* must have their parent/guardian complete and submit this formeither at the Village or via fax (888-577-9406)
- Proof of valid State Issued Photo ID
- Volunteer Orientation: volunteers that live within 90 miles of the Village must attend an orientation session. If you live outside of the 90 mile radius you will receive an orientation upon checking in the first day of your volunteer experience.
For those volunteering internationally:
All of the above with a valid Passport and appropriate Visa if applicable.
The need for volunteers is greatest between August and October. Be sure to check out the website to get more information for how you can use your special talents as outside entertainment.
Tomorrow I will be sharing the personal stories of the volunteers from our group. They will give you insight to what you might experience as you volunteer. Please be sure to join and hear these impactful experiences. Also, Tomorrow will be the drawing for the Hilton Weekend. Be sure to make your $25 donation and follow all the steps found in the GIVE KIDS THE WORLD Part 1 post.
To conclude, I wanted to list all the Volunteer Jobs you can find at Give Kids the World. There is something for everyone!
GUEST DINING: The Village offers many dining options for our guests. All food service volunteers are required to wear a sleeved shirt. Disposable gloves and a hairnet will be provided. However, Volunteers may bring a hat from home if they prefer not to wear a hairnet.
39’er Diner Attendant– Volunteers assist in the Volunteer break room by monitoring food and restocking food and paper goods. The volunteer works closely with the Food & Beverage teams and light cleaning and organizing is required. Age Requirements: 12+ with an adult; 16+
Breakfast Cart – The Breakfast Cart delivers continental breakfast items to families requesting room service or to those strolling through the Village in the morning. Volunteers will use two-way radios.
Express Start Breakfast – Located in Café Clayton, Volunteers serve breakfast food to-go at the Express Start Breakfast Station. Volunteers are responsible for greeting guests, taking orders and packaging meals. Duties also include restocking food items andlight cleaning. Age Requirement: 12+ with an adult; 16+
Katie’s Kitchen – The Katie’s Kitchen Volunteers serve meals from the buffet line and package ordersfor pick-up and delivery. Duties also include maintaining food-service standards set forth by Boston Market and helping with service set-up and minimal clean up. Age Requirement: 14+ with an adult;16+
Ice Cream Palace – The ICP Volunteers are responsible for serving ice cream treats to families. Duties include serving ice cream cones, preparing milkshakes, sundaes, banana splits, restocking food items and light cleaning andsanitation. Age Requirement: 10+ with an adult;16+
Mama Merry’s Pizzeria—Give Kids The World’s is passionate about pizza. And it starts with better ingredients combine with fresh original dough and all-natural pizza sauce, 100% real meats and cheese, and the freshest vegetables available. Volunteers will assist in serving pizzas to our guests. Age Requirements: 10+ with an adult;16+
Nancy’s Kitchen – Each Nancy’s Kitchen Volunteer is responsible for assisting with the serving of breakfast or dinner from the buffet line, running food, assisting with the beverage station, bussing tables, and cleanup. This is a true team effort by allinvolved and offeers high interaction with guests. Age Requirement: 10+ with an adult; 16+
ENTERTAINMENT VENUES: The Village offers unique recreational options and must-see venues and attractions for guests to enjoy while visiting the Village.
Amberville Attendant – Volunteers are responsible for greeting every family, playing with kids, monitoring the play areas, and checking in and out games and golf clubs. They also assist guests in the Dino Putt area as well. All maintenance issues need to be logged and reported to the Entertainment staff. Age Requirement:16+
Attraction Operator– Volunteers are responsible for safely operating the Kelly’s Sunny Swing, JJ’s Express Train and Lori’ Magical Flight for all wish families and visitors. Ride operators are in charge of running the amusement rides and assisting with families. Age Requirement:18+ Special Requirement: Volunteer must be physically active
Attraction Attendant–Volunteers are responsible for helping operate the Kelly’s Sunny Swing, JJ’s Express Train and Lori’ Magical Flight for all Wish Families and visitors. The Attendant ensures that families are welcomed and kept safe while the attractions are in motion. Age Requirement:16+
Carousel Gate Keeper – The Carousel Volunteers are responsible for safely operating the Carousel for all Wish Families and visitors. The Carousel Volunteers may be asked to assist with Castle Monitor duties when needed. The Gate Keeper ensures that families are welcomed and kept safe while the carousel is moving. Age Requirement:16+
Carousel Operator – The Carousel Volunteers are responsible for safely operating the Carousel for all Wish Families and visitors. The Carousel Volunteers may be asked to assist with Castle Monitor duties when needed. The operators are in charge of running the carousel and assisting with families. Age Requirement:18+
Castle Attendant – The Castle Monitor is responsible for greeting families, assisting with the Star Fairy program and the Dream Pillow Tree Machine, playing with kids, cleaning up play areas, supervising and monitoring arcade and completing tasks for the Entertainment department. Castle Monitors may be asked to assist the Carousel. Age Requirement:16+
Gallery of Hope Concierge – Share your enthusiasm about the village and become a greeter in the Gallery of Hope! Welcome families, volunteers and guests by providing information about the Gallery and information about our founder, Henri Landwirth. Volunteer must be comfortable working independently. Age Requirement:16+
Park of Dreams Pool & Noah’s Nook Attendant – Volunteers help welcome guests to the swimming pool and water garden play area. Duties include distributing towels, issuing locker keys, distributing fishing gear, assisting guests with photo opportunities, organizing pool chairs, and light clean up. Please note volunteers do not perform lifeguard duties. Volunteers will also serve refreshments to guests between Noon to 9 p.m. Age Requirement: 10+ with an adult; 16+
TRANSPORTATIONOFFERINGS: The Village provides shared-ride shuttles, carts, vans and trains to transport guests and support resort operations. All Volunteer drivers are required to hold a valid government issued driver’s license. GKTW staff will provide training and a signed acknowledgement form is required upon completion of training.
Train Conductor – The Train Conductor helps load families on to a 16-passenger train, ensures safety for the families and operates a wheelchair lift as necessary. Age Requirement: 16+ with a valid driver’s license
Train Driver – The Train Driver is responsible for operating a 16-passenger train to transport families around Village grounds. They work with a Conductor, who is responsible for loading the families on to the train and ensuring their safety. The Driver informs Engineering of any maintenance issues. Age Requirement: 25+ with a valid driver’s license
Transportation Assistant – Depending on the transportation needs for the morning the Transportation Assistant volunteer may either be driving a golf cart, shuttle or assisting as a conductor on a Tram or Train. Age Requirement: 18+ with a valid driver’s license