Thursday, October 12, 2017

Give Kids the World Village - Where We Stayed

Give Kids the World Village aka GKTW is an amazing resort for special needs families.  Here is a brief story about how this place came to be:

"The story of Give Kids The World begins with a little girl named Amy, a wish, and the desire of one man to make that wish come true.
Amy had leukemia and a wish to visit Orlando’s theme parks. To facilitate this wish, a respected hotelier was asked to provide a complimentary stay for Amy and her family. Although the hotelier gladly obliged, the remainder of Amy's travel plans took too long to arrange, and her wish was never granted. Time simply ran out, and Amy had passed away.
This unfulfilled wish inspired 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 a mission Give Kids The World has fulfilled since 1986." (more of the story here)

Since 1986, they have hosted over 154,000 familes with special needs.  Each family is hosted in one of the amazing villas on the property.  There is a Papa John's pizza on the property that you can order pizza ALL DAY LONG. There is a HUGE pool with fountains, a splash pad, and a pirate ship that when the sail was raised, they would play movies on it.

Everything at GKTW was geared for kids.

There was a coffee/donut cart that drove around giving families coffee and donuts. In the evening, the cart gave away cookies!

The ice cream shop opened up @ 8AM so you could have ice cream for breakfast. (Oh yes we did!!)

They had a cool arcade room with an interactive model train town and remote control boats.

And the helpers were so nice. Everywhere, there were volunteers helping families. They were always smiling and if they didn't have the answer, they would find out. This was especially true in the Dining Hall.

The dining hall was its own experience.  The volunteers would help each person take the tray, and guide them thru the buffet. Even the boys each had their own helper! The food was amazing and we were stuffed each time. (Think of a cruise line- it was good!)

Most of the tables in the Dining Hall were set at kids height so that even Zachary didn't need a booster.

Our villa was great. It was a two bedroom duplex with a full kitchen and washer/dryer. There was plenty of space for our family to spread out at night. The 'master bath' was in the kids' bathroom complete with a sweet Jacuzzi tub and separate shower.

In the Castle of Miracles, each of the special kids gets to have his own star. As mentioned previously, there are 154,000 stars in this castle.

For events, they have Halloween and Christmas every week so that every kid can experience them, especially if they won't be able to make it to the real holiday. It's a big party. Lots of candy and theme related games.

The local theme parks also send their characters for a more mellow interaction with the families.

What an amazing place! They truly give kids the world!

The boys and their amazing tub!

First night in our Villa!

This was the awesome soap in the kids bathroom  

The morning donut/coffee cart that came around the Village.

Donut and apple juice PLEASE!!!

He was a big fan!

Look carefully.   What do you see?  

The entrance to the dining hall

The carousel they have at GKTW

The amazing dining hall.  They had a balloon guy there this night!

One of the many parties they had at GKTW


UM..... no caption needed :-)

Giving Zachary's star to the "star fairy" at the Star Castle.

Um, Mickey Kissed Me :-)

Zachary at the Star Castle 

Zachary's star is the first one right above his head

Last day :-(   Headed to the airport 

Ice Cream for BREAKFAST!!!

They had a robotics class from the local charter school come and let the GKTW kids play with the robots the class made!

Ice Cream for BREAKFAST!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dream Factory Trip of a Lifetime

We were so blessed to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Orlando, Florida. EVERY organization rolled out the red carpet for us.

Dream Factory is the organization that organized the trip for us. They are very similar to Make A Wish.

American Airlines (AA) pulled out all of the stops to make sure that we had a GREAT time flying with them. They bought breakfast pastries for everyone at the gate.  They threw a HUGE Star Wars party at the airport that included Darth Vader, Chewy, Queen Amadala, stormtroopers, Leia etc. etc. There were several news crews filming the entire thing on live TV.  They had a gigantic pile of gifts for each one of us on the trip. There were so many that we had to pick them up from American Airlines after we got back from the trip. We couldn't even bring them all with us.

As we were walking to our gate, we had airport employees come up and give us high 5s and congratulate us on our dream trip. They must have spread the word to employees working that we were leaving that morning.
AA also had the Tucson Fire Dept foam truck drive out for a salute for our send off.

When we got to our layover in Dallas, they had a group of employees waiting at the gate to grab our carry ons and take it for us to the next gate. We also had a shuttle waiting for us. Again, we were treated like VIPs when boarding in Dallas.

When we arrived in Orlando, we were greeted by someone from Give Kids the World Village (GKTW). He grabbed our luggage from the baggage claim, walked us to the car rental, loaded the luggage and car seats and gave us accurate directions to our villa @ GKTW.

Even National Car Rental knew about us and gave us a $50 gift card to Disney World!

It was this level of customer service and commitment that we were A M A Z E D.

And all this happened on the first day. It gets better from here.

Hotel we stayed at in Tuscon the night before we left.

Here we go!

This was only a small part of the group that put everything together at the Tuscon Airport

American Airline Staff at the gate

All the boys were able to sit in the Captains Chair!

Everyone went out on the tarmac to send us off!  This is Zachary is waving.

Foam truck salute

Our welcoming party when we got to Orlando.

This is what a dose of Dramamine looks like :-)

We had a layover in Texas and they had a shuttle waiting to take us to our gate!
Walking to the shuttle that will take us to the airport!

Breakfast at our hotel the morning of our flight!

Our final destination!  ORLANDO!!

Apparently Josiah thought our airplane had missiles :-)