Challenge Accepted! Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2015

Spring… rebirth, renewal, and rejuvenation, no doubt about it, this winter was arduous for us in the northeast, and as the snow slowly recedes it reveals cracks, cracks, and hidden damage underneath the weight of the season. It’s time for repairs, restoration, and rebuilding, and there’s no better place to begin that process than Give Kids The World Village. From March 14 to 21, 2015, I will work side-by-side with 13 college students from upstate New York to bring smiles to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. After similar trips to Give Kids The World the past five years, I know our time in the Village will do as much (or more) to revive my spirit as anything I might give to the children (or my students). Continue reading for thoughts and photos over the course of the week, and how you can help us meet a challenge issued by Give Kids The World. For the most up-to-the-minute updates on our Give Kids The World alternative break trip be sure to follow along on twitter and facebook as well.

Give Kids The World Village

Give Kids The World (GKTW) is the whimsical, non-profit resort in Kissimmee, Florida where children with life-threatening illnesses stay with their families when they have a wish to visit Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, or anything related to Central Florida. Founded in 1986 by Holocaust survivor Henri Landwirth, GKTW allows families to escape for one week on a restorative vacation. Watch the video below to hear the story of GKTW directly from Henri himself.

During our Give Kids The World alternative break week my college students and I will serve food; trick-or-treat with the kids; staff the carousel, pool and train; engage in tea, pirate, and princess parties; and more. This year, we are one of 32 other teams heading to the Village, and we’re all working to give just a little more. GKTW issued a challenge to each school to raise $500 for the Village, and we accept their challenge. If you believe in the mission of the Village, and are inspired by the work they do, please follow the link to donate to support SUNY Geneseo in the GKTW Alternative Spring Break Challenge.

GKTW ASB Challenge

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Gotta put the logistical details of the trip in place, grocery shopping, setting up the condos, and runs to the airport.

And where do you take a group of 13 hungry college students, who just arrived in Florida, and want to fill up fast? Why, Waffle House, of course, a southern tradition, breakfast for dinner!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Our first volunteer shift started at 7:00 am, and we were checked in to Give Kids The World by one of my former students who went on the trip in 2012. She now works full-time for the Village. What a great way to kick off the 2015 Alternative Break!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Before we headed to the Village, we spent the morning exploring some of the more “wild” aspects of the Florida area with a Wild Florida Airboat ride of Cypress Lake.

Afterwards, it was back to Give Kids The World for a full tour and history followed by Mayor Clayton’s Hare-Raising Halloween Party.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We celebrated by serving breakfast to families in the Gingerbread House.

Following breakfast, we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour at SeaWorld where the students and I learned a little more about their rescue and rehabilitation work with sea turtles and manatees.

In the evening, our friend Bob Jackson (i.e., Walt Disney World’s Yehaa Bob) met us back in the Gingerbread House to entertain the families once again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our day off from volunteering in the Village to play in the Orlando theme parks – 11 of us went to Universal Orlando and the other 3 headed to the Magic Kingdom.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My students stayed in the theme park from open to close, but had no trouble making it to our 7 am shift at Give Kids The World.

In the evening, we celebrated our spring break with a special Spirit of Aloha Luau dinner at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A particularly meaningful aspect of this trip for me was seeing all the reminders of past groups I’ve led to the Village. Heidi, from the 2012 trip, now works full-time in the Village. Two students from 2013 now live in Orlando, and stopped by to join us on our shifts. And our pavers in the Avenue of Angers serve as permanent markers of our work with the families.

In the afternoon, we helped grill and serve hotdogs & hamburgers at the volunteer appreciation lunch. The quote on the table says, “we must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” It seemed quite appropriate for our trip.

Our evening was filled with Pirates, Princesses, and a special tea party hosted by Miss Merry.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

And before we knew it, our final shift in the Village was upon us.

We may leave the warmth of Orlando behind, but we will always keep the warmth of Give Kids The World in our heart.

It is my sincere hope that sharing our Give Kids The World alternative break experience may inspire others to learn more about the Village or get involved. We are so privileged to easily travel to Florida for our spring break trip, and look forward to sharing some happiness with a group of special families and friends. If you’d like to see more pictures of our alternative spring break trip to GKTW, check out our gallery below. Note: the photo gallery requires Flash Player,click here to view all the photos if your device is not Flash equipped.


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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I’m a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.