Geneseo Ties Run Deep During Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017

“We’re Baaaaaaack!” For the eighth consecutive year, I’ve trekked to Give Kids The World Village with 13 college students from upstate New York for Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017.  At Give Kids The World (GKTW), families with children with life-threatening illnesses get a week-long, cost-free vacation to Florida, and volunteers (like my group) work hard to bring a smile or two to their faces. Continue reading for thoughts and photos over the course of our Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017 trip, but for the most up-to-the-minute updates on our GKTW visit be sure to follow along on instagramtwitter, and facebook as well.

Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017

If you’re not familiar, 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 World War II Holocaust survivor Henri Landwirth, GKTW allows families a respite for one week on a restorative vacation.  Watch the video below to hear the story of GKTW directly from Henri himself.

During Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017 my college students and I will serve food; trick-or-treat with the kids; staff the carousel, pool and train; hold a Christmas parade; and more.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

We blitzed out of Rochester NY, just as “Winter Storm Stella” was bearing down on the East Coast.  Stellaaaaaaaaaa!!!! Temperatures plummeted as we boarded our Allegiant flight to Orlando, Florida, and the snow started to fly right as we took off.

Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017

Once we arrived, it was my duty to educate this group of Yankees to the Southern tradition of Waffle House where they filled up with breakfast and comfort food.

Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday morning was our first official shift in the Village, and our 7:30 am report time was especially early due to daylight savings time. However, that didn’t dampen the energy and enthusiasm for this group of college students, not typically known for early morning energy.

Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017

That being said after serving breakfast and staffing the Village venues, there was plenty of time for napping back in the house later in the afternoon.  After everyone rested and freshened up, it was back to GKTW for our evening shifts playing with kids on the life-size Candyland Playground, delivering cookies, and more.

Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

We’re just getting started for today, and the schedule calls for a detailed tour and history of Give Kids The World.  Emily Wagner, from GKTW’s Communications team, led us throughout the Village.  Emily was not only a knowledgeable GKTW employee, she also happened to be a Geneseo grad who’s first volunteer experience was meeting up with one of my previous groups of students.  Her experience volunteering with us that evening led to a passion and now career in the Village.

Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017

After a lunch break and quick spin on Walt Disney World’s Monorail from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, through the hotels, and a loop around Epcot, it was back to the Village for a little Halloween fun.

Every Monday night is Halloween at Give Kids The World, my students pack up their costumes and get ready for Trick-or-Treating with the families.  The local Star Wars costuming group, the 501st Legion, joined us for an evening of Stormtroopers and Jawa-packed fun.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday morning began with a special treat for my students, as we were hosted by SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove for a swim with dolphins and to learn about SeaWorld’s conservation programs.

Then it was back to the Village where our group was spread out operating the carousel, rides, and shuttling families around the property.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Of course you can’t visit the theme park capital of the world without taking some time to play.  Wednesday was our day off from the Village, and the majority of the group made the pilgrimage to visit a certain boy wizard at Universal Orlando Resort.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

After a full day at the theme park from opening to close, and multiple days waking up early to serve families at Give Kids The World, my college students earned a day to sleep in.  Each Thursday it’s a Winter Wonderland in the Village, holiday decorations go up, carols are in the air, and Santa visits to give every child a special gift.

Even I stepped outside my comfort zone, and dressed up for the Winter Wonderland parade.

Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Give Kids The World invited our group to participate in a special “Village Vision” session Friday morning.  We talked about ways we could spread awareness and spread the message of Give Kids The World long after our week of volunteering.

Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017

Geneseo has strong ties to Give Kids The World, and we were thrilled to get the opportunity to provide feedback on our experience as well as brainstorm about other ways we could promote Give Kids The World.

Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017

And in the evening it was time for our final volunteer shift with the families.  The alternative break week at Give Kids The World always goes so quickly.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I’m privileged to travel as much as I do, but one week each year I’m “double-privileged.” I get the opportunity to give-back to families at Give Kids The World Village dealing with life-threatening illnesses who may only get one vacation ever. I also get to travel with a great group of 13 college students from Geneseo who unselfishly devote themselves to these families and this cause.

Whenever I get to feeling low, or down, or overwhelmed throughout the year, I think back to my week at #GKTW and the new friends I’ve made serving others side-by-side.

Give Kids The World was founded in 1986 by Henri Landwirth who wanted to ensure children with life-threatening illnesses could enjoy a Florida family vacation. The Village is truly one of the happiest places I’ve ever visited, and is by far one of my favorite trips each year.

Give Kids The World Alternative Break 2017

It is my sincere hope that sharing our Give Kids The World alternative break 2017 experience may inspire others to learn more about the Village and get involved.

Give Kids The World Carousel

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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.