top of page
lcc Shea photo_edited.jpg

'24 Give Kids The World

Group leader comments

​This past March I had the pleasure of leading 10 Geneseo students and alumni to volunteer at Give Kids the World (GKTW) Village in Kissimmee, Florida. This is the second year I have had the opportunity to lead this service trip through Livingston CARES, and this year we were fortunate enough to be able to double our group size from 2023.

GKTW is closely partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and similar wish granting organizations around the world. It provides lodging, meals, and activities for families of children diagnosed with critical illnesses while on wish trips to Disney World or the surrounding Orlando area. According to the GKTW website, volunteers typically fill approximately 1,800 shifts on a weekly basis.  The village hosted approximately 120 families, totaling about 750 guests, during the week of our service trip.

A family’s trip to GKTW is usually only about a week, but by the end of their stay it might feel like home. Staying at GKTW allows families to have peace of mind that they have a comfortable, welcoming environment to return to after a day spent at Disney or exploring Orlando. With an ice cream parlor open 9 AM to 9 PM daily, wheelchair accessible rides and attractions, nightly parties and activities, and deeply committed volunteers and staff, the village is truly a magical place for families to visit. The village allows not only the sick child, but the entire family, to feel “normal” and receive a well deserved break from daily doctors appointments, hospital visits, and medications.

Our group had a total of six volunteer shifts ranging from 3 to 5 hours per shift. For three of our shifts, our entire group was together servicing the café during meal periods. For our other three shifts, our group was split up into various positions, including attraction operation, spa attendants, castle attendants, and character photos assistants. 

In the café, which offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets daily featuring a variety of cuisines, our group completed a variety of assignments, including: carrying trays for children or guests in wheelchairs, serving food at different stations, clearing and cleaning tables, pouring beverages, and assisting in the dishroom. In each position, our volunteers were able to build connections and leave lasting impacts on the families we served.

One of my favorite places at the village is the Castle of Miracles. The Castle ceiling holds over 190,000 2x2 inch stars decorated by wish children, holding space for each and every wish child who has visited the village. Another reason families visit the Castle is to complete the pillow presentation. At each family’s check-in, they receive a voucher for one pillow per child in the family. The Castle is home to Buttons the Squirrel, a virtual character of the village who takes the children through a checklist in order to “make” the pillows. In reality, the volunteers working in the Castle are able to select from dozens of pillowcase designs and hide them in a fake tree stump for the children to find at the end of the pillow presentation. Facilitating this moment for families is one of my favorite and most meaningful volunteer experiences. Witnessing the pure joy of the children has left a lasting impact on my heart, and is just one example of why I love volunteering at the village year after year.

Another one of my favorite volunteer locations is Twinkle Hope’s Rockin Spa. Initially created to provide spa services such as nail painting, hair styling, and temporary tattoos for the children, the spa recently expanded to include services for adults and parents as well, particularly hydrotherapy tables, essential oils, and relaxation spaces. Providing individual experiences to each member of the family, volunteers are able to curate lasting memories not only for the families, but for themselves as well.

Volunteering at GKTW is one of the most rewarding things I’ve been able to experience in my life. The opportunity to not only experience the magic of the village myself, but also help facilitate the same opportunity for Geneseo students is something I am honored to get to do through Livingston CARES.


– Shea Kinsella, Group Leader

Thanks to our '24 volunteers

“The GKTW trip is a must for any student interested in volunteering with children. At GKTW, every child is dealing with a critical illness, or is a sibling to a child with a critical illness. The week these families spend at GKTW may be their only “normal” family vacation, or a lifelong wish come true. You will never forget the joy we get to witness as volunteers in both the children and their families."

– Shea Kinsella

bottom of page