Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Special Little Village

I was quickly scanning through an article that came out recently about the angriest cities.  We live in Northern Virginia.  I grew up in Maryland...some how all extensions of Washington DC.  While I would not say we live in an angry area, I would say we live in a place where I would NOT consider people to be nice. 

I joke that people is this area are always going some where, doing something with a purpose and they are getting there in a hurry.  Even in the grocery store, you rarely find people wandering and if you do so, you just might get a cart on your heels.  Eye contact with strangers rarely happens unless you have done something that offended that person.  When I went to school in Indiana, at first, it was a bit jarring to walk across campus and complete strangers would look right at you and smile (at first I tended to look behind me to see if they were really looking at someone else) or driving around and people would offer a friendly wave.

I feel like I live in an area where most people tend to their own business and treat their own business like the most important one...this is speaking in general, not of everyone.

Why am I telling about this?

Well, so that you can better understand the impact that Give Kids the World had upon us.

Arriving at Give Kids the World, we quickly realized that there were always helpful staff around and many, many volunteers.  These volunteers came from all walks of life, over 1,200 volunteers a week.   Volunteers that come to Give Kids the World to serve the Make-a-Wish families.  We met college students, choosing to be there for their spring break.  Couples vacationing in Orlando who came over for a day to help.  Snow birds who heard about the place and wanted to offer a helping hand.  Companies sending a group to help.  Even former Make-a-Wish families coming back to volunteer.  Thousands of volunteers cycle through to help families they have never known and know nothing about.

Each volunteer and staff offered a warm smile and helping hand, whether operating the carousel or getting us a drink.  Then I started to realize that no one was talking about diagnosis, doctors, medical problems...there was never question about what brought us to Give Kids the World.  Not one word about medical problems.  I am guessing that staff and volunteers were trained not to discuss it.  The standard questions were our plans for the day or where we were from.  It was refreshing, I spend countless hours a week dealing with and talking about Brayden's medical concerns.  At Give Kids the World they did everything they could to create an environment free from those concerns.

A big night at Give Kids the World is the Winter Wonderland.  Staff and volunteers create a special night of Christmas.  Santa and Mrs. Claus there to greet the children. 

Racks of gifts, from Santa, for each child to pick from (Brayden selected a glow worm, since it is favorite in our house and we go through them; Carter got a nerf flag football set; Luke found Transformers).

A Winter Wonderland parade.
The night was filled with sweets treats, crafts, more gifts and special memories.  Brayden was particularly found of a gingerbread stuffed animal a volunteer gave him, he kept shoving his face right up on it.
The night was not all about the gifts, although the boys were thrilled.  It was about making the experience special and magical for the families.  One morning a volunteer kindly placed his hand upon Jeremy's shoulder and said, "I know that this is supposed to be about the kids but we are here for the parents too.  You handle so much and we want to help you as much as we can during this week, it is for you as well."

Give Kids the World gives families a break from real life, a retreat.  We were touched by the kindness and thoughtfulness of complete strangers.  The care for our family even though they knew nothing about us.

If you are in Orlando and would consider volunteering...it is a gift for the families.

Perhaps the nicest little village there ever was.


The VW's said...

I bet it was hard saying goodbye to such a great place and experience! Thanks for sharing your vacation with us! It is making me realize that we chose the perfect wish for Gavin! We can't wait to go on our trip, especially after reading about your wonderful time there! Hugs!

Megan said...

I started to tear up as I read this post. What a blessing to you as a family. What an amazing place that is run by volunteer hearts!

Wherever HE Leads We'll Go said...

What a blessing! It sounds like a wonderful place. I absolutely love the picture of Brayden with the Gingerbread man (and Gloworm - he is a favorite at our house too). Hearing about your trip just makes me tear up. What a wonderful opportunity to share such sweet memories as a family!

Michelle said...

I have loved your posts about your trip, what a memory of a life time for your entire family, even if Brayden can't express it. I totally agree with you, when I walk through my neighborhood and smile people are taken aback, it's kind of odd really it doesn't take much to offer a smile to someone. Now the grocery store is a differnt story if you see me with my 4 kids, your right I'm just trying to get out of there...LOL... I was once walking through Grand Central Station in NY, smiling and just generally being pleasant and someone told me "You better stop smiling because you're going to get mugged" I had a good laugh...then I thought well I better stop smiling because I don't want to get mugged.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.