By Elizabeth Tran
Give Kids the World holds a special place in my heart. I remember when I wanted to be a volunteer there when I was 12 but I was too young unless I went with a group. I was told once again, I was too young to volunteer by another non profit organization. It was around then I started Teens Go Green, and it turned out I could still volunteer at my age if I went with a full group
So that is what I did. The very first volunteer group event Teens Go Green did was with Give Kids the World. We all wore green clothes. The volunteers were personal friends of mine, and this experience really meant the world to me. I volunteered at the castle and made pillows for the kids to dream on. I helped them write their name on their wish star to hang on the ceiling.
For context, Give Kids the World (GKTW) gives kids with critical illnesses and their families a cost-free vacation in Greater Orlando. If you are familiar with the non-profit Make-A-Wish, many of the wish kids biggest wish is to go to Disney World. And in partnership, GKTW provides a home away from home for these families to stay.
While it is a wonderful experience for the kids, I could say it is equally as rewarding for the volunteers. I remember my heart almost exploding after the smile on a little girls face. I have also seen my older brother and Teens Go Green co-founder Alex volunteer there countless of hours as it brought him so much joy as well.
When I was teen, the two mascots of GKTW, Mayor Clayton and Mrs Clayton would attend the Spring Carnival as Easter Bunnies to raise money for the cause. We had our Teens Go Green table next door and our carnival money went straight to GKTW.
Another memorable event for me was attending the GKTW Black and White Gala. It was a beautiful event celebrating all the work. I even met the founder of GKTW, Henri Landwirth, who is one of my inspirations. I wrote a speech about him in my eight grade English class. He was a holocaust survivor, went through a stroke, and still ran several incredible non-profits.
Lastly, I wanted to share my experience at the Star Tower opening. It went full circle to my first volunteer event there hanging stars from the ceiling. Now, there were so many stars that they needing a fancy tech-savvy LED screen to connect the stars to the sky inside a much larger tower.