Last Saturday night, Sept 21st, was truly a night like no other. It was a night of joy, beauty, inspiration, remembrance and miracles. Attending the Give Kids The World Black and White Gala was truly an honor and have not ever experienced anything like that before.
The evening began as we entered the Hyatt Regency Orlando Ballroom, sparkling and glittering like the heavens. Of course, this was very appropriate for the evening as it’s theme was “A Starlite Night”, an honorable nod to the founder of Give Kids The World Village, who imagined and created the amazing village that is the magical retreat for children and their families with critical illnesses. I was really taken back by the regal and elegance of the venue, and the purpose of the Gala which is the premiere event and fundraiser for Give Kids The World Village.
Inside the massive lobby and hall was the ‘Star Tree’ a gorgeous white and silver tree, climbing to the ceiling. Airelists swung from the limbs of the tree and you cold hand a note on the tree. You could write to a wish child, a wish family, or a note to Give Kids The World Village with whatever you wanted to let them know and convey. We put a note on the tree letting them know that we are going to do whatever we can to help this great charity through Magic Streamdom as well as a note stating how much we thanked them for changing our life and inspiring us everyday.
As we walked through the event, we were surrounded by community leaders, Give Kids The World wish children and their families, supporters, donors and volunteers. But most importantly, we met two incredible wish children and their parents, who like thousands of other children and families who have stayed at the village, are the motivating and inspirational drive behind everything that Give Kids The World Village represents. The Black & White Gala is the premiere event for Give Kids The World Village, being one of its largest fundraisers. Making children’s lives happy and seeing smiles on their faces, takes love, volunteers, passion, commitment and yes, money.
Going through the ballroom we came upon the silent auction, things that attendees could bid on and win (you could even bid online). There was tickets to the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Garth Brooks Concert tickets, gigantic baskets of prestige makeup, Universal park hopper tickets for 10 and incredibly, a trip to the Himalayas! Wow! You could win a trip to climb the Himalayan mountain range. I was blown away. There were things from the theme parks to gifts donated by supporters. There was something for everyone. The night was very fast paced and we had to quickly get to our table for dinner which was amazing.
At each seat was a silver bell, along with a beautiful pin and a booklet. Each guest was asked to ring the bell, to wake up the stars that were everywhere. The gold stars at the village represent each child that has come to stay at the village, all in their place high above in the Castle of Miracles, lovingly placed there by the Star Fairy. Jenn took hers home, as did many others, to remind them of the courage and strength along with the battle and loss that these children and their families endure, then causing us to really think about how our troubles seem insignificant compared to theirs.
Pam Landwirth, President and CEO of Give Kids The World Village, greeted the guests in attendance, thanking volunteers and supporters who give their time, their donations and their hearts to this charity that she so strongly and energetically advocates and works so hard for every day of her life. Then she was joined by two wish children, brother and sister Kellan, 5 and Kaylin 8, and spoke of 5 year-old Kallen’s battle with being born with only half a heart and undergoing five open heart surgeries from the time he was only 2 days old. She explained how, after Kellan was able to come down and experience the Give Kids The World Village from Pennsylvania, where they lived, their parents Tommie and Stacey were so inspired by the village and its overall purpose, they moved their family to Orlando.
Kaylin, Kellan’s older and very articulate sister, told the audience how her brother was her super hero. The fun things they can experience at the village like ice cream for breakfast and one of Kallen’s favorites, swimming in the pool. Kaylen grabbed my heart when she said, “To imagine what Give Kids the World Village is like, just close your eyes and imagine the best hug you’ve ever had.” This one sentence from this eight-year old child, is truly what Give Kids The World Village is all about.
There was a moving slideshow about Give Kids The World Village showcasing children and their families that have been able to stay there. Entertainment for the evening was nothing short of spectacular. Award winning acrobats, aerialists, and dancers in elaborate costumes were everywhere. A balancing act from a man on a stack of chairs over 8 feet tall was breath taking and the pageantry of the colors and music was absolutely beautiful. The entertainment came to an end with a rendition of the song ‘You Will Be Found’ from the Broadway show Dear Evan Hanson. It was inspiring as well as heart tugging and the performers were amazing.
After the entertainment, and at the conclusion of the program for the evening, during the roar of the applause, confetti stars dropped from the ceiling in a shower of sparkling light. It was incredibly magical and again, nothing that I have ever experience before. Dancing and music filled the ballroom as we got to enjoy the rest of the evening, seeing smiles everywhere. We laughed with friends and made new friends. I even had the pleasure of being joined by Kallen and Kaylin who, to my utter shock, knew who I was and knew “Main Street Road!” They even sang it to me!! My heart melted into a huge, pink pile of goo. They were so adorable, incredible and just glowed with warmth, courage and strength, it was awe inspiring. It was truly an honor to meet this two incredible children and am blessed to have gotten to know them this night.
There are so many more children like them, beating the odds, overcoming obstacles, fighting the fight. It only makes you want to be involved with events like the Black & White Gala and how this event makes such a huge impact on being able to touch the lives of children like Kallen and Kaylin and their families.
I want to thank Give Kids The World Village from the bottom of my heart for inviting me and allowing me to be a part of this incredible Gala. The donations that are given by attending the Gala, bidding at the auction and overall support of the Gala, is so extremely crucial to being able to bring children and their families to Give Kids The World Village for a once in a lifetime experience that they will never forget. On a much smaller scale, I will never forget this night and how it made me feel. It was very overwhelming for a simple guy like me, both visually and emotionally. What the community partners, sponsors at all levels, supporters, donors, volunteers and staff do to bring this type of event to life is incredible and I really have no words. Being able to bring a family to the village can cost over $6,000 per family inclusively. Important as it is to be able to have the means to bring these families to this whimsically magical place by having events like the Give Kids The World Black & White Gala, the most important thing is what is does for the children and the families that are able to experience the village. I could not have said it better than Kaylin who so innocently stated, ‘walking into the village is like getting the best hug you’ve ever had.’ You, Kallen and Kaylin, were two of the brightest stars of this evening, glowing with courage, strength and the hope of a beautiful tomorrow.
Want to learn more about Give Kids The World Village? Would you like to donate or volunteer? You can go to www.gktw.org and find out more information, how to support, donate and volunteer as well as how the Village was founded and new and exciting places coming to this imaginative and whimsical place.