Kissimee, FL - Children (Post 3)

The past two days continued to get better. Wednesday was our free day and we had many firsts. It started off with an adventure to Clearwater beach. It was quite chilly out for Florida, a cool 60 degrees, so not many were at the beach, but several of our members hadn’t seen the ocean so we were all still excited. After running onto the beach we did various activities such as building an amazing human pyramid and playing a little Frisbee on the beach. We ended with two of our guys being gutsy and diving in the water. Props to them, it was cold.

After the beach we relaxed a bit until we went to dinner with alumni from the Orlando/Florida area. Two alumni showed up but the dinner itself was really enjoyable as many of us got to try new foods and enjoyed talking to the alumni. We ended the night by gallivanting around Downtown Disney.  We didn’t really have too much of a plan. We saw fireworks at Magic Kingdom, rode the monorail, got to see a lot of Ebcot and the castle that so many dreamed about! All in all, it was a pretty fun trip. The day was exhausting but we had a lot of cool experiences and really soaked in how magical this place was.

On Thursday we were back to work. Another early morning was a struggle but we made it on time and went to work. We spent time at similar stations as Tuesday. The joy on kids’ faces in getting to meet the characters was awesome to watch. Some of us couldn’t even resist taking a picture.

The nightcap may have been the coolest event yet at the village. It was called Winter Wonderland and it was truly magical. From games to competitions to snow, GKTW did a great job of creating that fun environment. Some of the highlights of the night included a kid in a wheelchair getting really excited when he was able to play a toss the fish game. Something he probably never imagined he’d get to play. Another cool moment was when a kid questioned how it could snow in Florida and one of our members, Kelsey, responded that it was magic snow. The kid responded, “I believe in magic!” It’s small moments like that which put a smile on your face.

Outside of the actual activities our group has been having “deeper” conversations. One of the things we discussed was the fact that a lot of times our worst qualities bring out the best in us. For me in particular I discussed how my lower self confidence motivates me to try and make an impact as often as possible because when I make an impact I feel confident, feel like I’m making a difference. Without that lack of confidence, I may not be on this trip and I may not have done some of the more impactful things in my life. Similarly, we’ve run into so many families who feel so grateful for their child with life threatening illnesses. They are all so humble, appreciative and given a new perspective on life because of these illnesses. I don’t think anyone is wishing for hardship, but turning it into something good can be powerful and there is no doubt failure, struggle can be fuel for some of the best things in life.

I’ll end with a quote that was said in the Gallery of Hope. “We don’t have a cure for all these illnesses, but we’re dispensing hope, love and joy and those are the most powerful drugs in the world." Every smile we create, hope that we inspire, and love that the children feel is one step closer for these kids to get back to a normal life.

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