By Suzette Carlisle Flowers, NAWCJ Board Member
GKTW Spirit to Serve Committee Member
In 1986, Give Kids the World (“GKTW”) Village was created as a nonprofit resort in Kissimmee, Florida, located on 89-acres of land. Since that time, GKTW Village has welcomed more than 176,000 families and their critically ill children to the Village from all 50 states and 76 countries. Each family receives an all-expense paid weeklong vacation to the Village, filled with fun and magic for the children, siblings, and parents.
Since 2012, the Workers’ Compensation Institute (“WCI”) has supported GKTW by bringing hundreds of volunteers to work at the Village venues and assist with service projects at the Village during the annual WCI conference. WCI is a non-profit educational organization. Venues at the Village include fun activities, food, music, entertainment and more.
The Service Day
On Saturday August 20, 2022, 529 volunteers assembled from various backgrounds and places to perform the following service projects to help the Village maintain the property:
· Arts and crafts;
· Power Washing;
· Beautification; and
The arts and crafts volunteers cutout 2,500 ornaments for children to color, and decorated crowns, and Tiaras for children to use during upcoming events at the Village, and decorated two hundred invitations for families. The outdoor projects performed by volunteers over three and a half hour period equaled a month’s worth of work. Maintaining the Village property is a huge undertaking with limited staff, so volunteers are a key element to the success of the Village.
Pictures below reflect some of the artwork created by dedicated volunteers. Many volunteers returned in 2022 after the two year hiatus due to COVID-19.
Prior to witnessing this years’ service day I had heard about GKTW and even served on the committee as a liaison from the NAWCJ. But witnessing a service day is an experience I will never forget. Volunteers arrived by 6:30 a.m. and filled a large conference room at the Marriott Hotel, with energy before the sun fully rose. Their enthusiasm was contagious. Many volunteers were identified by their groups t-shirts. Old acquaintances were renewed. New associations were formed. Drinks and continental breakfast flowed to boost volunteer, not that they needed it.
Douglas (Doug) Clark, Chair of the WCI’s GKTW Spirit to Serve Committee, greeted volunteers before many loaded buses and headed to the Village. About 80 volunteers, myself included, remained at the hotel for arts and crafts projects.
Below Doug shares his first experience with GKTW and why he stayed connected:
“I became acquainted with GKTW 9 years ago when I decided to celebrate my birthday with my family and friends by volunteering at the village. I’ll never forget the impact it made on all of us. I wanted to do more. It was a unique experience that led to many more visits to the village. That decision 9 years ago transformed my life and ultimately positioned me into overseeing WCI’s annual Spirit to Serve volunteer day.
When presented with the opportunity to become the chair of WCI’s GKTW Spirit to Serve committee, I was a little apprehensive at first but the words of Jim McConnaughhay, Founder & General Chair of the WCI Conference, continued to echo in my head…
This was a chance to get a group of professionals in our industry from all sides to come together – employers, employees, attorneys representing employers, attorneys representing injured workers, third party administrators, doctors, nurses, judges, special service providers and even injured workers; putting aside our differences and coming together to support a common goal.
That was something to be proud of and is worth my time – a cause that is bigger than myself that will help so many deserving families. This event should be advertised and recognized as it is the kids and families at the village that have and will continue to receive the benefits of our industry’s collective efforts. It’s inspiring to see so many leaders step up from different companies and contribute to this cause, year over year.
To summarize and try to put everything into perspective, what has taken us around 24 hours to do collectively in manual service projects, would have taken the village 7 years to complete! In addition to our volunteer efforts, we’ve raised well over $500,000 through our Gala’s, sponsorships, silent auctions, and donations. GKTW relies on volunteers and sponsorships for their survival and our industry has stepped up! I want to share the link to this year’s event in hopes that if you are not already participating in WCI’s GKTW day on August 20, 2022, that you will take the time to check it out and consider joining us in some manner. https://www.wci360.com/give-back/
Saturday’s night the Gala took place in a Mardi Gras atmosphere. The Gala is another WCI-GKTW Village fundraiser. Industry sponsors helped make the night shine. Guests bid on items during the silent auction. A variety of items were on display at the silent auction to help the Village, including art, blue tooth headphones, appliances, jewelry, lap top, and a vacation get away. The highlight of the Gala came when Gabby, one of the children served by the Village, and her mom, shared how much the Village means to them. (Photo below)
All the GKTW fundraising efforts totaled a goal breaking $150,000.00 as seen below in the photo below with Doug presenting the Big Check to WCI during the conference.
You too can join this worthy cause and help put a smile on families’ faces. How can I help you ask? I am glad you asked. You can serve on the Spirit to Serve planning committee, share your talents and time on service day or make a donation. Planning for next year will start soon. All efforts keep the smiles coming for these families.
For more information or to volunteer, please contact me below or check out the WCI website at https://www.wci360.com/give-back/
The next Service Day is scheduled for August 20, 2023 during the 77th Annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference in Orlando, Florida at the Orlando World Center Marriott.
We hope to see you there!!!
2022 Images include
- A picture of Doug with Micayla Rowe , GKTW representative, on Service Day 2022
- Picture of volunteers gathered at the Marriott at the crack of dawn before Service Day begins
- Picture of Gabby with Mom, sharing her thoughts about the Village during the Gala
- A picture of invitations decorated by volunteers to invite families to special events
- A picture of Doug presenting the $150,000.00 fund raising check during the WCI conference
- Video of volunteers gathered at the Village on Service Day 2022. Eager to work