Walt Disney World Resort’s donation of more than three million lights will transform Give Kids the World Village this holiday into a bright and merry wonderland during Night of a Million Lights – and for one 15-year-old boy, it will be a magical experience that won’t easily be forgotten.
One of only four people in the world born with both Dravet Syndrome, a form of epilepsy, and cortical dysplasia, an abnormality of the brain cortex, Gavin Haines has endured thousands of seizures starting when he was just six months old, causing severe developmental delays. It took a trip to Walt Disney World at age six for the Star Wars fan to speak his first words.
Gavin’s seizures continued daily, deeply affecting the family’s lives, until a visit this past March to Give Kids the World Village changed everything. An endless trail of doctor’s visits were replaced by time spent laughing, playing and celebrating together. The Village’s meals and signature “Ice Cream for Breakfast” were a welcome break from hospital food.
To make the trip even more special, Walt Disney World arranged for a special day at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – which led to what some would call a miracle. Since that trip, Gavin has been seizure-free, and his mother, Stacey Haines, says it’s all because of the Village.
“Visiting Give Kids the World Village felt like coming home,” said Stacey Haines. “Our stress just melted away; we were floored by the overwhelming support, love and compassion we were showered with, and it truly has been life-changing for Gavin and our entire family.”
The Village made such an impact on Gavin that in April, the Haines family packed up their lives and moved all the way from Connecticut to Central Florida so they’d be able to volunteer at the Village every week once it reopens.
However, they wouldn’t have to wait long to return “home.” Once they heard that Give Kids the World would be hosting Night of a Million Lights to benefit future wish families, Gavin and Stacey signed up to volunteer.
When the two arrived to help string lights, the Village had a surprise waiting for them. They offered the family the chance to decorate the villa they had stayed in back in March—which happened to be the first family residential villa to be built at the resort—as part of the Night of a Million Lights installation.
More than 45 partners including SeaWorld, Legoland, Kennedy Space Center, American Airlines, Hasbro, Chick-fil-A, IAAPA, Pepsi, Unilever, Margaritaville Hotels and Resorts, and the PGA Tour will also be decorating one of the resort’s 166 family villas with their own designs. Universal Orlando Resort will be decorating Marc’s Dino Putt mini golf course with holiday inclusive lighting and musical elements.
Tickets for Night of a Million Lights are on sale now at GKTW.org/Lights, which offer guests the chance to stroll and view the light displays, ride the Village’s accessible attractions, and enjoy complimentary holiday treats.
Check out our video preview of the event below: