A number of new experiences are coming this year to Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, Fla., where children with critical illnesses and their families can enjoy cost-free vacations to Central Florida’s theme parks.
Over the past 35 years, this whimsical nonprofit resort has brought happiness and hope to these families, and to celebrate this milestone, new offerings are being planned for its guests to enjoy.
Henri’s Starlite Scoops
The first, which opened on March 7, 2021, is Henri’s Starlite Scoops, a space-themed accessible ice cream parlor. Designed by Walt Disney Imagineering in collaboration with Universal Creative, and with support from community partners and individual donors, this ice cream parlor has been created with accessibility in mind at every level.
Custom-built 28-inch-tall ice cream chests rather than the traditional 34-inch cases make it possible for all children—including those in wheelchairs—to pick out their flavors of choice. Lower countertops, an accessible ice cream toppings bar, and an open floor plan also enable those in wheelchairs to easily navigate and enjoy the space.
Walls inside the rotunda feature false windows that offer views into space, as if guests are dining inside the 30-foot flying saucer that sits atop the building. Historic photos and NASA memorabilia—like a space suit, moon rover, and a Give Kids the World flag that John Glenn took with him on a Space Shuttle Mission—can also be found inside. The venue, of course, is named for Give Kids the World founder Henri Landwirth.
Merlin’s Magic Space
Give Kids the World worked in collaboration with Legoland and Merlin’s Magic Wand Foundation to bring Merlin’s Magic Space to the Village.
These spaces are uniquely-themed treatment rooms that offer a chance to experience the fun of Merlin attractions for children who are unable to visit. The Merlin’s Magic Space at Give Kids the World features a themed play area with an ADA-accessible build area, character photo spots, and bright graphics.
Scheduled to be complete in May 2021, Serendipity II is the Village’s brand-new themed pirate ship stage. Located at the Park of Dreams pool, this stage will be used for outdoor entertainment, including the Once Upon a Village Party that features pirates, princesses, and mermaids.
This new offering will feature a 16-foot-by-9-foot LED screen to show “Dive-In Movies,” a wheelchair-accessible stage, photo-op features like an animated parrot and interactive ship’s wheel, and the masthead figure is the maritime cousin of the seahorses on the Village’s Enchanted Carousel.
Mayor Clayton’s WonderLab
A new, interactive learning center with an emphasis on crafts and technology will come to the Village in the fourth quarter of 2021 with Mayor Clayton’s WonderLab.
The Gallery of Hope will be transformed into this whimsical space, offering hands-on educational programming for children and adults that covers a wide range of skills. The WonderLab will feature a creation space filled with 3D printers, a laser cutter, computerized sewing and embroidery machines, and other state-of-the-art tools.
In addition, there will also be an immersive gaming center with accessible technology that allows kids of all abilities to game.
JJ’s Express Train
Work has begun on JJ’s Express train, the Village’s wheelchair-accessible train that circles the Amberville pond and travels through a jungle and cave.
Expected to be completed in 5-6 weeks, the train will be undergoing a complete renovation that will transform the attraction into an immersive, Jurassic-themed experience.
The overhaul will include refurbished train cars, colors and graphics, a new storyline and audio, a Paleontologist dig area, two new character voices (The Conductor and The Paleontologist), audio cues for venues along the train path, an updated drive system, and enhanced motor control that will lead to a smoother ride.
Extreme Village Makeover II
Over the course of just seven days, 142 of Give Kids the World’s 166 wish family villas will be completely renovated.
Set to take place from Feb. 20-27, 2022, the villas will see the following scope of work done:
- New carpeting in 284 bedrooms
- Repaint with new color schemes
- All-new furniture (80 semi-trailer loads)
- Refinished cabinetry and bath rubs
- New wall-mounted Innova beds
Every child whose wish is fulfilled by Give Kids the World and their family receives an all-inclusive stay that includes transportation, accommodations, donated theme park tickets, all meals and snacks, nightly entertainment, daily gifts, unique interactive experiences at the Village, and of course, unlimited ice cream… including the Village’s favorite tradition of ice cream for breakfast!
“Children with critical illnesses face countless appointments, treatments and hospital stays, and they are often told ‘no’ due to the limitations of their illness. Unlimited ice cream is an important part of giving wish children and their families a week of ‘yes’ where they can forget their worries, experience joy, and spend priceless time together,” says Give Kids the World President and CEO Pamela Landwirth. “We are grateful to the many treasured partners who have made it possible for us to continue our 35-year legacy of transforming lives one precious moment at a time.”