Envision a world that is a dream come true for most children, but especially for the youngsters that this village welcomes: the innocent dreamers who escape doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, and illnesses for a week. Once inside this magical village, known as Give Kids the World (GKTW), these tiny yet fearless youths transform into princes and princesses, making all the rules, ordering dessert for breakfast, and wishing Halloween and Christmas into the same week. Each week, volunteers (known as angels) give over 1,200 hours to grant these dreams.
After a long week of braving the IAAPA floor, networking and learning, members of the Themed Entertainment Association’s Next Generation (NextGen) gathered to partake in the angel magic. On Saturday, November 23rd, eighteen NextGen members eagerly followed around one of GKTW’s many angel ambassadors. Steve gave us a thorough tour of the village, telling us tales of black and white squirrels, children who consistently attempt to awaken ever slumbering trees, and youngsters who mandate their parents to make humorous noises through their armpits. We caught Star Fairy granting a wish and placing a star in the castle. Finally, we saw the slumbering tree wake up long enough to grant two young sisters pillows, each displaying their favorite patterns. But how could he have known?
The reoccurring theme throughout Steve’s stories was one of experiences; experiences that we strive to create as NextGen members of the TEA. Although our industry focuses on these delightful escapes into our imaginations, these precious moments of pure happiness mean so much more to the families who can escape the worry and hardships that comes when a loved one is ill.
Hearing tales of these moments and touring the site where they take place day after day gave my fellow TEA NextGen members and myself a renewed purpose as to why we strive to create these experiences. After a delightful lunch at the Gingerbread house, where breakfast and dinner are served each day, our group headed towards the nature trail to finish the tail end of a mural. Applying our creative talents, we turned abstract shapes into hidden Mickeys and small hippos, leaving our distinct flare upon the land. Teamwork and shared passion for our industry allowed us to finish quickly, so we asked for our next task: decorating the main park for Christmas. We hung various wreaths and garland, making the stage for the Winter Wonderland at GKTW come alive.
Not only did we give back to an industry that we cherish that Saturday, but we also connected with one another. Events such as our volunteer day at GKTW help NextGen members connect to one another as future leaders of the industry. Through these events, we are able to share our successes and challenges, aiding one another through our journeys. More importantly, events like this reiterate why we aspire to be in this industry: to make dreams come true through remarkable experiences.