Volunteering at Give Kids the World on your next Walt Disney World Trip
Every time The Dis makes a call for Give Kids the World, I happily chip feeling grateful I am able to make a monetary contribution. But I have always found it more fulfilling to “put my money where my mouth is” and actually do the work, even though the donations are critical to the operation. My husband and I had a trip planned and decided to take a day and dedicate it volunteering at the Give Kids the World Village. We did not know what to expect from the experience but we were equally excited by the opportunity to participate in giving back.
Sign Up Process
The Give Kids the World (GKTW) website has a link to “Volunteer”. This describes some of the requirements and opportunities volunteers can expect. There is an application that needs to be filled out and this formally starts the process. The application asks for basic information and does not take long to complete. Each person that wishes to volunteer has to fill out a separate application. Within a week someone from GKTW reached out to gather more specific information of our volunteer abilities included dates, times, and how many shifts. After providing that information, the GKTW representative provides the shifts that are available based on your conversation. We confirmed our dates and signed up for two shifts that would total about eight hours. The final thing send to us was the Volunteer Guidelines for review which at a high level included reminders like:
- Arrive 30 minutes before your shift
- Wear closed toe shoes and a shirt with sleeves (so no tank tops)
- Must have government issued photo ID
The Village was approximately 20 minutes away from where we were staying so we called a ride share to bring us in the morning. It was an easy drive to get there – down a long road and all the sudden the village appeared. We were dropped off at the Welcome Center and while it was unclear if there was a better drop off location, this worked just fine. We were greeted and sent through to the rest of the property. The confirmation email instructed us to go to the volunteer services upon our arrival. Our first shift was for 7:30AM so we arrived at the volunteer services desk at 7AM to get situated.
Check in process was easy. You are asked to provide a photo government issued ID (not surprising!). We were each assigned a unique ID number that would be our GKTW Volunteer number for life. There are kiosks around the property where you check in for your shift by entering your ID number so it is a simple system to use. While we both expected an orientation of sorts since it was our first time there, we were instructed to report to our first shift location and get trained by a GKTW staff member. Of note, our flight was this day so we had our backpacks with us (we travel light) but they were able to accommodate our bags while we volunteered (thank you!).
Our first shift was from 7:30 to 12PM at Ice Cream Palace doing ice cream scooping. A coveted volunteer activity, we were both excited to be adding ice cream into the breakfast routine. We learned one Village motto is “Ice Cream for Breakfast” and I can certainly get behind that!
Our trainer told us to hang out in the volunteer break room for ten minutes before they were ready for us so we went “back stage” to a comfortable room, meeting other volunteers. A huge bonus we were not expected was the access to snacks and even a hot meal if you are there after 5PM. We checked into the kiosk in the break room and headed out to our shift.
Every Friday, Disney Volunteer representatives bring mickey mouse aprons and all sorts of Disney hats for the volunteers to wear. We each donned an apron and Kevin sported the Goofy Hat. Then we were ready for our training! And I have to say, it was much more than just scooping ice cream – we were also responsible for milk shakes, banana splits, and every topping someone could think of! But then there was the consideration of allergies and the folks here have all that covered as well – dairy free, sugar free, gluten free – you name it and they have an option for kids to enjoy this treat. Since we were located in the cafeteria, there were many other volunteers helping serve food, busing tables, serving coffee – everything to make the place run. After a few “customers” we got the hang of efficient ice cream operations and we were off! The breakfast crowd continued to roll in and kept us busy. We had such a fun time interacting with guests and making their dream ice cream concoction. There were people there from all over the world so it was incredible to see the scope at which GKTW impacts. It was also fun to interact with the other volunteers and GKTW workers – everyone is just so darn nice. Multiple children were celebrating birthdays and for every one, they got a cupcake and the entire cafeteria singing happy birthday to them. It is easy to see why volunteering once is all it takes to get people hooked. After our almost four-hour shift, we felt like pros! Apparently this night shift here is the craziest and they have four people staffed at a time to keep up with demand. They are even building a separate building dedicated to just ice cream that looks like it will open some time next year.
Our second shift was at Amberville and we had no idea what this was when we signed up. This shift went from 12:30 to 3PM so once we were relieved from ice cream ,we ran to the volunteer break room to freshen up and grab a snack before checking into the kiosk and walking to the Amberville building back towards the Welcome Center.
We walked in and were immediately taken back by this incredible train set – and to call it a train set is an understatement. The intricacies of this volunteer created and maintained town was simply amazing – there are so many buttons that provoke an action in the town – just amazing.
In the back there are battery operated boats that you can drive and in the front there is a single lane bowling alley that is wheel chair accessible, air hockey table, multiple arcade games, almost every video game console, and then outside there is a dinosaur mini golf course – phew!
Our job here was to sign out the items that are used to play all of the fun activities. Unfortunately, our shift here was very quiet as most of the Village is in the afternoon while folks are either at the at the parks or chilling at their home. Once again, night time is where it is happening at the Village but they need volunteers at all hours!
When our replacements arrived a 3PM, we still have a few minutes before we needed to head to the airport so we did our own self guided tours of the rest of the Village. We could see other volunteers getting a full orientation so it is something that is done, we must have just been there too early and then scheduled ourselves back to back. Through other volunteers we learned of all the amazing work the Village does for the families.
The village is just amazing – the 84 acre property can accommodate 166 families each have an individual house for their week long vacation. There are rides such as a train and a carousel, a pool area with full water pad area, and a park that has a life size (the largest!) game of Candyland that is played every Sunday night.
And the event list is just massive! Every week (EVERY WEEK) they have a party for Halloween and every week Santa arrives at the Village. From birthday parties to pirate parties, from laser tag to movie night, there is something for every kid. Kids can even request a tuck in from the Mayor Clayton (rabbit mascot!) at bedtime. I know I barely scratched the surface of all the things GKTW Village does – I could not be happy to continue to donate to this organization seeing all the incredible things they do for the families.
This was so easy to incorporate into our Disney trip – you can sign up for a few hour shift or a full day – whatever you are able to do, it makes an impact. There are shifts of all times of day so whichever time of day you are able or willing to take away from your vacationing, GKTW will be able to find something for you to do. For those wondering, we did see families with older children volunteering as well. There are over 1,800 volunteer shifts a week that make the Village operate so if you are thinking about it, just give it a try.
Remember, you are there to make a difference and there is nothing more rewarding than being able to be a part of someone’s GKTW story. We look forward to making this a tradition for every trip to Disney and hope this has helped you consider trying it as well.