A Quarter-Century of Inspiring Hope
Pamela Landwirth remembers her conversation with Alberto Zamperla going in circles.
The Give Kids The World Village president and founder of Zamperla S.p.A. were not feuding—rather the opposite. Zamperla had just donated “Lori’s Magical Flight,” a WindstarZ-model family ride with wheelchair-accessible ride units styled like hang gliders, to Give Kids The World Village in Kissimmee, Florida. During an inaugural ride, Zamperla had an idea as the pair spun around.
“As we’re up in the air, Alberto looks over and says to me, ‘I think I see another spot that needs another attraction,’” remembers Landwirth.
That airborne conversation led to Zamperla creating a second accessible ride for Give Kids The World. “Kelly’s Sunny Swing,” a nine-person Happy Swing model, complete with a specially designed platform that can accommodate a wheelchair, opened on Valentine’s Day this year.
“Alberto’s heart is huge,” Landwirth says. “It’s a big deal to see the face of a child who’s never been on a ride before.”
“Kelly’s Sunny Swing” also joins “JJ’s Express,” a Zamperla Rio Grande Train that circles the village’s Amberville arcade and a miniature golf course.
Passport for Happiness
The generous gift coincides with 25 years of support by the global attractions industry for the 84-acre, nonprofit resort in central Florida that provides weeklong, cost-free vacations to children with critical illnesses and their families. A vision of Holocaust survivor Henri Landwirth, Give Kids The World provides accommodations in 166 fully furnished villas, while IAAPA members provide tickets to Florida theme parks, daily entertainment, and more for 8,300 families a year.
“We’re all in the same business: We want to make children smile and bring families closer together,” Pamela Landwirth says about the common bond between the global attractions industry and Give Kids The World.
Yet, instead of the magic diminishing when families return home, IAAPA members answered the call with the creation of the IAAPA World Passport for Kids Program a quarter-century ago. Reinoud van Assendelft de Coningh, who at the time was marketing director at Efteling in Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands, visited Give Kids The World Village at the suggestion of Vekoma, the builder of Give Kids The World’s “Enchanted Carousel.” In 1994, van Assendelft de Coningh showed the IAAPA Marketing Committee a video from the Village and encouraged the association’s support.
Around the same time, former IAAPA Chairman Ted Crowell started playing tennis with Give Kids The World Founder Henri Landwirth.
“He wanted the joy and happiness the wish children and families experienced at the Village to continue,” recalls Susan Mosedale, former IAAPA executive vice president, of the late Henri Landwirth. Both Mosedale and then-marketing committee chair Josephine Zammuto with Six Flags, visited the village to learn more about Henri Landwirth’s plan for an “at home” program.
“From that concept, the World Passport for Kids Program was born,” Mosedale says.
IAAPA-member attraction owners and operators outside of central Florida now had a direct way to support Give Kids The World within their local market. The World Passport For Kids Program gives children with critical illnesses the ability to generate new memories by visiting a regional attraction close to home.
“How do we keep those great feelings our families had at the Village alive? The perfect answer is the World Passport For Kids Program,” Pamela Landwirth says. “The program reunites the power of hope.”
Ticket for Success
Today, more than 100 attractions worldwide take part in the World Passport for Kids Program by welcoming wish children and their families to enjoy a complimentary visit.
“We love being able to offer Give Kids The World families the chance to visit and make long-lasting, impactful memories with their families,” says Brandon Thom, senior leader of operations at Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. A member of the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment family of attractions, Sesame Place gives wish children and their families two-day admission, two-day parking, two-day reserved parade seating, and a goody bag with fun Sesame Street swag.
“Seeing the smiles and hearing the feedback from these families following their visit serves as an important reminder of why we do what we do,” says Thom. “These anecdotes bring a smile to our face and warm our hearts.”
The World Passport for Kids Program can be tailored to each park’s capacity, according to Pamela Landwirth.
“Parks can set their own parameters around the program with advanced reservations and blackout periods,” Pamela Landwirth says. “Regional parks around the world are the ones who are extending the power of a Village visit. The kids are filled with hope to renew their battle.”
More Love to Give
As the World Passport for Kids Program grew, so did the generosity of IAAPA members like Zamperla. Donating design expertise, equipment, and volunteer hours, IAAPA members continue to provide and share their expertise.
A quarter-century ago, ITEC Entertainment tapped Sally Corp. to be part of Give Kids The World’s Castle of Miracles project. Sally Corp. created (at its own cost) Father Time, an animated grandfather clock and whimsical knight named Rusty. The Jacksonville, Florida-based company recently refurbished Father Time, repairing his eyes and a Cuckoo bird, along with replacing the actuators to keep the animated figure working.
“Once again, Father Time proved to be a labor of love for the team,” says Lauren Weaver with Sally Corp.
“After Sally finished Father Time, they sent us an invoice that read, ‘PAID IN FULL—we love what you do,’” Landwirth says of the bill.
At the Amberville Train Station, wish families enjoy several games provided by Family Entertainment Group (FEG). The game room design, development, and operations consultant continues to provide equipment and labor hours to keep games in working order.
“It was immediately obvious that this was a magical place with the purest of heart,” says Lisa Price with FEG. “It did not take us long to realize this was a place we had to get involved with.” For Price, aiding the mission of Give Kids The World is personal.
“The first time I had the pleasure of visiting the Village was shortly after my niece passed away from cancer at age 18. I remember the value of happiness and what a smile means to a child fighting a disease,” Price says.
When the time came to rebuild the pool at the Park of Dreams, Vortex donated a Splashpad Aquatic Structure after CEO Stephen Hamelin toured the Village.
“It was hard to walk away from an opportunity for us to make a difference. It’s a fantastic organization; they are special people,” Hamelin says.
The renovation using Vortex’s water play structure allows children of all abilities to make a splash since plastic wheelchairs available for use at the park can enter wet areas.
Vortex continues to supply Give Kids The World with parts for the Splashpad when needed.
Global Archery Products Founder and CEO John Jackson’s inflatable Hoverball Archery Target set is a staple of evening activities at the Village.
“I am so proud to have provided Give Kids The World games the children really enjoy,” Jackson says.
No matter the size, the village appreciates the generosity of IAAPA members.
“You can think big; you can think small—and that is the beauty of the partnerships we have with IAAPA members that continue to blossom,” Pamela Landwirth says.
Universal Creative, the design arm of Universal Parks & Resorts, has committed to refreshing Marc’s DinoPutt, an on-site miniature golf course, Meanwhile, Walt Disney Imagineering designed the new Henri’s Starlite Scoops, a new ice cream parlor designed to honor founder Henri Landwirth, paying homage to the hotelier’s history as an innkeeper along Florida’s Space Coast during the Mercury and Apollo spaceflight era.
Packing Plans for IAAPA Expo
IAAPA members can plan ahead to help Give Kids The World at IAAPA Expo in November at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Suppliers displaying on the trade show floor can donate items to Give Kids The World instead of paying to ship product home.
“We’re looking for any donations that could make our families’ experiences even better. Whether it be plush toys, games, or something else entirely, there’s a chance we have a need for what your organization may donate,” says Steven Amos, development manager at Give Kids The World. “We’ll take your product to create lasting memories for our families, and you can head home without the headache of logistics.”
During IAAPA Expo in Orlando Nov. 19-22, stop by Booth #4233 to meet Give Kids The World to talk about in-kind donations.
To learn more about the World Passport for Kids Program, contact Steven Amos at [email protected].