Santa splits his time between North Pole and Central Florida for wonderland parties

Give Kids the World Village hosts weekly holiday party for critically ill kids

KISSiMMEE, Fla. – Thanksgiving is right around the corner and more holiday decorations are going up every day. And while many might say it's too early to think about Christmas, the folks at Give Kids The World Village will say it's always a good time for a winter wonderland.

In fact from the very beginning, in 1986, the nonprofit resort in Kissimmee has been hosting a weekly holiday themed party complete with music, games, a little snow and of course Santa.

"How could I not do this," Santa says smiling. "You do this once and you're done. You're hooked."

The resort caters to families with kids facing critical illness. They often don't have the chance to celebrate the holidays at home.

Ebony Stocks was here with her daughter, Kathy, and son, Andreais. Kathy was diagnosed with cancer in 2015.

"This is amazing," Stocks said. "It's a major break for us especially when you're dealing with a sick kid in and out of the hospital. Last Christmas we were in the hospital."

Nearly 90 families had photos taken with Santa the night News 6 visited. Jolly St. Nick made sure to spend plenty of time with each child.

"If I can make them forget for just that long," he said squeezing his fingers together. "Make them smile and be happy. I've done my job."

Mr. and Mrs. Clause have logged over 300 hours of volunteer time in the last 13 years as they split their time between the North Pole and Central Florida.

Jessica Mueller, social media and content strategist for Give Kids the World, says it's something the families and staff look forward to every week.

"We're so lucky to have volunteers," Mueller said. "We fill 1,700 volunteer shifts a week. We're lucky to have volunteers who come back week after week including Santa. 300 hours is impressive even for village standards. We're so grateful."

Mueller says Give Kids the World Village founder, Henri Landwirth, believed it was their responsibility to fit an entire year of experiences into a one week stay at the resort.

Landwirth died in April at 91 years old, after a life-time of giving back.

"We just try to create smiles and laughter and hope so that when they go back home they have that renewed energy to keep fighting," Mueller said.

About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.