KISSIMMEE, Fla. – On Nov. 13, the general public will get a rare look inside one of Central Florida’s hidden gems: Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee.
The local nonprofit, founded in 1986, has been providing accommodations for families with critically ill children at no cost. Those families are from all around the United States and other countries, whose children wish to experience the magic of the world’s premier tourist destination.
“What we wanna do is use this opportunity because not many people know about Give Kids the World and the wonderful work we do. Very seldom if ever, do we ever open our doors and invite the general community to come in,” Pamela Landwirth, CEO and president of the organization said about the upcoming 53-day event called Night of A Million Lights.
More than 3 million Christmas lights will bring back to life the village after it had to temporarily suspend its services due to the coronavirus pandemic. That decision affected 84% of the staff who had to be laid off and about 6,000 families who were looking forward to a weeklong stay at the village this year.
“That first day, March 18, I’ll remember when we said goodbye to our last family. It was heart-wrenching,” Landwirth said.
Landwirth said the concept for A Night of A Million Lights was born out of a response to the impact the pandemic has had on the organization.
“Everybody’s fundraising has been impacted and we’re gonna have many more wishes to fulfill next year than in any other year because of the impact of this,” Landwirth said.
On opening night, guests will walk into a holiday wonderland. The village has been draped in colorful sparkling lights and larger-than-life holiday displays will be a treat to see across the 89-acre resort.
“We’re offering three attractions that are all wheelchair accessible,” said Steven Amos, director of development. "Universal Studios about 18 years ago built a seven-hole miniature golf course for our families. They’ve converted that golf course to a walk-through attraction. "
It will take approximately two hours for guests to experience the entire village.
“The tour itself is nearly one mile of fully decorated lit buildings here. Forty-five of them our treasured corporate partners have decorated them. We also have a 150-foot lit tunnel that the guests will be able to walk through,” Amos said.
Night of A Million Lights will run from Nov. 13 through Jan. 3. Admission price includes free hot cocoa and ice cream.
“This is gonna be a great opportunity to bring your family out and be able to walk leisurely in a very safe environment. It’s all outdoors, masks will be required, we’ll take temperatures,” Landwirth said.
And to make sure social distancing is done properly, guests will have to choose a certain time they want to visit when they purchase their ticket.
Tickets are on sale now at www.gktw.org/light.