KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The Give Kids the World Village is welcoming families back almost a year after the resort was forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pamela Landwirth, the President & CEO of the GKTW Village, said the resort shut down in March. She said she can’t wait to welcome families back on Sunday.
“I can’t even begin go to describe the feelings of being able to say, ‘Welcome home’ to our precious families again this afternoon,” Landwirth said. “This is the day we’ve been waiting for.”
For the first time in more than three decades, GKTW was not able to grant the wishes of thousands of critically ill children who wanted to visit Central Florida.
“Sadly from the time we closed until now roughly 6,000 children have had their wishes postponed to come here and you can imagine the disappointment for these kids,” Landwirth said. “They’ve got leukemia, they have tumors, they have all different kinds of illnesses and they don’t understand why the world has come to a stop because of a virus so it’s been very difficult for them.”
Landwirth said during the closure they laid off 85% of their staff. For most of the closure, the village sat empty and quiet until recently during the holidays when they opened to the public for the “Night of a Million Lights” Christmas event.
Now life is coming back to the resort. Landwirth said they brought back staff and are excited to welcome the first families arriving on Sunday.
“In the next probably I would say 6 to 8 weeks we’re going to have around 90 families that will be here, which I think is great. Normally we’ll have 166 families here at any given time,” she said.
Landwirth called it a slow reopening. She said there are new safety protocols in place at the resort, including temperature checks and screenings, face mask requirements, and hand sanitizer stations all around the property.
She adds families’ health and safety are their top priorities and they’re doing everything they can to give them hope safely.
“It will probably take us months, if not a year to get back to where we were for a lot of reasons. Whether or not the families are going to be able to travel, whether they feel safe coming. We think we’ve provided an extremely safe environment,” Landwirth said.