Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to push on to Epcot, one of David's favorite Disney experience is the Nemo ride at Epcot, I also had to be realistic, and the boys were falling apart. It was hot.....very, very hot! Our feet were tired, and we still had a few more days of major parks ahead of us. As we walked out of Animal Kingdom David became the voice of incredible reason and all but flat out refused to go to Epcot. He was tired, and made it very clear that he was not going to another Amusement Park. I quickly offered a compromise; we would go home to the Villa for a few hours, maybe take a dip in the pool, and then head off to Epcot in time for a ride or 2 and the fireworks.
As soon as we got back to the Villa the boys were hungry so we walked over to get dinner. I had heard that it was Christmas at Give Kids the World, but as we are Jewish I didn't give this much thought. However, as we were walking over towards dinner, all of the kids and their families that we passed were beyond happy and chatting about Santa. I could tell that the boys were becoming curious, and to be honest, I was also intrigued. How do you celebrate Christmas in April? How do you celebrate Christmas every week? What does it all look like at Give Kids the World?
It turned out that Santa was set up right across the hall from the dining hall, and so as we walked in to the dining area we decided to check out Santa. Magic.......true magic is all that I can describe.
First, we got in line to wait to meet Santa and there were so many amazing volunteers. Each volunteer was just so devoted to each family and child that they interacted with. Santa took time to take pictures with each child and family. He took moments with each child to ensure that magic happened. Then after each child met with Santa they walked off of the stage area and are told to simply pick out a toy- these were not little toys....these were the types of toys children fall in love with- huge brand new containers of Legos, art sets, board games, nerf footballs, and so much more. Truly, just more magic for children in a week full of magic.
After meeting Santa we had dinner, and then my mom took a little break and headed back to the Villa while the boys and I went off to explore Give Kids the World. As much as I had wanted to hit every amusement park, and I thought missing Epcot was a bad idea, David was totally right....we hit the land of Magic by staying at Give Kids the World.
- There is a video arcade on property- no money needed, walk up to a game and play. Complete with a teen night, this was a space just for kids. The boys and I had an awesome night playing Pac Man, a basketball video game and playing David's favorite, the driving game. He laughed every time I told him that based on how many times he crashed his video game car he would NEVER drive a real car.
- There is a room with an electric train that goes through a toy village. For little children this is pure magic.
- We met some incredible families who just were able to be in a moment together and I was reminded again of the importance of slowing life down and spending time in the quiet together. It isn't in the crazy non stop action where all memories are made. After a day of busy, and so much to see, one of my favorite memories was just playing the driving game with David and Jacob and shooting basketballs with Matthew. I also loved watching Matthew shoot hoops with another child who was staying at Give Kids the World.
- We were walking back towards the Villa and the boys asked if we could have ice cream and I was in a happy place and said yes. As we went back to the ice cream palace we saw more volunteers scooping ice cream late at night. We were happily eating ice cream when more families came in and I again just soaked in the moments of happiness and togetherness. The boys asked for seconds on ice cream and I said yes- they thought I was being "amazing" and yet I was just soaking up Give Kids the World moments. I was watching the volunteers and seeing the happiness in the families and just wasn't ready to head back to our villa.
- As we headed back towards our villa there was one more moment of awesomeness. While we were we waiting in line to meet Santa one of the volunteers had chatted with David and Jacob very briefly. He was just one of the amazing volunteers we interacted with, and I assumed we had moved on and he had moved on to the next family. I never expected that when we bumped in to him 3 hours later that he would remember my boys names and take such care to interact with them again. He asked questions about their night, addressed them by name and just related to them with such care. It was so heartwarming for me to see. It made me smile that a 20 year old guy would never know how important this interaction was for me and the boys, for him it was just a natural part of being at Give Kids the World, but to me it was anf\other sign of the magic of our week. I am used to us being recognized, but I am not used to people remembering David's name- he is often the quietest of my 3 boys, and often the most overlooked. For this volunteer to remember him and approach himself was must a moment of beauty to me.
Our final moment of magic on this Christmas night happened the next morning. As we got back to the villa Matthew realized that he had forgotten his football from Santa at the video arcade. I called the front desk and they told me that the football had been turned in, and I could come and get it. I was exhausted and just wanted to get the boys to bed, so I said we would stop by in the AM on our way to the next park to get the football. Little did I know that the magic would find us again in the morning. As we opened the door to go to Legoland on our porch was the football and a note:
" Santa and the elves missed you last night! We picked out a present we hope you will enjoy"Of course this note along with a present was left for each and every child who was staying at the villa who had misesed the chance of seeing Santa. Another reminder that every single little detail is taken care of at Give Kids the World.
We had been gifted a full week away. We had been gifted a week of fun at Oralando's best amusement parks. We had been gifted money to cover any expenses, and yet on top of this the staff at Give Kids the World made sure that Santa visited each child one time during their week at Give Kids the World. One more memory. One more moment of magic. One more incredible touch to make kids wonder and parents smile!