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Our Volunteer Trip to Give Kids the World

Volunteering

You probably don’t start the week thinking that you will star as an elf or snowflake ballerina in a Christmas parade, attend a princess tea party invaded by a band of pirates, paint nails and give tattoos in a my little pony spa, or dance with six foot rabbits in a magic castle. But anything’s possible – especially at Give Kids the World Village in Orlando, Florida! Each year around Valentine’s Day, bloom employees attend a company retreat to reflect upon the past year and discuss improvements for the future. Part of this trip includes volunteering at Give Kids the World. This amazing village hosts terminally ill children and their families when they come to Florida to fulfill their wildest dream – going to Disney World, of course! It’s so important to give back, and we feel privileged to have the opportunity to pitch in at such a wonderful place. A star is placed on the ceiling of the village's castle for each and every sick child that comes to the village, to make them feel special and to give them hope. This is their week to feel like a prince or princess, to shine like a star. We couldn’t have had a better trip, or had more fun playing with the kids. As it is every year, it was an eye opening experience that has helped us to “bloom” in so many ways! There are countless stories to tell from the four days that we volunteered, but we’re only going to share one. On the first night, we were running a photo booth outside of the theater where the children could sign up to perform in an American Idol style talent show called Village Idol. After signing up to sing or dance, they could come over to our booth and dress up in feather boas or funny sunglasses, grab a few instruments and then head over to the red carpet where they posed liked a rockstar for the “paparazzi.” One of us was helping the kids put on their costume and the other was cleaning the accessories and props after they were done. As you can probably imagine, the cleaning station was one of the more unpopular positions. None of the kids really wanted to approach the girl in the latex rubber gloves with the Lysol wipes, except for one. He wanted to know if we had seen him get his picture taken with Mayor Clayton, one of the large bunnies all the children meet when staying at the village. "The Mayor’s really good at playing the drums," he told us. He wanted to play the drums one day too, when he was in high school. And he also liked singing. He was going to sing in the Village Idol show. Would we be listening? We said that of course we would – we’d be in the front row! But he still didn’t seem to be done talking so we asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up – a doctor for animals and children was his answer, because he wanted to help people. We asked him his name and he asked ours right back, and then he had to run to get ready for the show. He said, “You’ll be watching me, right?” And we did watch. Our job was to stand at the foot of the stage and encourage the crowd to clap and cheer for all the contestants. Our new friend didn’t really know the words to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” but he got up there and sang the few words he did know anyway. We saw him again at the end of the show when he received his trophy, and he couldn’t have had a bigger smile on his face. Because all of the families’ schedules are different, we weren’t sure we would see this little boy again, but when we were dancing in the castle the next night dressed as an eskimo and a snowflake ballerina for the Christmas parade, we saw him again. Everyone laughed when he told one of the candy cane men that he wanted to dance with the girls and came over and took both of our hands. No joke, he was the best dancer at the party! Looking up at us, he wanted to know what we were. We told him an eskimo and ballerina. Then he motioned for us to come closer and whispered, “You all are very beautiful.” It caught us off guard because he was so honest, so open, so real. It was as though he didn’t know how to see the dark, scary or bad. We told him that he too, was very beautiful. He was. Looking out at the whole room – all the children, their siblings, and their parents – they were all very beautiful. Then, he got a spark in his eye and said we had to go make a wish in the wishing well, as though that was the most exciting thing we could possibly do. So we followed him and his parents over to the wishing well. There was a bucket full of pennies for people to use to make their wishes. He grabbed three, one for each of us, and then explained that he would wish first, then each of us. You had to hold the penny in your hands first, with your eyes shut, and think of your wish, of what you really want. Then, you can toss it into the wishing well. He did his first. Squeezing his eyes shut while he thought of his wish. Tossing the penny in. Then leaning over the well, he told us, "Listen! You have to listen!" We leaned over the well and listened to the penny drop. It was our turn then, and we went through the same routine to make our wish. It was only a penny being dropped down a waterless well, but seeing how wide the smile was on his face, surely all of our wishes must have come true. He and all of the children at Give Kids the World made us question the definition of beauty and where you can find it. What’s reality and can you create it for yourself or for those around you? What power is there in a wish? And if you had a wishing well with an endless supply of pennies, what kind of things would you wish for? If you have had any great volunteering experiences like we had, we’d love to hear about them! Email us at bloom@studentmediagroup.com for the chance to be a featured bloom girl and talk about how you use your time and talents to help others. Xoxo, Michelle & Kaylyn Some of our favorite pictures from our time at Give Kids the World village!


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