Alpha Phi Omega Students Give Back on Spring Break
March 19, 2012
Members of the University of Mount Union’s service organization Alpha Phi Omega (APO) helped to enrich the lives of children during a recent spring break trip to Kissimmee, Fla.
Student advisor Rev. Marty CashBurless, university chaplain, said she was approached by members of APO last year about a potential trip to Give Kids the World Village (GKTW), located in Kissimmee. According to gktw.org, GKTW is a 70-acre, nonprofit “storybook” resort, located near central Florida’s most beloved attractions, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to week-long, cost-free fantasy vacations.
“This is their week, with their families, to do whatever they want,” CashBurless said.
Hotelier Henri Landwirth, who saw the need to provide memorable experiences for sick children and their families, opened the non-profit GKTW village in 1989. Today, the village resort has 140 villa accommodations, as well as entertainment attractions, whimsical venues and activities specifically designed for children with special needs.
During spring break, 12 students, along with Cashburless and staff member Patty Kuhn, payroll representative, flew to Kissimmee to spend the week volunteering at the village. Students worked evening shifts Sunday through Thursday in various areas of the village, including the Ice Cream Palace, Gingerbread House Restaurant, Castle of Miracles, Amberville Train Station and Katie’s Kitchen. On one evening, students dressed as various Christmas characters and participated in a parade for children in the village.
For students, the trip was an opportunity to serve others and form new relationships with fellow volunteers. Max Huddleston, a Mount Union sophomore biology major of Zanesville, said his favorite memory of the trip was dressing as a reindeer for the parade and not being able to see out of the headpiece.
“A little kid kept hugging my leg and I couldn’t see who it was,” he said. “Once I fixed the headpiece, I saw the kid. He looked like me when I was younger so I got attached to him.”
In addition to volunteering at GKTW Village, on Monday, the group spent several hours volunteering at an Orlando soup kitchen. CashBurless said the group also took some time to enjoy the Florida sunshine, going to Cocoa Beach one morning, Universal Studios for a day and visiting downtown Disney.
“Volunteering at Give Kids The World was such a heart warming and memorable experience,” said APO vice president Kelsey Batey, a senior early childhood education major of Mentor. “Working with the kids and families who stayed at the village really inspired me. The kids are so happy and strong, even though every day they are fighting to live. One quote by Winston Churchill that we all found really inspiring and true about our trip was actually located on the floor going into the pool area. It read, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’”