This issue, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of charity Give Kids the World (GKTW) (page 52), which works to create magical moments for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.
Led by CEO Pamela Landwirth, GKTW raises around $40m every year in cash and kind to run its specially adapted village in Kissimmee, Florida, where children stay while visiting the state’s many attractions. Over 8,000 children are hosted each year, while many more are given access to the on-site facilities while staying elsewhere.
This is just one example of the amazing work which is quietly going on, day in and day out across the attractions world, enabling children to make great memories with their families and to have fun in spite of the many and varied health, mobility and financial challenges they face.
Also celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016 is Dreamflight, a UK-based charity co-founded by Patricia Pearce and Derek Pereira to raise money to take deserving children to Walt Disney World and other attractions in Florida.
Dreamflight gives the children a holiday of a lifetime, with adventures, camaraderie and life-changing experiences worth many thousands of dollars, much of it donated by attractions operators. It has helped over 5,000 children to date.
Also working to support children in a range of challenging circumstances, Merlin’s Magic Wand, the charity arm of Merlin Entertainments, gives tickets and assistance to children who are in foster care or who have recently been adopted or orphaned, as well as children of terminally ill parents, those who are victims of abuse and also young carers.
And this special work isn’t limited to the theme park sector. In the Netherlands, Stitching Ambulance Wens Nederland (Ambulance Wish Foundation) has helped 6,000 people to fulfil their last requests since its formation in 2007.
With a staff of 200 medically-trained volunteers, the charity helps those who have become immobilised by illness, fulfilling wishes varying from museum and cultural visits to theatre trips and sailing experiences.
Last year, the Rijksmuseum played its part by working with Stitching Ambulance Wens to organise for three terminally ill patients to see The Late Rembrandt exhibition, which included more than 100 works by the artist during the final phase of his life. The patients were taken to the museum by ambulance on hospital beds with nurses in attendance and given private after-hours access to the exhibition.
These organisations and attractions – and those like them – put compassion before profit to enrich the lives of children, adults and families whose circumstances mean they need additional care, assistance and resources to enjoy quality of life.
Such work represents our industry at its very best. It also shows just how much it means to many to be able to spend time in attractions they personally identify with. A yearning for normality is a huge part of illness and in offering this, these businesses are doing a power of good. We applaud them all.