This month, we’re proud to highlight one of our 2023 funded charities, Give Kids the World Village. Give Kids The World Village is an 89-acre, whimsical nonprofit resort in Kissimmee, Florida, that provides week-long, cost-free wish vacations to critically ill children and their families from around the world who want to visit Central Florida. With your help, Love Your Melon funding supports endless rides on the carousel, unlimited ice cream, family parties and celebrations, and much more – giving wish kids the chance to experience the joy and wonder of childhood, and families the opportunity to relax, reconnect, and recapture many of the precious family moments that may have been missed due to a child’s illness.
We’re excited to introduce you to Stephanie, a true hero when it comes to supporting children, their families, and the mission of Give Kids the World. Stephanie, who works as a Development Administrative Assistant at the Village, was introduced to this magical place after many years of trying to start a family with her husband Cody.
Stephanie and Cody welcomed Jasmine (who now goes by Jazalyn) into their family as foster parents. While everything had seemed to finally fall into place, Stephanie was surprised to learn that Jasmine has two sisters who were also in foster care - including a twin with a critical illness. A week after the girls first sleepover, both sisters, Izabelle (now, Gabby) and Ella (now, Elsa) moved into Stephanie and Cory’s home.
The sisters members of the Tlingit and Haida indigenous tribes of Alaska, and were thereby protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act,making adoption by non-tribal parents nearly impossible.“Even knowing this, we wanted to share our home, love and support with the girls for however long they needed it,” says Stephanie.
According to the village “Over the next several months, their lives were filled with doctors’ appointments and treatments for Izabelle; trauma-focused therapy for all three girls; and a litany of visits with social workers, attorneys and therapists to ensure the sisters were getting the best care and support possible. As time went on, the girls thrived; Izabelle advanced from crawling to walker and then crutches. The girls excelled in their newschools. And they became a family determined to stay together.”
Finally, with the support of a large network of doctors, lawyers, and teachers, and after two years of court dates along with a letter from the family promising to honor the girls heritage, tribal leaders granted their wish and the girls were adopted!
Soon after, the family learned that Gabby would receive her wish and be staying at Give Kids the World Village thanks to a local wishgranting agency. “The day of the adoption was the best day of our lives,” says Stephanie. “Second best was our unforgettable week at Give Kids The World, which marked the beginning of our lives as a forever family. We were blown away by how welcoming and caring everyone was, and how inclusive and accessible the Village is; it was nothing but laughter, healing and joy. All of us were treated like royalty, and Gabby was treated like just a kid – not a kid with a critical illness. We will never forget our life-changing experience.”
The family was so impacted by their experience at the Village, that they decided to move down to Orlando, where the family now volunteers and Stephanie works as an Airport Coordinator.
Give Kids the World Village serves families affected by critical illness, which in many circumstances is pediatric cancer. Stephanie, thank you to you and your family for supporting families who need it most!
To learn more about Give Kids the World, click here.