Florida service trip supports children with life-threatening illnesses

Located in Orlando, Florida, Give Kids the World Village gives children with life-threatening illnesses and their families the vacation of a lifetime. Since 1986, more than 150,000 children and families have had their dreams come true at the village. 

Each May, a group of Salve Regina students spends several days volunteering at the village through a service trip organized by the Office of Community Service. Below, Emma Murray ’19 recalls her participation in the 2017 trip.

Last year I had the honor of going on a service trip with 20 amazing students and faculty. I was walking to class and spotted a sign that read “Florida Service Trip.” Intrigued by this, I went to the Office of Community Service to inquire about this opportunity.

When they told me that we were going to Give Kids the World, my eyes started to well up with tears. These were not tears of sadness, but instead tears of joy. Give Kids the World was and still is a very special place for me. When I was 5 years old, I was granted a wish through A Wish Come True. I always said that when I graduated college I would return to Give Kids the World to give back to other children the experience that I had when I was 5. When I was accepted for the trip, I was so excited because my dream came true earlier than I thought it would.

When we pulled into the village, all my childhood memories came fluttering back into my mind. As I stood at the entrance, I was amazed at how much it had changed but in the same aspect stayed the same. The experience of going back was even more special for me because my friend Kendra, who also went on the trip, had her wish to go to Disney granted at the age of 16.

The reality of the situation did not really hit me until I entered the Castle of Dreams. In the Castle of Dreams, every child who comes to the village as a wish child decorates a star, and eventually they adorn every corner of the castle. I hoped that I would find my star – which I did – but the amazing part about my experience did not come from finding my star but instead came from staring at the walls and how many stars adorned them. As I looked around at all the stars, I realized how lucky I was to have the opportunity to come back and volunteer at a place that made my wish come true.

While we were in Florida, we also volunteered at the Sunshine Foundation. This is an organization much like Give Kids the World, but the Sunshine Foundation grants wishes of children with chronic illnesses as well as children that have been in abusive situations. All the wishes that they grant come from donations around the United States.

Fortunately, I have the opportunity to go on the service trip again this year. When we were planning for this year, we thought it would be cool to grant the wish of a child from Rhode Island. We began fundraising for a girl named Kiera who has low functioning autism. I had no doubt in my mind that we would raise the money to grant the wish. In the end, we reached our goal of $5,000 and were able to grant the wish for Kiera.

This is what I love about Salve and its mission statement. The mission statement says that we should support each other through the works of mercy, whether it be through service or academics. I can tell you with great confidence that the mission statement showed through when we banded together. This is why Salve stands out and we are truly one community banded together for a common cause.

Editor’s note: Applications for the 2019 Florida Service Trip will be available on the Office of Community Service webpage from Aug. 24 through Sept. 21. Dates for the 2019 trip are May 11-17.

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