A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes


“Think of the happiest things, it’s the same as having wings.” – Disney’s Peter Pan 

A few months ago, Make-A-Wish North Texas asked my son, “If you could have anything or do anything or be anything or go anywhere, what would your wish be?” After much deliberation (a big decision for a 7-year-old!) he decided his wish was to walk the streets of Hogsmeade and sip ButterBeer in Diagon Alley – so Make-A-Wish loaded us up and sent us to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Anytime an organization like Make-A-Wish is involved, you know it’s going to be nothing short of magical, but their partnership with Give Kids the World really makes Disney/Universal trips something special. 

Our Wish Kid in Diagon Alley
A wish come true – Diagon Alley!

First of all, Make-A-Wish is not just for terminally ill children. A child who has a confirmed diagnosis of a critical illness is eligible to apply for a wish, regardless of their prognosis. The list of eligible conditions is long: diabetes to cancer, blood disorders (that’s us!) to muscular dystrophy, and many things in between. Children can be referred by their parents, medical team, or even family friends just by filling out the Referral Inquiry Form on Make-A-Wish’s website. From there, the magicians at Make-A-Wish contact the child’s physician to confirm his or her diagnosis. Once the team determines the child is eligible to receive a wish, the lovely volunteer Wish Granters at Make-A-Wish visit with the child to find out what he or she wants the most. The most popular wish is a trip to Disney World but truly the sky is the limit – shopping sprees, meeting celebrities, and once-in-a-lifetime events are not off the table. 

While my kiddo would have been perfectly happy just go to and sample the Butterbeer(™) at the Three Broomsticks, Make-A-Wish and their partner organization Give Kids the World (more on them in a sec!) granted him a 2-day visit to Universal Studios AND and 3-day visit to Walt Disney World AND a day pass to SeaWorld Orlando – plus the opportunity to stay at the Give Kids the World Village in Orlando – truly it was more than we ever could have hoped for! 

Give Kids the World Village is nothing short of amazing. The Village was founded in 1986 by hotelier Henri Landwirth, a holocaust survivor who was separated from his family and held at Auschwitz. Mr. Landwirth immigrated to the United States with his sister when he was just a young man, and eventually, he worked his way up to owning a hotel in the Orlando area. Before long he was called upon to provide lodging to a young girl with a terminal illness and a wish to visit central Florida; he was happy to oblige but her other travel plans were delayed and she passed away before her wish could be fulfilled. Landwirth pledged that no child should ever have to wait to get their wish and eventually ended up creating Give Kids the World Village. 

There are too many amazing things to list about Give Kids the World but I’ll give you some highlights. There are over 150 residences for wish families plus an arcade, amusement park rides, mini-golf course, a spa, 2 pools, a playground, a carousel, horseback riding, and a basketball court – all of which are fully accessible for people in wheelchairs – PLUS there’s a wonderful dining hall which serves 3 meals a day, a pizza delivery service, AND an ice cream parlor opened 14 hours a day – all of which are absolutely free for the guests. Every night of the week has a different activity: Monday is Mayor Clayton’s Hare-Raising Halloween; Tuesday is Mayor Clayton’s birthday; Wednesday is Village Idol; and so on and so on. While every day is special we were especially blown away that Santa came all the way from the North Pole on Thursday night and heard the kids wishes AND brought them a special toy all the way from his workshop. Each week the Village is staffed by over 1,700 volunteers – nearly as many people as the town I grew up in! But the heart of the Village is probably the Castle of Miracles; each wish kid gets to decorate a golden star, and each night the star fairy hangs it somewhere in the interior of the castle. To date there are over 150,000 stars; it’s absolutely breathtaking to walk amongst the stars and to think of the many families who have prayed for a miracle under them.

Just SOME of the over 150,000 stars in the Castle of Miracles – each one represents a Wish child.

Give Kids the World Village was so amazing it was hard to leave for the parks every day, but it was totally worth it when we arrived. Wish kids are given a special pass to go through the “express” line at each park; at Universal Studios they also give the wish kid an option of being personally escorted behind the scenes to the very front of the line – talk about “star” treatment! Because of that, we were able to ride our favorite rides many times and squeeze every bit of fun and magic out of our trip. (Since we got to ride so many rides we can give you the scoop: Our favorite ride at Disney was “Flight of the Avatar” at Animal Kingdom – we probably rode it 20 times! – and we had a split decision on favorite rides at Universal Studios – the kids loved “Escape from Gringotts” and “Hagrid’s Motorbike,” but I may or may not have yelled “I’m playing Quidditch!” every time we rode Escape from Hogwarts, I’ll never tell.) 

Some kids receive their wishes at the end of their treatment or when things look are at a turning point; for our family, our son’s wish was really a celebration of his continuous courage in the face of a long illness. Each of the amazing families we met on our trip had a similar story of courage and persistence and strength. Wishes aren’t a cure, but they may just be the thing that child needs to carry them through more treatment, something special to cling to when the days are hard. As for us, we can’t wait to go back to the Village as “alumni” (and maybe even serve as volunteers!) and I’m so grateful for the chance to just be a family and just let my kid be a kid for a few days. If know you a Wish kid, know that you know an honest-to-God hero; if you know of a kid that needs a wish, I invite you to fill out Make-A-Wish’s referral form and help them have the experience of a lifetime, with a wish as big as their courage. 

For more information:
Give Kids the World Village

Previous articleTake The Break
Next articleOh That Hug
Hi! I'm Kathy! When I'm not at work, I'm chasing after my 9 year old and 7 year old. But I'm usually at work. Or chasing after kids. Strengths: cooking and/or making messes in the kitchen, running late, drinking coffee, reading books. Weaknesses: growing plants, dusting, offering unsolicited advice.