Being a blogger or podcaster in Orlando often feels like you’re yelling in a crowd of people who are all shouting in different ways about the same thing. There is an urgency among some to be first, an urgency among others to be right, and a general feeling of being part of a diverse group running down separate paths toward the same goal. And while most know each other and are friends, it’s not all that often that our paths cross toward a common goal.
This week we came together at Blogger Bash, a 1950s themed event at Splitsville bowling venue in Downtown Disney, co-hosted by Orlando Attractions Magazine for the sole purpose of raising money for Give Kids the World. And very few causes generate more excitement when it comes to support than GKTW, an organization that’s near and dear to most theme park bloggers hearts. Why? Because they make it possible for children with life-threatening illnesses, from all over the world, to come to Orlando and experience the magic of the theme parks. The worry of cost, the confusion of planning, and the difficulty of finding accommodation that can attend to their special needs is removed; all that’s left is to get out there and have fun!
Yesterday was our day to have fun on their behalf, and the theme park bloggers were out in full force. The crew at Orlando Attractions Magazine were all decked out as Pink Ladies or greasers, a few others were in poodle skirts or those funny hats Bing Crosby wore, and we showed up in our Splitsville bowling shirts with jeans rolled up and white socks showing. Most made the savvy decision of wearing comfortable clothing so as not to impair their ability to throw a heavy ball down a long lane.
We teamed up with Orlando Attractions magazine, going head to head in a bowling battle against the likes of Pete and his crew at the DIS, Jeff and Denise’s Team Mousesteps, and Hidden Mickey Guy, Steve Barrett and crew; 19 teams in all, with the steely determination that only comes from friendly competition and the possibility of serious bragging rights.
Sounds fun and easy, right? But this is a room full of creative egos, so there’s no way it was just going to be traditional bowling. For a small price, each team could impose a handicap upon any other team, so it turned manic, and fast. The first one to fall was Team Attractions Magazine, with $20 paid to make Matt roll one frame backwards and ‘granny style’ (through his legs). Jeff from Mousesteps was next, bowling baby-style (sitting down, pushing the ball with his hands). Some had to dance to the line, some had to bowl blindfolded, all of it done in a spirit of friendly competition.
A Silent Auction was running throughout the event, with offerings as varied as signed copies of Steve Barrett’s Hidden Mickeys, statues of Mickey and Donald donated by Theme Park Connections, and lunch with World Wrestling Federation wunderkind Scotty 2 Hotty, who graciously attended the event and bowled with one of the podcast groups. Would he perform his famous Worm move for us? Sure, for a price! Wallets opened freely, adding another $100 to the total. Every auction bid brought in that little bit more that would put a smile on a child’s face, and in the end, the event raised over $10,000. Now that’s something to feel good about!
But it didn’t stop there. That evening Give Kids the World Village opened its doors for Blogger Bash, and we had the chance to experience the village that brings happiness to so many deserving families. Like many people who visit, some were concerned they’d be upset or would cry in front of the children. But the truth is, it’s a joyful place! The Wish child and their siblings receive gifts each day, they’re encouraged to have ice cream for breakfast at least once during their stay, and although their park wishes are granted, they could stay in the village for a week and never get bored, there’s just so much to do!
We attended on a Thursday, which meant it was Christmas (Halloween is on Mondays), with a Christmas turkey dinner, carols wafting through the air, Jack Frost and Rudolph hosting a huge Christmas Party, and Santa handing out presents. There were crafts, dancing, candy canes, and so much love and happiness it really did make us teary. In the Village, it’s all about fun.
Of the tens of thousands of children diagnosed each year with life-threatening illness (more than 30,000 per year in the U.S. alone), a full 50% wish for a visit to Orlando. GKTW granted 7,337 Wishes in 2012, 316 of them made by children in the United Kingdom, and the more U.K. families that know about the Village, the more children they can help.
Give Kids the World Village the one place every staff member, every volunteer, and every visitor wishes would close their doors forever, because that would mean life-threatening childhood illnesses have been cured. No child in need has been or ever will be turned away.
When you see the smiles on the faces of these kids, and watch them dancing wildly with a gingerbread man or a giant penguin, it’s obvious they have forgotten their dis-ease, just for a while, and are having the time of their life. GKTW has lost count of how many children leave the Village at the end of their week with renewed energy and renewed hope, ready to face any challenge that comes their way, and we think that’s a message worth shouting about.
Restaurant Recommendation: We’re already at Splitsville, so let’s make that today’s recommendation! Now, I hear you saying, “Why would I want to eat in a bowling alley?” and to that we reply, “Because this one has really great food!” Sure, you can pig out on the massive Mad King, a 1 pound burger, but there’s sushi too, and pizza, and grilled salmon, too. Want Fish and Chips? They’ve got it. Whether you’re going healthy or hearty, this restaurant with bowling alleys is the place to do it.