Highest Ranked Charity in America Celebrates 27th Anniversary
March 21, 2013 11:16 AM   Subscribe

As a young boy Henri Landwirth survived the death camp of Auschwitz. He lost his childhood to the war and was determined that this should not happen again in the future. Later, as a successful hotelier in Florida, he helped arrange free vacations for children with life-threatening diseases to Walt Disney World and SeaWorld. Sadly, the time it took to set up a vacation was long and when one child, Amy, died from leukemia before her wish could be fulfilled, Landwirth founded "Give Kids The World."

That was 27 years ago this month and GKTW has grown to include a 140 villa village that accommodates over 7,000 children with life-threatening diseases every year and over 120,000 in all. Last year GKTW was the highest ranked charity in America and has been a top-ranked charity in Charity Navigator for 9 of the last 10 years. To celebrate their 27th anniversary, they have an impressive new video to highlight both Landwirth's story and as a thank you to the countless volunteers and donors who make it possible to make dreams come true for children around the world.
posted by IndigoSkye (12 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Wow! This place has: Matthew’s Boundless Playground...the world’s largest and only life-sized version of the game Candy Land.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:00 PM on March 21, 2013

Henri's story is amazing, and that video has helped prove that my keyboard is apparently highly water resistant.

Thanks for posting this, I'll be happily making my small donation as soon as my eyes get unblurry.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 12:02 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to be cynical about this sort of charity. It doesn't cure diseases or solve the systemic problems in society.

Then, my brother-in-law got leukemia. During his last year of life, he, my sister, and their son were able to visit Disney World thanks in part to some help from a charity. Having that last family vacation really did mean a lot to them, particularly him. There was so much stress and anguish that last year, but for a short time they went on rides, ate some nice meals, and enjoyed themselves. My brother-in-law got to see his son meet some beloved Disney characters. It brought them some joy.
posted by Area Man at 12:03 PM on March 21, 2013 [12 favorites]

Henri does sound like a great guy. I see that he also founded or co-founded at least three other charities including one which provides scholarships to students studying science and one providing clothes to people in homeless shelters.
posted by Area Man at 12:11 PM on March 21, 2013

IndigoSkye: "That was 27 years ago this month and GKTW has grown to include a 140 villa village that accommodates over 7,000 children with life-threatening diseases every year and over 120,000 in all."

Wow. Oh, wow. That's wonderful.
posted by zarq at 12:16 PM on March 21, 2013

Yea, it really is a wonderful place. When I was in eighth grade we went there with band to play Christmas music - every Thursday is Christmas there. I remember a family that had driven down from New Hampshire or something like that because it was easier than flying with their son's wheelchair, and I remember how happy they were to see their son so happy.
posted by Karmeliet at 12:22 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

What an amazing place and vision. thanks for this.
posted by zombieApoc at 12:49 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

...every Thursday is Christmas there

posted by Slap*Happy at 12:50 PM on March 21, 2013

Great post. I'm part of the DIS Unplugged community that has been trying to fundraise $1 million for GKTW for the past year, and I'm hoping to volunteer there while I'm down in Orlando in August.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:01 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's wonderful.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:23 PM on March 21, 2013

I've seen him speak many times in and around Jacksonville, FL. He actually worked his way up at one hotel for quite awhile before moving on to manage the one where he met all the astronauts. He has such amazing energy and charisma--even now, he's a one man force of nature.
I noticed in the last talk I attended, he was focusing on the future of the organization; emphasizing what they'd done so far, but mostly what he hoped would carry on without him...I'm glad to see, 3 or 4 years later, he's still healthy and doing well.
posted by whatgorilla at 3:45 PM on March 21, 2013

I used to work at a restaurant affiliated with Give Kids The World and was pretty cynical/jaded about it, not least because I hated asking people "Would you like to round up your bill and donate the difference to Give Kids The World?" and during fundraising drives we'd have a TV in the foyer constantly looping a 30-minute promo video about GKTW with treacly music and schmaltzy montages of horrible things, like children and their families having fun. But learning about Landwirth and his experiences made it a lot easier to not be such a sour prig.

Still can't hear The Greatest Love of All without breaking into hives, though.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:23 AM on March 22, 2013

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