Community Impact

Volunteer on Your Vacation with Universal Orlando

At Universal Orlando, guests regularly share their thoughts about how to make family vacations even more memorable. Most recently, that feedback included a desire by resort visitors to spend part of their vacation volunteering.

The result? An opportunity for families to spend two days with Despicable Me’s Minions, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and the rest that Universal Orlando has to offer – and a third day giving back to children and families in need at a special nearby resort. "The volunteer vacation package was created to give our visitors an easy way to instill the values of service and generosity in their children, and support one of our longtime partners," said Diane O’Dell, Universal Orlando’s Vice President of Community Relations. 

That partner is Give Kids The World, a 70-acre nonprofit resort founded more than 25 years ago by Holocaust survivor Henri Landwirth as a way of providing children the opportunity to experience the childhood that was taken from him. Give Kids The World gives children with life-threatening illnesses and their families a weeklong, cost-free vacation, along with VIP access to the area’s top theme parks, including Universal Orlando. From the moment families enter, they can receive visits from favorite storybook characters, makeovers, ice cream for breakfast and other fun services catered to their needs. 

"Our goal is to create the happiness that inspires hope for the precious children and the families we serve," said Pamela Landwirth, Henri’s former wife, and president of Give Kids The World. "It’s a chance for the children to forget the challenges they are facing and focus on being kids." 

The Lahmanns, including Nolan giving the thumbs up, get ready to serve a meal to Give Kids The World visitors.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of Give Kids The World, staffing about 1,400 shifts a week to serve the 7,000 families that visit its Village each year from around the world. Volunteer activities include hosting weekly Halloween parties, to serving meals, painting faces and taking photos during character visits. 

Giving back while seeing the best of Orlando is what appealed to the Lahmann family of Illinois, one of the first families to book Universal’s volunteer vacation package. The Lahmann family was already familiar with Give Kids The World as their son Nolan was granted a wish to visit the resort to celebrate his 6th birthday after completing treatment for leukemia. 

This time, after a couple of days wizarding with Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, Nolan, now 11, his father and siblings spent the day serving meals to other Give Kids The World families. 

"Give Kids The World holds a special place in our hearts, but writing checks only goes so far," said Brian Lahmann, Nolan’s father. "Until we gave of our time, it didn’t feel like we were doing enough – but this experience has opened my children’s eyes to the world of volunteerism. It was their favorite part of our trip to Orlando." 

Click here to learn more about Universal Orlando’s volunteer vacation program, now booking through December 2014.