Inspired by the family of her close friend Valerie Cranidge, Evelyn MacNamara became involved with Give Kids the World (GKTW), a resort based in Florida for families of children with life threatening illnesses.
A self-proclaimed Disney fanatic - she has Tinkerbell tattooed on her calf - MacNamara has dedicated years to helping raise funds and awareness for GKTW. She volunteers at the resort whenever she can, doing everything from serving breakfast to engineering the train that runs through the village.
“I am licensed to drive an electric train in the state of Florida,” laughed the Sackville resident.
Although organizations like the Make A Wish Foundation work tirelessly to grant wishes to children with life threatening illnesses, sometimes there just isn’t enough time to make those wishes come true. One story of a young girl who passed away before a planned trip to Disney World inspired a man, Holocaust survivor Henri Landwirth, to vow that no child in need would be failed again. He enlisted the support of colleagues in the hospitability industry, including the world famous theme parks to assist him in bringing theses special families to central Florida within 24 hours if need be. As the program expanded and the number of families continued to grow it was apparent that GKTW would need to create a place that could better serve the needs of its families. The gates of Give Kids the World Village opened in 1989. Today the Village is a 70-acre resort complete with more than 140 Villa accommodations. It has housed more than 95,000 families from around the world.
Cranidge, along with her husband Mike and their three children, Ryan, Melissa and Brandon lived in one of those villas for one week in 1998, and although he couldn’t speak, the look on her son Ryan’s face when they arrived at the magical village filled with rides, Disney characters and ice-cream was worth more than a thousand words.
“His face lit up and stayed that way for the entire time,” said Cranidge.
Ryan, who was 14 at the time, was born with an undiagnosed condition that left him in constant pain, unable to speak or walk. After multiple surgeries, he passed away in 2004 at the age of 18.
Volunteers run GKTW and vacationers can sign up to help out while they are there for their own family vacation.
“It makes you realize how fortunate you are," said MacNamara.
MacNamara is hosting a fundraiser for GKTW at Angles Pub in Lower Sackville. Tickets for the benefit being held at Angles Pub in Lower Sackville on Aug. 11, are going fast, but even if it’s a sell-out people can still help out by buying five Penny Auction ballots for just $10. Prizes include beauty baskets, movie passes, dinner vouchers and more. For more information call Evelyn at 865-7908 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Give Kids the World visit: www.gktw.org.