Here, you will find the story of Give Kids the World Village. GKTW is such an amazing place and had such an impact on our lives, I wanted to create a page that is easy to find.
Isabella's Make-A-Wish journey started in September 2011 with the first letter submission to Make-A-Wish. Months of planning resulted in what you are reading here. Make-A-Wish and Give Kids the World have touched our lives in many ways and allowed us to experience a joy that we could only vaguely remember and dream about.
As I sit and write this in retrospect, I am encompassed by a flood of emotions.I am left in awe of what Henri Landwirth has accomplished through hard work and many handshakes.
The story of Henri Landwirth and Give Kids the World is an amazing one, and is documented in his auto-biography The Gift of Life published in 1996, which is the best non-fiction book I have ever read. Henri tells of his six lives, and once you read the book, you will understand just how amazing they are. Henri is a Holocaust survivor and lost both his mother and father to Hitler’s brutal reign of terror. Reading this book will take you to both ends of the emotional spectrum, from tears of compassion and horror, to tears of joy and inspiration. Henri was born in Belgium, but his family moved to Poland when he was three. Even though Henri endured unspeakable horrors during the Holocaust and saw the very institution of family attacked and decimated by the Nazi reign of terror, he was also blessed by many miracles that enabled him to survive. One of those miracles helped Henri transform the anger and hatred he had for the Nazis into a seed that would guide him on a miraculous journey and transform his life forever.
From gem cutting, a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, and entry-level hotel jobs in New York City, Henri tackled every job with dedication and tenacity. Through a series of events, Henri became manager of a hotel in Florida, then manager of the Starlite Motel in Florida. After managing hotels, Henri and some partners built the first of what would be many hotels. Henri formed incredible friendships over the years, from Mercury Seven astronauts, to Walter Cronkite and members of the press, to NASA, United States Presidents, and foreign leaders. Henry treated everyone with utmost respect (although he was quite the prankster), and in turn, received that respect back in spades. These relationships would sometimes be critical to Henri’s Philanthropic efforts. After years of hard work and becoming successful in business, Henri still felt that something was missing. In 1978 Henri founded the Fanny Landwirth Foundation, named after his mother. In 1984, Henri partnered with the Mercury Seven astronauts to create the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
In 1986, an event happened that would put Henri on the final path that would fill the void. You see, for many years, Henri was known to give complimentary stays to families in need. When one visit took weeks to plan and a child died before the visit materialized, Henri realized the need to make arrangements overnight, so that no child would be denied their wish. In 1986, Henri founded Give Kids the World from a converted broom-closet in his hotel. GKTW Village opened in 1989 and is the only one of its kind in the world. GKTW has never turned away a qualifying child and has promised never to do so.
The Village has grown to 138 villas and hosts an incredible 7,000 Wish families each year. Every Wish child is given a star. They make a wish upon that star, and it is given a home forever in The Castle of Miracles at GKTW. There are over 118,000 stars that have been placed in the Castle of Miracles and it is truly an amazing and humbling sight.
Please read the book, and you’ll see the many miracles that have touched and influenced Henri Landwirth’s life and enabled him to touch the hundreds of thousands of children and their families.