Back in 2009, a long-time friend of mine in amusement industry PR circles was working at Give Kids The World. She reached out to me about doing a fundraising event at Cedar Point, and also talked to the park. The park put some feelers out for a number of groups who were either not interested or wanted something in return, and pretty much by default, I was tasked with using CoasterBuzz to promote the event and push to get people involved. It was a pretty simple thing: Register, raise money online, and show up at the park one day to ride Gemini all day to promote awareness about GKTW. Collectively, we raised almost $10,000 that year!
The next year, the gears were turning, and it was pretty obvious that we should probably see if we could expand the event to the entire Cedar Fair chain. There was some reluctance, but it did catch on. This is the fifth year for it, and as of today, fundraisers across the country have raised more than $140,000 so far. Pretty much every Web site is involved these days, and the number of participants is off the charts. It's pretty awesome to see how big the event has become.
For the uninitiated, GKTW Village is essentially a private resort in Kissimmee, Florida, that hosts families of children with life-threatening illnesses. Often, the prognosis for these kids isn't good, but this special place allows families to make great memories, where the kids can be kids on vacation. No doctors, hospitals or bills, just good times. Free. And if that wasn't enough, they work with the theme parks there, who provide free tickets.
I made my first visit there last fall, and while I've been actively fundraising for the organization for years, it really was a life-changing thing. I've had the pleasure of doing other events with my site partner Walt via PointBuzz, including off-season tours and a last ride event for the now defunct Disaster Transport. Those events led to thousands more.
I think I may take for granted that I have a healthy little boy sometimes, which makes my commitment to this amazing place even stronger. If you've got a couple of bucks to add to the $140,000 total, please consider a donation here. If you can't afford it, please share this with others. Every dollar helps!