Gear Up Florida

Orlando (40 miles)

This morning we hit the road at sunrise for our two-day stay in Orlando. The ride got off to a nice start until we discovered that there was a half Ironman competition taking place on our route. Oh, and Lance Armstrong was one of the participating athletes, which is pretty neat. After about 45 minutes in the vans, we were able to get the bikes off the roof and finish the last 20 miles of the ride. We staged up for an arrival at an organization in St. Cloud, where we made a friendship visit and were treated to yet another great lunch.

From there we drove into the Orlando area and checked into our home for our time here, a Quality Inn. It will sure be nice to sleep on a real, comfy bed as we prepare for our final five days of cycling to Tallahassee.

The highlight of the day was a visit to Give Kids The World, a Disney affiliated theme park that offers a week long, free of charge vacation to children with life threatening illnesses and their families. The resort was created in the late 1980s by a holocaust survivor. It is a really incredible place where the experience is tailored to giving kids the best week of their lives. GKTW is a nonprofit organization supported by many corporate sponsors, but you won’t see any of their logos plastered around the place. These ‘silent donors’ are committed to the organization’s mission of immersing children in a magical world, far away from reality and the difficulties of everyday life. Families come from all over the world to spend a week there.

The team filled a number of volunteer slots at GKTW tonight, including the operation of an accessible carousel, a life size game of Candyland, and helping out at the Gingerbread House, the park’s breakfast and dinner restaurant. While we each had individual jobs like bussing tables and running the buffet, the larger goal was to put a smile on every child’s face. We could only imagine what these children must go through in their daily lives, but that didn’t matter in the land of GKTW. All that counted was giving them the joy they needed and deserved.

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