Osceola County’s tourism industry has had some bad times since early March when the coronavirus prevented crowds from traveling into town for theme parks and attractions. But news this week hits a little harder.

Give Kids the World Village, which has welcomed thousands of sick children and their families every year since 1986 for an all-expense paid “wish” vacation, has announced it has closed “for an undetermined period of time.”

With that, most of its staff, kept afloat with federal Paycheck Protection Program funds since the village closed in March due to COVID-19 concerns, will be laid off on June 27. Small security and safety teams and those working with alumni, donors and partners who will prepare for an eventual re-opening.

Give Kids the World CEO Pam Landwirth, wife of GKTW founder Henry Landwirth, called making the decision “devastating news” in a letter posted on its website and Facebook pages.

“Unforeseen circumstances directly related to COVID-19 have resulted in Give Kids The World having to remain closed,” the letter read. Although the theme parks are reopening, we are uncertain as to when they will be able to welcome vulnerable guests, including our wish children.”

Many of the sick children are fighting illnesses that compromise their immune systems, making travel and visiting theme parks now a risky endeavor. The village is also delaying all Welcome Back Alumni Family visits until further notice.

“If there is a rush wish prior to our reopening, we will work with our wish granting partners to fulfill that wish,” Landwirth said. “I can promise you that I will work tirelessly to find a way to reopen our beloved Village as soon as possible.”

The organization will need the support of donors and community partners more than ever. If you’d like to donate to help fulfill a rush wish, or to assist with our re-opening funds, you can do so at www.givekidstheworld.org.

We thank Give Kids the World Village for the positive difference it’s made in the lives of critical illnesses ill children over the last 34 years, and we look forward to reporting its re-opening soon.