Kids Village was founded by a family who know exactly what the pain and worry feels like when you have a child with a life-threatening illness. Gary and Claire’s daughter Sammie, who’s now 29, was diagnosed with cancer aged nine. The future was uncertain and there were years of operations, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and worry…
In 2018 Kids Village was launched as a charity and the team began working on creating plans to build Kids Village. Planning and fundraising took place between 2018 and 2022, with planning permission to build Kids Village being granted at the end of 2022. Kids Village is now supported by an incredible team of trustees and extensive network of individual supporters and businesses. You can read more about the journey so far here.
The Village itself will include 10 lodges and a central facility, supporting around 500 families each year. The intention is to welcome families to Kids Village for Christmas 2024.
Many families and charities have identified the need for a facility like Kids Village in the UK; as a charity we uniquely combine passion, understanding and commercial experience in building successful holiday businesses.
The family were passionate about creating a positive environment for Sammie and thankfully she successfully fought the disease. The family celebrated completing treatment at a place called Give Kids The World Village and were inspired to create something similar in the UK.
Fast forward 18 years and Sammie met her husband-to-be, Jamie, who also fought his way to beating cancer whilst in his teens. You can read more about Sammie & Jamie here.
The passion to create Kids Village comes from these personal experiences. This passion and Gary’s commercial experience in building holiday sites puts the team in a unique position to be able to build & operate Kids Village.
Kids Village is supported by a large network of friends, families and people who are passionate about making Kids Village a success.
I’m deeply grateful to be able to enjoy what I hope will be a long and fulfilling life. I’m very lucky today to be living with 2003 as a very distant memory, and to be perfectly healthy now.
When I was in hospital I found it very di cult to see that I would ever have a normal life again. The treatment felt never ending and I couldn’t bring myself to really play with toys or enjoy the events that the wards had organised to help children feel happier. My mood would instantly change when I walked in and I would feel immediately sick. I understand now that I had mentally created a link between the hospital and feeling sick and I would feel sick before I had even started any chemotherapy. Time at home was so valuable and I loved to do anything that would help me forget that I was a cancer patient.
People today always ask if I remember much of my experience, being so young, and I absolutely do. I remember almost all of the days on the ward and in scanners and operations and I remember some very specific and very dark thoughts about myself and my life.
The one thing that kept me focusing on life outside cancer, was a board my Dad had made and on it was all the things I wanted to do when I was better. Mum and Dad said I could do anything I wanted. I chose to go to Florida and to get my ears pierced. Why I asked simply for my ears pierced, I have no idea! But those images on the board, which included my face on cut out figures from holiday magazines, became my hope and my focus. And the excitement and happiness
I experienced when I finally got to go to Florida – and with my ears pierced – was indescribable!
When my family and I went to ‘Give Kids the World Village’ in Florida I got completely lost in the magic and the fun and forgot about the pain and the sickness of being in hospital. The only word I can use to describe it was ‘magical’. The type of happiness I felt then when I transitioned from being in hospital to being on holiday, is not one I have felt since. I will always be grateful for that amazing trip and I can honestly say that without all of those experiences I wouldn’t be the same person I am today.
It’s now my goal, along with my family, to create something with the same magical power here in the UK. I want to help other children
to create such amazing memories and stories with their families in a special and safe environment. I want to transport children into their own world of imagination fun that will allow them to forget about life in hospital. I believe that my positive outlook and my ability to stay focused on still feeling normal in this traumatic period, helped me through the hardest time of my life and I passionately believe that we at the Kids Village can have a real impact now on families going through exactly the same thing today.
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