A few years ago, as Troy Smith was reflecting on his 30-plus years in the insurance industry, he asked himself a question: “What impact do I want to leave behind?”
He had one very special person in mind as he searched for the answer — his sister, Gayla.
It’s for the Kids
Troy regularly attends a Workers’ Compensation Institute (WCI) conference in Orlando, Florida. It was there that he learned about WCI’s philanthropic mission to support Give Kids the World, a nonprofit organization that provides critically ill children and their families weeklong wish vacations at no cost, hosted at the organization’s 89-acre village in Kissimmee, Florida.
Troy experienced the toll childhood illness can take on a family firsthand. “My sister, Gayla, became mentally handicapped as a baby. I’ve always kept an eye on her in some shape or form for nearly her whole life,” said Troy, who is now Gayla’s guardian.
Troy had regularly looked for ways to give back to critically ill and handicapped communities through volunteering and fundraising with organizations like the Special Olympics, but he still felt like there was more he could do.
It was in his first volunteer experience, building a fence at the Give Kids the World Village, when Troy realized he finally found his calling. “It just hit me,” he said. “This is it.”
Since 1986, Give Kids the World has welcomed over 177,000 families from all 50 states and more than 75 countries. The guests and their families are treated to accommodations, transportation, donated theme park tickets, all meals and snacks, nightly entertainment and more in the week they spend at the village.
This is all made possible by donations and volunteers like Troy, who help maintain the grounds, organize the events and entertain the children.
Live events returned to the village post-pandemic, including the second annual Night of a Million Lights holiday event, a favorite of Troy’s. “It was one of the most incredible things I’ve been a part of,” he said with a smile.
While the display of several million lights is awe inspiring, hearing from families who were able to experience the village was most memorable for Troy. “You hear how the village changed everything for them because their child wasn’t worried about treatments or being in the hospital. They just got to come and be a kid.”
Top row, Troy (right) with his dad.
Bottom row, sister, Gayla (left) and his dad’s wife.