In your life, if you can extend a hand to a sick child and offer help, it’s a life well lived.
Michael and Josephine Gentile are the right kind of busy. The couple dedicates much of their time to Florida-based volunteer and charitable efforts, which brighten children’s lives around the world. The cherry on top? They run the Ice Cream Palace at the Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, Florida.
Give Kids the World is a storybook resort and theme park where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to a weeklong fantasy vacation--free of charge. The Village, which opened in 1989, hosts over 7,000 families a year from all 50 states, and from 70 countries around the world. The entire Village is run and operated by volunteers.
The couple spends every Friday in the Ice Cream Palace scooping out as much ice cream, with as many toppings, as the kids desire, no matter the time of day. Ice cream for breakfast? No problem. The Gentiles see new families every week, and witness the joy of a vacation from trying times.
“These families are going through hell,” said Michael. “They have children with life-threatening illnesses, and their lives revolve around that. When they first arrive, they appear gray and drawn. When it's time to leave, their smiles are wide and they are rejuvenated. It's what keeps us coming back every week. In you life, if you can extend a hand to a sick child and offer help, it’s a life well-lived.”
The Gentile’s are also Village ambassadors, giving tours and recruiting new volunteers. It was an ambassador that first got them interested in volunteering, and they have been devoted to Give Kids the World ever since.
When not at the Village, Michael and Josephine also volunteer at the local hospital gift shop. All proceeds from sales go to local charities and scholarships for students entering medical courses of study. Last year they gave out $17,000 worth of scholarships and several thousand dollars to various charities. The couple also has spent time as Meals on Wheels volunteers.
“Volunteering makes us extremely happy and thankful for where we've been, what we've had, and what we can give,” said Michael.
The couple’s free time is spent working part-time at Disney World, making and delivering gift baskets for the florists. Josephine also makes baskets for charitable fundraisers and raffles, which fetch generous donations. They have been married for 50 years and are both excited to be joining the other Cabot Celebrities on the cruise!