When you’re a leader, you are always looking for ways to help others and to give them an opportunity to reach for the stars and achieve their goals. One thing you can do that is by supporting charities. Theme park enthusiast, actor, and fundraiser Omar Elkalyoubie introduces a special charity that Carolyn is supporting – Give Kids the World. Omar is the Special Events Manager at Give Kids the World. He shares what brought him to the charity and delves more into what the charity is all about, their fundraising activities, their partnerships with theme parks, and the Hearts of Reality event for the charity.
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What Is Customer Service? with Omar Elkalyoubie
I had Joel Rivera on with me and that was my husband. We were doing a recap of all the shows so far so that we can take a step back and look at it from a different viewpoint, from a man’s point of view. Everything that I’ve been talking about has been from my point of view. It’s great to take a step back and see things from a different side, maybe the side that you’ve never looked at before. You’re just taking things and looking at it from a different angle. We talked about challenging the status and he thought that was great. He said he agreed that women should be able to do whatever they want to do. He brought up that women in sports issue. What does it take to be a referee or an umpire? It’s just knowledge of the game and I think woman probably knows the rules just like a man does.
That was such a great insight because I think he mentioned that there’s only one assistant coach in professional sports that is a woman. It’s crazy in this day and age. When we heard from Karen Hoppa, the head coach of Auburn Soccer, she also mentioned that soccer is one of the sports that has more men coaching women’s teams. We still have a long way to go, but each step forward takes us there. It gets us there. Each step that we take to push that envelope helps us break down those barriers that, unfortunately, probably still exist today as we have seen. It’s just important that we stay on that path, continue to challenge things when we see things that aren’t right. It is risky but we have to make it happen. We just have to continue down that path.
We’re going to shift gears a bit. I have a special guest on the show. He is going to share with us some great things that he’s working on. I am grateful that I can participate and help out in this cause. It’s so important to maintain that grounding. I feel like when we begin to see the things that we’re doing when we begin to take that step forward and look at things that we can participate in, it’s really exciting. Let me introduce to you Omar Elkalyoubie. Omar and I met a few years ago. It was right after my Survivor experience. He contacted me after the show aired and asked me to participate in this charity event. I have been doing it for the last few years and partnered up with this great charity. It’s right here in Florida. I want to say since the day I met him, he has a passion for helping kids. He’s been a volunteer at Give Kids the World for so many years. I’m going to let Omar give us a little bit of insight on his background and then we’re going to talk about Give Kids the World, a fabulous charity. Omar, how are you doing?
Carolyn, I’m very well.
Give us a little bit about your background.
What brought me to Give Kids the World, as you mentioned, for several years I was volunteering through Hearts of Reality. What brought me to Hearts of Reality was actually through Give Kids the World. I was writing for a local Orlando blog called Behind the Thrills. I had an assignment to Give Kids the World a blogger bash, which invited several Central Florida bloggers to come in to Give Kids the World and see what they do. Then talk about it in their blog and on there on their website. From my very first visit, I was taken by the charity. It’s amazing what they do for children, what they do for families and children with life-threatening illnesses. I’ll get into actually what it does.Meet your goals and go beyond those goals. Click To Tweet
I met Mike Nunez who puts on Hearts of Reality every year. Hearts of Reality is a charity event that raises money for Give Kids the World. At that point, Hearts of reality was a fundraiser. It wasn’t a huge fundraiser. I talked to Mike. We became friends and I started giving him ideas on things that could make more money with the reality stars from the different shows that come like Carolyn. From there, in the years that I was at Hearts of Reality, it’s a bigger passion for Give Kids the World. I am learning more about it. The money kept increasing every year, doubling, going from $50,000 to $167,000. Hopefully $175,000, over that period of time. Then a position opened up that was basically what I was doing, the development manager for the village. What I do as that development manager in my special area is events that raise money for the village, which was what I was doing with Hearts of Reality. Now I put on several special events throughout the year, including Hearts of Reality.
You have been contacting reality stars since I know you. That’s how we were brought together. We’re going to talk a lot more about Hearts of Reality. You’ve raised $167,000. It’s phenomenal because it was only a day and a half, or maybe two full days.
It’s a year worth of all of the reality stars having fundraising pages and fundraising throughout the year. A day and a half is the fan events that we put on that also raise additional cash. I will say the majority of the money is raised by all of the reality stars individually having their own fundraising pages and campaigning to meet their goals and go beyond their goals.
That is exciting. I know when I got my first fan page, I was a little nervous like, “Am I going to be able to raise this money?” I’ve never had a year in four years that I haven’t met my goal.
It sometimes doubles.
It’s exciting that we’re able to participate in such a fabulous charity. Let’s get right into it. Some audience probably don’t know what Give Kids the World is all about. How did Give Kids the World come about? What’s the charity all about?
Our founder, Henri Landwirth, was a Holocaust survivor and eventually became a hotel owner on the Space Coast, Cape Canaveral. He had a Holiday Inn that he owned. He also had a hotel in the Orlando area. He started to get these requests to host these children who had wishes to come to Central Florida for Disney, Sea world, any theme park. As he did them and he would do them and let them come and stay in a hotel free of charge, be with wish-granting organizations. The need kept building and building and building. It got to where he couldn’t handle them anymore. He kept doing what he could do fulfilling wishes as much as he could. Then he’d heard a story of a little girl who had a wish to come to Central Florida. She was in the midst of waiting for her wish to be granted and finding the accommodations and the resort and everything like that. She didn’t make it. She passed away before she got her wish fulfilled. Henry vowed that would never happen again. He founded Give Kids the World. At the time Give Kids the World was in the place that it is now, it’s now an 84-acre village with 166 villas.
At the time he started, it has one villa in it. He decided he would build one villa. Every time he had enough money to build another villa, he just kept continuing and continuing and continuing. Thirty-two years later, we have 166 villas which include a three-story condominium-type villa building and 84 full acres and growing. From then on, we’ve never turned away a child for any reason. If for whatever reason all 166 villages are full, we have an agreement with the Disney Resorts. The Disney resort will put up the family for their week that they get to come to the village and they take care of the accommodations. The families, we allow them to come and have their meals, attend all of our nightly parties and do everything else just like the rest of the children that are staying in the village. It’s just they’re going to stay in the Disney Resort. That way nobody is ever turned away from a wish. That will ever happen again to what happened with that child. They can typically turn a wish around if a child is not doing so well within 24 hours.
We work with the wish-granting organization. Everyone has heard of the Make a Wish Foundation, but there were several other wish-granting organizations that actually work to get the child their transportation, whether it be a flight or however they’re going to arrive in Central Florida from anywhere in the world. We work with them and we take over and their entire family for seven days. It’s all expenses paid to stay at, Give Kids the World and experience all the magic that we offer throughout the week. Then they also get three tickets to Disney, two tickets to Universal and one ticket to Sea World. They have a full, seven days’ worth of theme parks. Any central Florida attraction that they wish to go to, we pretty much have partnerships with all of them to make sure that that child can get whatever they choose.
The wish can be anything Central Florida-related. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a theme park, but the theme parks are included in there Give Kids the World visit. It can be something as simple as wanting to have breakfast with Nikki, which was a wish granted before or to be made over like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. There was a child that wished to meet a unicorn. We brought a unicorn in and we had the child meet it. There was a little girl who wished to make cotton candy and give it away. We got a cotton candy machine and she was able to make cotton candy and give it away. There’s no wish that’s out of our grasp. We will make it work for that child.
That is pretty incredible. I didn’t even realize that you had a partnership with all of the theme parks as well. That adds to it because the village itself is like a theme park, which is pretty amazing on everything that is at that village. One of the greatest things that I get to do that you’ve turned me onto was being able to visit the village and visit the kids and spend some time with the kids. I’ve gotten to take a tour around that village and it is pretty amazing in it of itself.
We have an essentially a sixteen-hour ice cream palace where children can get ice cream anytime from 7:30 AM until 9:30 PM, anything that they want. We have a carousel. We have a couple of theme park rides that are wheelchair accessible. You have a full movie theater. We have two swimming pools, a splash park. We have a life-sized candy land playground. We have horseback riding, a fishing pond, a nature walk, a mini golf course, a video game arcade. It’s endless. It’s a theme park in and of itself.Some people are a bit skeptical about giving to charities because they don't really know how the money is being spent. Click To Tweet
We’ve got some insights as to what Give Kids the World is all about. There are so many charities out there and I know that some people have been scammed to donate to places that maybe are not real. Because of that, some people are a bit skeptical about giving to charities because they don’t know how money is being spent. Can you let the people know where their donation dollars are going to when they donate to Give Kids the World?
Give Kids the World is one of the top-rated charities in the world. We’re measured by our admin rating. Our admin rating basically tells how much of a dollar gets spent on the actual charity. 91.9 cents of every dollar goes toward actually granting wishes for children. Then the rest of that would go toward admin costs. That’s where that 91.9 cents comes in. We’d been that way for several years as far as admin rating goes. Every dollar that you donate, 91.9 cents goes to the wish family. They updated how much it costs for an entire family because it’s not just a wish child. All the siblings, mom and dad. It could be grandma and grandpa. We don’t really tell the wish family that they can’t bring a member of their family if they wish to. It costs about $6,800 for an entire week of wish for one wish family. That’s including their airfare however they choose to travel, all of their meals, theme park tickets, upkeep and all the things like that.
They also get several things throughout the week. We have several parties. On Monday night, we have a Halloween and on Tuesday night we have Mayor Clayton, our six-foot tall bunny rabbit, our mayor of the village. We have a surprise birthday party every week. Wednesday is Village Idol. We have a talent show like American Idol style for the kids that can come up and perform. We have judges and it’s just a fun talent show. Then on Thursday, we have Christmas every week. We call it Winter Wonderland. There’s snow, Santa comes, there are gifts, there’s Christmas dinner, all the things that go with Christmas. On Friday, which is when Hearts of Reality participate in is our Once Upon a Village party. Pirates and princesses and fairy tale characters and superheroes all come out to meet the kids. In the case of Hearts of Reality, all the reality stars dress up as those characters. They come out and meet the kids and it’s a party. There are dancing and music and all kinds of fun things that go with that. Then on a Saturday, we typically have a pool party, if it’s weather-permitting.
Then on Sunday, we have a tea party in the morning with Miss Mary’s, with Mayor Clayton’s wife. Then we have our life-sized candy land game where the kids are the pieces of the game. That takes place in front on Sunday evening. In addition to all the park activities, there are lots of things that go on. We first run Disney movies that show in our movie theater every night with a full concession stands. Families can really decide what they want to do with their vacation and pick what entertainment they want for that evening. As I mentioned, we have a full cafeteria that provides three meals per day. We have a pizza kitchen and we have a couple of different food choices provided by Boston Market and Perkins. They provide all of the breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all of our families during their stay.
It’s an action-packed, the fun-filled week for these kids that probably haven’t had anything to look forward to for so long. It’s such a fabulous way of giving back. Every time I think about it, I just get chills. I’m so excited to be part of it. Now let’s talk about Hearts of Reality because that’s where I was able to begin to participate. I know that you spend a lot of time and effort getting reality stars to come to Orlando and participate in this weekend.
Over the past ten years, the event is growing. This is the tenth anniversary of the event. It’s expanded out. One of our sponsors, Vickery Casino Cruises every year we have a Heart of Reality kickoff party aboard a Victory Casino Cruise out of Cape Canaveral. Fans are welcome to join. You can purchase tickets online and they can come. We have about twenty reality stars are joining us on the cruise. We do a fun paint night with the reality stars on the ship. There’s dinner and there’s of course gambling. There are lots of Give Kids the World fundraisers and it’s a beautiful night out on the cruise. We do raise a little bit of money that night, but it’s a nice way to kick off parts of reality weekend and hang out with some of your favorite reality stars. Obviously, Mama C is coming. We have Ben who won Survivor Healers versus Heroes versus Hustlers. Josh Martinez from the Big Brother 19. Scott Flannery, the winner of Amazing Race 29. Dina from the Jersey shore will be here for the rest of the weekend. About ten or twelve other reality stars will be joining us as well. You can see all of that on the Victory Casino’s website as well as on the Hearts of Reality Facebook page and the Hearts of Reality website.
We have added a brand-new event called Hearts of Reality happy hour, which will be from 4:00 to 6:00. It’s a $50 ticket, which includes cocktails essentially an open bar. A lot of your favorite reality stars will be independent. Jonathan Bennett from Mean Girls and Jaymes Vaughan from Amazing Race and The Talk will be our party host. There’ll be a live DJ and a lot of mingling for a couple of hours. Again, just another little party to raise money for Give Kids the World and also have a little fun for the reality stars. It’s completely sponsored by ABC Fine Wine And Spirits. They will be providing all of the cocktails for that evening. It’s going to be a good night
It’s at the Melia, Orlando?
Yes. Full details on tickets are at HeartsOfReality.com. You can see all of our events there. You can get tickets for that night as well. I guess it will be at the Melia Suites and Celebration.
I think I also posted it on my Facebook page as well. What is happening? Tell us all about it.
We will be going to The Rock Show, which is a brand-new Vegas-style show on International drive. It starts at 11:30. All of your favorite reality stars will be attending. You can see the full list of stars attending on HeartsOfReality.com. You can click on who’s coming. You can see everybody that will be there. We have about seventeen cast members from Survivor: Ghost Island, which I know that most of your audience are probably Survivor fans. There are plenty of Survivor contestants that we’ll be attending and they will all be at The Rock Show. It’s a Vegas-type tribute show. There are impersonators like Elvis and Katy Perry, Justine Timberlake, Prince, Michael Jackson. They will be performing. There’ll be lunch. The tickets are available on the website.
Followed by that we will have our private event at Give Kids the World where all of the reality stars will be visiting the village and all of the families there. That’s a private event just for the reality stars to see exactly why we do Hearts of Reality. They’ll get to see where the money goes if they raise. That evening, it’s not limited to the reality stars, but anyone can come and request a tour or learn about volunteering and being part of what we do at GiveKidsTheWorld.org. You can look at volunteer opportunities there as well as request tours and things like that.There's no wish that's out of our grasp. We will make it work for that child. Click To Tweet
I didn’t know that you actually did tours for everybody.
Anybody can do a tour. They can call in and request and tell them why they want to see the village and what works for them. We are happy to give tours anytime so that people know what we do and why we do it and where their fundraising dollars go. We’re always happy to give tours.
Do they get to see the presentations that we get to see on those tours with the video?
They don’t. Those presentations are typically just for you. On our YouTube channel, all of the presentations that you see in our theater can be watched at any time. Any of those videos that Carolyn is mentioning can be seen there if you just search Give Kids the World on YouTube. You can see all about our story, interviews with Henry and interviews with wish families. You can see firsthand if you can’t make it out to the village or if you don’t live in the Central Florida area, you can watch those videos and see what it is that we do on a daily basis.
I’m sure that some of the audience will want to do that. Thanks for sharing that. We’ve talked about Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Now, let’s talk about the fun day of Saturday. I love Saturdays.
Just to backtrack a little bit, I want to mention that we do have over 100 reality stars and celebrities attending the event throughout the weekend. I mentioned several people from Survivor. Ten different Survivor winters: Sandra Diaz-Twine, Ben Driebergen, Adam Klein, Wendell Holland, Bob Crowley. There are several Survivor winners. I mentioned seventeen of the twenty cast members from Survivor: Ghost Island will be attending. About six of Survivor Heroes, Healers and Hustlers and lots of old school Survivors as well going back to Survivor: Marquesas and Survivor: Africa, there were several of those guests attending. As well as some WWE NXT wrestlers; EC3, Kacy Catanzaro, Scotty 2 Hottie. Street Profits will also be attending. As I mentioned, Jonathan Bennett from Mean Girls and Dancing With The Stars will be attending as well.
Several Big Brother cast members, several Amazing Race: Face Off. Naked and Afraid cast members as well. Then as every Heart of Reality, we have probably four or five surprise guests that we can’t even mention that you will meet when you attend one of our events. With that being said, on Saturday we have our public autograph signing which is a donation made payable to Give Kids the World completely 100%. All the reality stars volunteer their time and no one is compensated. All the money that’s made goes directly to Give Kids the World. We have several ticket options that you can see on our website, HeartsOfReality.com. You can come out and meet your favorite reality stars, get autographs, take pictures. We have professional photo ops that you can get with a different cast of the different shows. It’s just a full afternoon of meeting your favorite reality stars.
In addition, we have something pretty special. We’re going to have several replica games from Survivor. Outside the autograph signing is Grand Bohemian celebration. You can play those games just like all of your favorite Survivor contestants. Mama C can tell you how difficult or how easy those are firsthand. Now you can come and you can try your hand at those games as well. That will take place right outside the Grand Bohemian celebration with our autograph signing taking place inside. As I mentioned, there are tickets are all on our website at HeartsOfReality.com. That evening is our big finale party at the Celebration Town Tavern. There is to live DJs, karaoke and it’s costume-themed. The past two years we’ve done the ‘80s theme. This year we’re doing decades and just the 10th anniversary of Hearts of Reality. Everybody’s encouraged to dress in their favorite decade. I personally, I’m going to dress the ’70s.
Of course, you are. I see a big full wig happening or afro. That’s the way I see it. I don’t know what you’re going to be wearing, but I think it’s going to be funny. You can choose whatever a decade you want to dress. Is that how it’s going?
That’s how it’s going. We’re going to let everybody decide what decade they’d like to dress from. I know last year we had a whole group of reality stars dressed as The Breakfast Club. We did the ‘80s. You mentioned Afros and just all kinds of opportunities for the decade. It should be a good time. It’s always a good time. That will be from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM at the Celebration Town Tavern. As I mentioned, tickets are available for pre-purchase on our website at HeartsofReality.com. You can come out and sing karaoke with your favorite reality stars, have a drink and have a great time with two DJs inside and outside.
I know I’ll be singing I Will Survive. That’s my go-to karaoke song. I think I’ve sung it every single year since I’ve started coming to this event
Somehow I have missed it every year. I always see a playback on that social media. Now, I’m going to see it live and in person.We still have a long way to go, but each step forward takes us there. Click To Tweet
You have to be there. It’s a one of a kind event for Mama C to sing I Will Survive. Gloria Gaynor has nothing on me.
I will be in the front row.
I enjoy going to Hearts of Reality. That is just one week in your life of Give Kids the World. There are so many other events that we get to do throughout the year that I get to do because I’m a local to the Florida area. Why don’t you give some insight as to some of the other types of events that you do throughout the year? Are there any opportunities for people to maybe even sponsor an event? How does that work?
We put on several events throughout the year, but we have several signature events that are on our website that are specific. Big events have happened just to kids who were elated. We have several third-party events that happened throughout the years, several golf tournaments and things like that, but our signature events include from the beginning of the year, we have our Over The Edge event, which takes place in February. That’s a rappelling event and anybody can do it. We had our first annual Over the Edge event this past February. We raised $115,000. What happens is you create a fundraising page much like Hearts of Reality and your goal is $1,000. If you raised $1,000, then you can rappel 32 storeys off the Hyatt Regency on International Drive. We use a company called Over the Edge. You get a quick lesson and you harness up and you rappel just like Spiderman down the side of the building. I personally did it myself. I know many people who were afraid of heights who conquered their fear. It’s a great opportunity to raise some money for a great cause and also fulfill a bucket list item.
That sounds like so much fun. I was so sad that I was out of town during the event this year, but I want to put it on my calendar for next year because that sounds like such a fun event.
All of these events have sponsorship opportunities. You can reach out to us through GiveKidsTheWorld.org or you can contact me through email. Following that event, we have our celebrity golf tournament, which is called Hope in One and that takes place in April at the Golden Bear Golf Club. That is an opportunity for you to golf with several of your favorite celebrities, mostly sports stars but also we had a couple of reality stars and some actors and some musicians. That takes place at the end of April. Following that event, Hearts of Reality takes place in August every year. Then we wrap up the year this year with our signature 5K called Challenge for Hope. That is an actual 5K that goes through Give Kids the World. Not only does it go through Give Kids the World, but it allows you to take a journey through a week of a wish family. As you go along the course, you see all of the different events that we have in each evening. Here’s a Christmas area of the village. There’s a Halloween area where you get trick or treat bags. There is a village idol area where we have live music and we have DJs. We have a bubble zone, we have mermaids, we have lots of different things that you see along the 5K course. That one is also available to register for on our website.
What was the date of that one again?
It’s going to be Saturday, December 8th at Give Kids the World village. You can register and you could fund-raise, you can get all sorts of fun prizes and incentives.
We could talk all day about the fabulous things that Give Kids the World does for those kids. We don’t have enough time to even continue. Omar, I am so glad that you are able to join the show. You have done so much for this charity way before you even started working there. It’s mostly because of the work that you have put into this upcoming event that over 100 reality stars continue to join us and continue to join this cause. I am so excited and proud to be a part of it. When my book comes out, Plant your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning, every book sold I will be donating $1 to Give Kids the World just because this to me is just such a fabulous charity. We’ll have to set up a book signing event sometime. I think we can do that.
You have talked to us about why the charity was put together. A Holocaust Survivor has gone through so much and he put his time and effort into making wishes come true for children. The fact that it’s been in existence for 32 years, you’ve grown to be able to support 166 families. The fact that you have partnered with the theme parks, that you offer seven fun-filled days for these kids, it’s just amazing. I know that some people again are skeptical about charities. It’s the fact that you are one of the top-rated charities in the world.
I don’t think I even realized that 91.9 cents on every dollar go back to those families. $6,800 costs a week to give those families their wishes. You guys have certainly done a phenomenal job in making those dreams come true. Omar, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank you so much for introducing me to this fabulous charity. Please give your website again so that if people do want to donate, they know where they can find you and I would like you to share that with them right now.
It’s HeartsOfReality.com. You can click on Who’s Coming and you can see all your favorite reality stars. You can click on the donate button below Mama C’s picture and make a donation to her fundraising goal.
In fact on my Facebook page, I also have it there. Thanks again, Omar, for joining us. Remember, the Carolyn Rivera show is all about you. Share your topics. This is Mama C signing off.
- Joel Rivera – Previous episode
- Omar Elkalyoubie
- Give Kids the World
- Hearts of Reality
- Behind the Thrills
- Victory Casino Cruise
- Hearts of Reality – Facebook page
- Give Kids the World – YouTube
- Over The Edge
- Hope in One
- Challenge for Hope
- Plant your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning
- Who’s Coming tab – Hearts of Reality website
- Facebook – Carolyn J. Rivera