A Look at Generosity

BY: Stanley D. Koopmans

As a community bank, we talk a lot about building wealth and protecting your money. Giving some of that money away can feel scary. Many people wonder: “Does giving a portion of your money away (generosity) truly feel good?”

My own answer based on personal experience is a resounding YES!

This is also the answer of Henri Landwirth. Not familiar with Henri? I didn’t know who he was until just a couple of months ago, and now he is one of my heroes. My family has been tremendously blessed by his generosity as we recently stayed at a resort he founded called “Give Kids the World” Village in Orlando, Florida. The following are some excerpts from the Village’s website:

The story of Give Kids The World begins with a little girl named Amy, a wish, and the desire of one man to make that wish come true.

Amy had leukemia and a wish to visit Orlando’s theme parks. To facilitate this wish, a respected hotelier was asked to provide a complimentary stay for Amy and her family. Although the hotelier gladly obliged, the remainder of Amy's travel plans took too long to arrange, and her wish was never granted. Time simply ran out, and Amy had passed away.

This unfulfilled wish inspired the hotelier to make a vow that no child in need would ever be failed again. That man was Henri Landwirth, and his desire to ensure that Amy's story would never repeat itself is a mission Give Kids The World has fulfilled since 1986.

Give Kids The World Village is a 79-acre, nonprofit resort in Central Florida that provides week-long, cost-free vacations to children with life-altering/threatening illnesses and their families.

The Village and its community partners provide children and their family’s accommodations in fully-furnished villas, transportation, tickets to theme parks, meals, daily entertainment, and much more.

Their goal, quite simply, is to provide everything these deserving families need to make their trip the vacation of a lifetime. Since 1986, more than 150,000 children and families have had their dreams fulfilled in a whimsical Village unlike any other place on earth.

What makes Give Kids the World Village even more special is knowing Henri Landwirth’s life story. Henri is a holocaust survivor. The following excerpts from the Village’s website explain:

Like the special children Give Kids The World Village serves, its founder, Henri Landwirth, knows all too well what it is like to give up childhood. Born in Antwerp, Belgium, on March 7, 1927, Henri and his family were separated and became prisoners in the Nazi death and labor camps during World War II. Henri spent the years between the ages of 13 and 18 in camps, including Auschwitz and Mauthausen. By war’s end, both of his parents had been killed, but miraculously, Henri and his twin sister, Margot, survived and were reunited.

Henri worked his way to America on a freight ship, arriving in New York City with $20 in his pocket and little knowledge of the English language. Soon after, he was drafted to serve in the Army. Henri used his GI benefits to learn hotel management and landed a position in a hotel, taking every opportunity to learn each job in the industry. This first job became a lifelong career.

Henri’s numerous honors include being named in 1988 as one of the 12 Most Caring Individuals in America by the Caring Institute, Parents Magazine’s Humanitarian of the Year, and the Orlando Sentinel’s Floridian of the Year in 1994. On June 13, 1997, Henri received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Cincinnati. He has twice been invited to carry the Olympic Torch.

The life of Henri Landwirth is a shining example of generosity:

“Giving your money away truly feels REALLY good!”

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