My experience with Give Kids the World Village began a year ago, and in that entire year that has passed, it has had a continuous impact on my heart. I visited the village and volunteered there during my spring break through Auburn's Alternative Student Breaks program, and it was hands-down the greatest week of my life. I decided to apply to the program when I figured out what the village stood for and realized how much I related to their mission - they bring in families of children with terminal illnesses (everything's free, of course) and give the kids the week of their life where they can feel like an ordinary kid for a change. It doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but from personal experience, I know just how important that is. It's a pretty well-kept secret (even from some family) that I was diagnosed with acute drug-induced lupus when I was a senior in high school. It was the worst experience of my life, but the worst part of it wasn't even the pain. It was how everyone treated me - my personal identity became swallowed by my illness. I lost sight of who I was because 90% of the conversations I had and 90% of my day was centered around this stupid, stupid disease. I really appreciated how concerned the people who knew about it were, but I would've given just about anything to be treated like a normal high school kid, to go to football games and not be asked why I had turned into skin and bones. So I stopped telling people about it to try to hold on to that last little part of 17-year-old Anna that I had left. During my time at GKTW, I met dozens of kids (and families) who wanted the exact same thing, and luckily, they found it in this amazing organization. The kids visiting would spend the day at Disney and then come home to the village to games, parties, presents, rides, 24-hour ice cream, a plethora of volunteers who couldn't wait to hang out with them, and the best part, absolutely no talk about their disease. Kids from all over the world were gifted with the best week ever, a vacation they had dreamed of during their time in the hospital, for not even a cent. As you can probably guess, it takes a lot of money to run the village and give these families everything they deserve. I've never been one that enjoys my birthday (at all, really), just because I find it hard to justify celebrating my own birthday when the person I love most in this world doesn't get to have another one. So this year, instead of sulking in my self sorrow, I've decided to support the village and give the kids my birthday so that they can have the energy, hope, and inspiration to continue their fight and have many more birthdays after visiting the village. Instead of presents this year, I would be so appreciative if you would donate to this organization because they need it so much more than I do. Every penny counts, and every penny will make my traditionally dreaded day so much better. Thank you so so much, and happy birthday!