Central Florida mourned the passing this week of a true icon in our community, Give Kids the World founder Henri Landwirth. Among a life full of accomplishments, Henri will best be remembered for helping thousands of critically ill children, and their families, fulfill their wish by receiving all-expense-paid vacations to Orlando.

I had the pleasure of first meeting Henri when my wife, Ana, and I attended our first Give Kids the World Banquet as the guests of Dick Nunis, then the Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts. Henri was seated at the same table, and that night we were struck by his vision, which has touched so many lives ever since.

A Holocaust survivor, U.S. Army veteran and self-made businessman, Henri was a successful hotelier who opened his first Holiday Inn franchise in 1969 near Disney. For half a century, he built strong partnerships not only in our local tourism industry, but also with many outside groups and organizations that wanted to be associated with his leadership and caring spirit.

Henri leaves behind a beautiful legacy of sharing the magic of Orlando with children across the globe. All of us will greatly miss his big smile, and even bigger heart.

— George Aguel