Guests visiting Epcot yesterday got a special treat as several volunteer torchbearers carried the Special Olympics Flame of Hope through the theme park for the first-ever Unified Relay Across America. Hundreds of Disney cast members and guests cheered as the volunteers made their way from Epcot to Disney’s BoardWalk Inn where where there was a ceremonial lighting of the cauldron.
While waiting for the torch to arrive, I met several athletes, including a Central Florida athlete who trains everyday preparing for gymnastic events. He beamed as he told me about his daily push ups and the medals that he’s earned. I was both inspired and humbled by his commitment.
Yesterday’s stop at Walt Disney World Resort was one of several happening over the course of 46 days as the torch passes in a hand-to-hand exchange through all 50 states. The torch’s cross-country journey will end in Los Angeles with the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.
The Walt Disney Company is one of the sponsors of the Special Olympics World Games, with ESPN covering highlights of the nine-day event starting with the Opening Ceremony July 25.
Disney’s “Giving Side” hit a high note in Central Florida today as we awarded more than $4.5 million in Disney Grants that will positively impact the lives of more than 250,000 local children and their families. During a special ceremony this morning that culminated with a blast of confetti, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse helped recognize 102 community groups that strengthen families, bring hope and comfort to children, encourage creativity, promote economic development and meet the needs of diverse communities.
Taking the stage at the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando, Walt Disney World Resort President George A. Kalogridis and Walt Disney World Resort Director of Corporate Citizenship Nancy Gidusko announced the organizations receiving Disney Grants. The grant recipients, who enjoyed a serenade of hope-filled songs by Disney performers, each received a special “Mousecar” to commemorate Disney’s support.
Disney also presented the Bob Allen Award — an annual honor that recognizes the creativity and outstanding service of a Central Florida charitable organization — to the Community Hope Center of Osceola County. The nonprofit will use the grant to continue serving local homeless families through case management, life skills training and living essentials.
From a personal perspective, it warms my heart to know Disney has supported the work of Central Florida’s community groups for more than four decades. Each year, I look forward to the Disney Grants announcement, which gives us the chance to put the spotlight on these dedicated organizations … and all the ways they’re making our community even better.
If you’re a theater lover like I am, nothing beats that feeling of anticipation and excitement as you wait for the curtain to rise. That’s how many of us felt as the stage came to life for the very first time Saturday night, at the Walt Disney Theater at Orlando’s new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (DPAC).
George A. Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort joined local business and community leaders in celebrating the center’s historic Grand Premiere with a glittering gala and the hall’s inaugural performance. A 2,700-seat hall with tiered seating, the Walt Disney Theater is Central Florida’s new home to Broadway-style shows and musical performances. As one of the earliest and largest investors in DPAC, Disney pledged $12.5 million to the development of the center.
Audiences got their first glimpse of the theater in action during the gala performance, “Broadway and Beyond,” which was developed with the assistance of the Disney Creative Entertainment team. The team also produced the evening’s grand finale – a spectacular fireworks show.
Over the past seven years, cast members from areas such as Walt Disney Imagineering and Creative Entertainment have also contributed in-kind services such as developing marketing materials, producing community events and hosting fundraisers.
So, as we anticipate exciting, inspiring and entertaining performances for years to come, we have one word for our cast members and the Central Florida community partners who made the DPAC dream a reality … Bravo!
Can you smell those freshly sharpened pencils and hear the crack of newly opened notebooks? The unwrapping of brand new supplies like these signal one of my favorite times of the year … back-to-school season in Central Florida.
And I’m not the only one who relishes a new notebook or pristine set of crayons. Today, at A Gift For Teaching (AGFT), Mickey Mouse joined VoluntEARS from Walt Disney World Resort to celebrate the success of their annual back-to-school drive and assist in the nonprofit’s first day of teacher shopping at its Free Store.
In recent weeks, Disney cast members collected 2.5 MILLION school supplies to benefit 70,000 children around Central Florida. They also devoted 2,000 hours to collecting, sorting and organizing donations such as paper, pencils, composition books and markers. Cash donations were particularly helpful, since for every dollar AGFT receives, the nonprofit can provide up to $10 in school supplies.
Besides their donations, Disney VoluntEARS earned a little extra credit with local teachers by helping them gather supplies at today’s Free Store shopping event. As they shopped, the teachers probably didn’t have trouble spotting the Hidden Mickey in the colorful mural created by Disney cast members and recently donated to AGFT.
Part of Disney’s longstanding commitment to supporting local students from early learning through college, Cast Members’ annual back-to-school drive has been a tradition at Walt Disney World Resort since 2003. As the wife of a Central Florida teacher, I really do know how much this drive helps our community’s educators and students stock up on essentials. It also gives school supply buffs like me a reason to relive the thrill of new pencils and notebooks.
When it comes to my sisters, I like warm hugs. But on this National Sisters Day, it was clear an “icy reception” by “Frozen” royalty Anna and Elsa at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was the warmest way to celebrate sisterhood. The pair welcomed a group of girls from Central Florida nonprofit Girls, Inc. for “Frozen Summer Fun LIVE” today … and these “sisters in spirit” couldn’t have been more elated!
As one of four sisters, I couldn’t help but giggle along with this gaggle of 12 girls, ages 8-12, as they took part in a special ice-skating session, played in the snow and built a snowman. After watching a procession of guests in “Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome,” the girls enjoyed front row views at the special sing-along moment.
And the singing continued as the girls belted out “Let It Go” and other favorite tunes from the movie during “A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration.”
Known for inspiring girls to be strong, smart and bold – just like Elsa and Anna – Girls, Inc. is a Disney Grant recipient that provides mentors to guide them, peers who share their drive and an encouraging, girls-only environment. With Disney’s support, the organization develops programs that encourage girls’ academic achievement and character development, as well as promoting literacy and cultural arts.
Two spirited royal sisters and a group of Central Florida girls who are bravely pursuing their dreams… Put ‘em together, it just makes sense.
For more information about “Frozen” fun this summer, see the posts below: