Disneyland Park, Haunted Mansion Stretch Painting

Disney Cast Members Pen Postcards of Thanks to U.S. Troops

posted on November 25th, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


As I think about what I’m thankful for this holiday season, I’m grateful to those who protect our nation so we have the freedom enjoy this special time with our friends and families.

Recognizing the efforts of the armed forces has become a year-round mission for some Disney VoluntEARS, who send notes of encouragement to U.S. troops just to let them know how much they are appreciated.

Disney Cast Members Pen Postcards of Thanks to U.S. Troops

Founded by a Disneyland Resort cast member in 1995, Operation Uplift was inspired by a letter from a soldier serving in Operation Desert Storm. That note said the troops didn’t receive much mail, but when they did, it meant the world to them because they knew people back home cared.

Since that time, Disney VoluntEARS around the country have sent more than 90,000 postcards of support and thanks to servicemen and servicewomen serving domestically and overseas.

Disney Cast Members Pen Postcards of Thanks to U.S. Troops

Those who participate in Operation Uplift say they find great reward in sharing the magic of Disney with military men and women who are serving far from friends and family.

While it might seem like a small gesture, it’s nice to know that these patriotic postcards offer a salute with a smile and brighten many a day.

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Disney Feeds Campaign to End Hunger in Central Florida

posted on November 10th, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


With a gift perfect for Thanksgiving, Walt Disney World Resort delivered some special bushels of green yesterday to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida as part of ongoing efforts to help local families in need.

Disney Feeds Campaign to End Hunger in Central Florida

Minnie Mouse, joined by Disney VoluntEARS, gave $500,000 to assist Second Harvest in its “Building Solutions to Hunger” campaign. Due to a record level of demand for its services, Second Harvest needs to build a larger facility so it can accept and distribute significantly more food throughout the community.

In addition to the funds, Disney pledged 20,000 pounds of fresh produce to the organization during the next year. This is on top of the ongoing Disney Harvest contributions, which totaled nearly 360,000 pounds of food in 2010.

Now in its 20th year, Disney Harvest collects excess prepared and unserved food from locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort and delivers it to Second Harvest.

Donations range from salad to filet mignon and help feed more than 1,000 local kids a week.

Watch the video to learn more.

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Benefit Sale Returns to Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on October 17th, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Eager to get a jump start on your holiday shopping? There’s good sale coming up at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort that rewards early birds and supports a very worthy cause.

Benefit Sale Returns to Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

Back for a second year, the Benefit Sale will greet shoppers before dawn on Nov. 5 with discounts of 25% off select merchandise at participating Downtown Disney locations, special doorbusters and more. Your key to getting in on the deal is to purchase a $5 voucher in advance from Heart of Florida United Way because access will be limited. All proceeds from the voucher sales go directly to the United Way and its local partner agencies, which help provide health and social services to Central Floridians who need it most.

For details, go to www.thebenefitsale.com. Be sure to get your vouchers in advance and enjoy savings as you give back.

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Walt Disney World Resort Earns Top Honors for Supporting the Arts

posted on September 14th, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


I have some exciting news to share. Americans for the Arts just named Walt Disney World Resort as one the 10 best companies in the U.S. for its exceptional commitment to the arts. Walt Disney World Resort will receive the BCA 10: Best Companies Supporting the Arts in America for 2011 award on October 5 at a black-tie gala in New York City.

As a company that began with a drawing of a mouse, Disney has a legacy founded in artistic expression and rich storytelling. Creativity and innovation are just part of the DNA here at Walt Disney World Resort as is support of the arts community in Central Florida.

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

For nearly four decades, Walt Disney World Resort has helped foster the local arts community through millions in cash, in-kind donations and the knowledge and expertise of its cast members. Among these contributions is a $12.5 million capital investment in the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Last year alone, Walt Disney World Resort gave more than $565,000 to the local arts community, including Disney Helping Kids Shine grants to support local youth arts programs such as A Gift For Music, which provides free classical music instruction to economically disadvantaged students.

Walt Disney World Resort Supports A Gift For Music

With approximately 3,000 performing roles at Walt Disney World Resort alone, the Orlando area is considered the nation’s fourth largest creative talent base after New York, Los Angeles and Nashville. A cultural community needs support to thrive – I’m so proud to see Disney take a starring role in these efforts and earn some great recognition for it.

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Disney-Sponsored Football Game Celebrates Diversity and Inspires Youth

posted on September 7th, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Spend time watching college football this past weekend? I certainly did (Go NOLES!) as did many fans who welcomed the start of the season.

MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney

Here at Walt Disney World Resort and across Orlando, game day spirit was strong with the 7th annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney, a weekend of events that celebrates teams from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and culminates with a football game broadcast across the networks of ESPN. This year, Central Florida’s own Bethune-Cookman University from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) had a 63-14 win over Texas’ Prairie View A&M University from the Southwestern Conference (SWAC).

MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney

Tens of thousands of fans came to Central Florida to enjoy the game and the numerous festivities surrounding it, ranging from a Legends Reception, held at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, to salute HBCU graduates who have achieved legendary status both on and off the gridiron to a special parade showcasing marching bands on Main Street, U.S.A.

View the video to see highlights.

While football certainly plays a part in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney, it is more than just a game. Eugene Campbell, vice president of Domestic Minority Business Development for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, calls it a celebration of determination and passion that the players possess both on and off the field. It also builds on Disney’s long history of support for diversity and education.

Hundreds of students at Jones High School got to see this first hand with ESPN 101 Career Panel, which kicked off the MEAC/SWAC Weekend and gave local youth an opportunity to hear real-world advice directly from a panel of top sports professionals. Panelists such as ESPN anchor Jay Harris, Olympian Obadele Thompson and others shared their personal stories of sacrifice and dedication as they answered students’ questions about how to reach their own career goals.



Take a look at other ways Disney Parks has reached out to youth in the community:

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Disney Gives Students Back-to-School Support

posted on August 22nd, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Busy in back-to-school mode? I certainly have been and so have Walt Disney World Resort cast members. They’ve collected a record 2.1 million school supplies during their annual back-to-school supply drive. The items, ranging from pencils to notebook paper, are classroom essentials that will help thousands of Central Florida students start the school year off right.

Disney VoluntEARS Give Students Back-to-School Support

Last week, Disney VoluntEARS distributed nearly 14,000 backpacks filled with 1,810,000 million school supplies to 19 schools and community centers throughout Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Polk and Lake counties.

As part of these efforts, VoluntEARS teamed up with S.T.A.R.S. (Supplies to Assist Our Students) of West Orange to welcome families at Meet-the-Teacher events at several local public elementary schools and give out backpacks filled with school supplies. View highlights below.

Additionally, VoluntEARS gave approximately 377,815 school supplies to A Gift For Teaching’s free store so that local teachers can put them to use in their classrooms.

While these new school supplies may seem like a small gesture, they make a world of difference to the students who are receiving them in a time of record need in Central Florida.

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Cast Canoe Races Foster Competition and Camaraderie

posted on August 1st, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Extra magic was at play before sunrise at the Magic Kingdom during most of July as hundreds of Disney Cast Members hit the Rivers of America with paddles in hand to partake in some spirited competition.

Cast Canoe Races Foster Competition and Camaraderie

Canoe Races of the World, or C.R.O.W., is a beloved annual Cast Member event that dates back to 1973 at Walt Disney World and 1963 at Disneyland.

This year, a total of 82 teams (each with 10 members) competed in pre-dawn races.

Amid shouts of “ROW, ROW, ROW,” the teams put their strength behind the oars to earn the fastest times around Tom Sawyer’s Island. The best times clock in at around five minutes. Click the video to see highlights.

This Disney tradition fosters some fierce rivalry, but Cast Members say it’s really all in good fun as it boosts camaraderie among co-workers.

Cast Canoe Races Foster Competition and Camaraderie

Congratulations to this year’s grand champion, the IE Oars 3, which team captain Scott Hall claims is their first-ever victory.

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Disney Cast Members Earmark $686,950 for Central Florida Nonprofits

posted on June 15th, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Disney cast members are well-known for providing legendary guest service, which is admirable, but I find their compassionate spirit to be equally impressive. Outside of work, many of my fellow colleagues are making a difference in their communities through the Disney VoluntEARS program.

Disney Cast Members Earmark $686,950 for Central Florida Nonprofits

From coaching Little League to caring for rescued animals, Disney VoluntEARS gave more than 228,000 hours of their time and talents last year for the benefit of everyone in Central Florida.

This month, in recognition of these efforts, The Walt Disney Company is giving a total of $686,950 to the charities and causes that Walt Disney World cast members care about most.

Approximately 887 Walt Disney World VoluntEARS are being honored with EARS to You grants, which are financial contributions of up to $1,000 for the charity of their choice. Disney dollars will go toward 394 local nonprofits representing a wide array of worthy causes. Top recipients include local chapters of the American Cancer Society, Give Kids the World and the SPCA of Central Florida.

Disney Cast Members Earmark $686,950 for Central Florida Nonprofits

In keeping with this idea of gifts that keep on giving, Walt Disney World had some special surprises in store yesterday as it recognized its top VoluntEARS with coveted awards and charitable contributions.

High honors were given to Judy Hughes as 2010 VoluntEAR of the Year and Disney’s Theme Park Merchandise Team as the 2010 VoluntEAR Team of the Year. Both received $2,500 cash donations which they chose to give to the Girls Scouts of Citrus Council and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Check out the video below to see the highlights.

Congratulations Disney VoluntEARS – you rock! Cheers to you who earned EARS to You!

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Disney Dreamers and Doers Celebrates 15 Shining Stars

posted on May 17th, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Classroom calm quickly erupts into celebration when the world’s most famous mouse stops by for a visit. Yesterday, I had the treat of seeing this play out at several schools in Central Florida as Mickey Mouse and the Walt Disney World prize patrol made the rounds to honor some outstanding local students.

Disney Dreamers and Doers Celebrates 15 Shining Stars

Disney Dreamers and Doers Celebrates 15 Shining Stars

Teachers, school officials, family and friends are in on these magical moments, which recognize, reward and completely surprise students chosen as Disney Dreamers and Doers Shining Stars.

Some have overcome incredible personal challenges. Others have helped family members live better lives. All Shining Stars serve as an inspiration to others and have a compassionate spirit. Click the video to see some special highlights.

Approximately 400 students were chosen as 2011 Disney Dreamers and Doers from applications submitted by elementary, middle and high schools in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake and Polk counties. From those students, a panel of judges selected 15 Shining Stars, which they consider to be the best of the best.

Disney Dreamers and Doers Celebrates 15 Shining Stars

In addition to a visit from Mickey and the prize patrol, Disney Dreamers and Doers Shining Stars receive a Mickey Mouse statue, Walt Disney World annual passes for themselves and their immediate families, a gold medallion and a special day of fun and learning at Walt Disney World on June 18. All Disney Dreamers and Doers receive four theme park tickets, a certificate and a bronze medallion.

Now entering its 28th year, more than 11,500 students have been recognized as Disney Dreamers and Doers.

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Surprises Continue as Walt Disney World Gives $1.2 Million Over 40 Days

posted on April 28th, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Walt Disney World is well into week two of a 40-day celebration across Central Florida to recognize and reward organizations that make a positive impact in the lives of children and families.

Today, Mickey Mouse and the “Shine On” prize patrol surprised five charities that develop and strengthen children’s character with special gifts totaling $250,000.

Surprises Continue as Walt Disney World Gives $1.2 Million Over 40 Days

Recipients of Disney funding included A Gift For Music, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Florida. For more information, read here.

Thus far, Disney has given $660,000 on its journey across Central Florida to lend support to organizations that educate, develop and care for local youth. By May 23, Disney will give more than $1.2 million in Disney Helping Kids Shine Grants throughout the region.

Surprises Continue as Walt Disney World Gives $1.2 Million Over 40 Days

I’ve been honored and humbled to be along for the ride on many of these “Shine On” visits. Here’s a look back at last week’s journey, which was focused on helping several organizations that provide essentials such as food and shelter for local families in need.

Last year, Disney Helping Kids Shine Grants made a difference in the lives of more than 10,000 children. I am eager to see what magic will come from this year’s grants. Plenty more is in store.

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