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Central Florida Shines with Support from Disney

posted on April 13th, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Central Florida Shines with Support from Disney

Did you know Walt Disney World Resort is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year? As this special milestone nears, Disney leaders met with nearly 200 community leaders today to reflect on memories and share news about how Disney impacts Central Florida.

As the largest single private employment site in the United States, Walt Disney World Resort and its more than 62,000 cast members play a vital role in Central Florida. In 2010, the resort and its cast contributed more than $28 million and 228,000 volunteer hours to local community efforts, with a special interest in helping children and families.

Central Florida Shines with Support from Disney

To that end, in honor of its 40 years in Central Florida, Walt Disney World Resort is spending the next 40 days giving back across the region with a “Shine On” celebration. Prize patrols will surprise, recognize and reward nonprofit groups, school districts and organizations that improve the lives of local children.

Central Florida Shines with Support from Disney

Between now and May 22, Disney will give more than $1.2 million in Disney Helping Kids Shine Grants throughout Central Florida. Efforts began this morning as Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World, awarded gifts totaling $290,000 to school districts and early learning coalitions in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake and Polk counties.

Central Florida Shines with Support from Disney

Learn more about Walt Disney World’s charitable contributions by reading the 2010 Community Report. Follow the 40-day “Shine On” journey across Central Florida and track the total giving at www.shineontoday.com, where prize patrol reports and pictures will be posted.

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Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children Opens With Fanfare

posted on March 30th, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


There was much excitement in Orlando this morning with the official opening of the Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children. Hundreds were on hand to celebrate the occasion, which included a moving dedication ceremony featuring inspirational stories from former pediatric patients.

Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children Opens With Fanfare

Bob Iger, president and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, and Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, toured the state-of-the-art facility and visited with children in the hospital’s interactive lobby. Designed by Disney Imagineers, the lobby features supporting characters from “The Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Jungle Book” and “Brother Bear.” All seven floors of the hospital feature concepts, colors, sounds and themes inspired by these classic Disney movies. The welcoming, healing environment places young patients in the starring role. Take a look at the video to see some highlights.

The Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children represents a $10 million commitment by Disney. In touring the facility, I was struck by how special and kid-friendly the place truly is. Great attention has been paid to the finer details.

Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children Opens With Fanfare

It is a truly unique environment for children in Central Florida who require medical care. Through its support, it’s just one more way Disney is helping make dreams come true for children in need.

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Walt Disney World Grants Powerful Wishes By Sharing Its Magic

posted on March 24th, 2011 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Playing Football with Mickey Mouse

Here at Walt Disney World Resort, we pride ourselves on being the place where dreams come true.

Aside from all the amazing vacations and magical moments in the parks, some truly inspirational real-life fairy tales happen as well. These stories are extraordinary because they show the pure power of a child’s wish.

Dancing with Cinderella

Disney takes great delight in sharing some of its magic with children’s wish-granting organizations around the world. Whether it’s a desire to dance with Cinderella, or a chance to play football with Mickey Mouse, special requests from children with life-threatening medical conditions get VIP treatment. Last year alone, Walt Disney World Resort granted nearly 7,000 wish trips. According to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a Disney-themed wish is the most popular request they receive.

Playing in the Band with Mickey Mouse

Any time I get the chance to watch a wish come to life, I feel very fortunate. My favorite part is to see the joy in the eyes of the children and their families. These special moments offer hope and lift spirits. It makes me feel proud to know that Disney supports such a worthy cause.

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Disney VoluntEARS Build Dream Playground in Less Than a Day

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


With an eagerness to make a difference and some elbow grease, more than 200 volunteers from Walt Disney World Resort and the community lent some magic to a KaBOOM! playground build yesterday at the Orlando Day Nursery.

Disney VoluntEARS Help with a KaBOOM! Playground Build at Orlando Day Nursery

It took less than six hours for the group to construct a safe new play space and vegetable garden to serve more than 300 local children. The children themselves had a hand in the playground’s design, which was based on their drawings.

Building a dream playground in less than a day is quick by any standard…and even quicker when captured on time-lapse video.

VoluntEARS moved more than 42,120 square feet of safety surfacing – enough to cover nearly 10 NBA-sized basketball courts – and mixed nearly 10,000 pounds of concrete by hand. It was a treat to watch it all come together. Very impressive and sure to be impactful for years to come.

Disney VoluntEARS Help with a KaBOOM! Playground Build at Orlando Day Nursery

The playground build is a prelude to the first-ever Disney Magic of Healthy Living – The Weekend, which takes place at Walt Disney World Resort. This weekend, Disney will celebrate fifty kids from around the nation for their winning essays on living a healthier life. As part of the event, they will be invited to explore a new world full of flavor and fun. Activities include a one-of-a-kind “TRYathlon,” a course ‘around the world’ where kids try new foods and new moves that lead to a healthy lifestyle.

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Disney Marathon Donations Spread Warmth Across Central Florida

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


Hi everyone! I have a great story to share that starts with people literally taking the clothes off their backs and ends with helping a good cause.

The 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon

Participants in the 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna left behind some special clothing donations that are helping thousands of Central Floridians bundle up during winter months.

Over the past two weeks, Disney has distributed more than 7 tons of clothing to those in need through Orange County Public Schools, Osceola County Public Schools, Covenant House and other Central Florida non–profit organizations. The nearly 25,000 items, such as coats, sweaters, long sleeved t-shirts and gloves, were collected by Walt Disney World Marathon organizers along the race routes on January 8 and 9.

Runners typically wear layers prior to the marathon to keep warm in the early morning hours and shed items as they make their way through the 26.2- and 13.1-mile courses. Disney textile services laundered all of the gently used items before giving them to Central Florida charities.

Disney Marathon Donations Keep Central Florida Children Warm

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Chilean Miners Inspire Boys & Girls Club Members at Walt Disney World

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


Chilean Miners Inspire Boys & Girls Club Members

Fresh from their appearance as Grand Marshals in a special parade held in their honor yesterday at the Magic Kingdom, the Chilean miners took some time out from their vacation to share their heroic story with approximately 40 children from Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida.

Entering the room with cheers and much enthusiasm, the kids were thrilled at the opportunity to meet the miners and learn more about how they overcame tremendous odds.

Chilean Miners Inspire Boys & Girls Club Members

It was a special meeting that felt surreal in some ways. Like most everyone worldwide, I was transfixed by the miners’ saga for 69 days last fall. As I watched them hug and greet the children, I never lost sight of the fact that these men survived an almost unimaginable ordeal.

With assistance from an interpreter, the miners shared their insights on courage, faith and the importance of teamwork. I was struck by how each man identified themselves by the order in which they were rescued. It is clear that the men have a brotherly bond and act in solidarity.

Chilean Miners Inspire Boys & Girls Club Members

A common theme in the lessons shared was of perseverance. Many of the men said they always believed there would be a way out. They encouraged the children to never give up and never lose faith.

Chilean Miners Inspire Boys & Girls Club Members

As the children had a chance to ask many questions, you could tell that this encounter was going to make a lasting impression on them. Afterwards, the children talked about how grateful they were for their special time with miners and how they will never forget the day.

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Disney Cast Members Collect 20,000 Toys for Children in Need

posted on December 15th, 2010 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Acting much like Santa’s helpers, a group of Walt Disney World Resort VoluntEARS made a special delivery this morning that’s sure to warm the hearts of many children this holiday season.

U.S. Marine Corps and Mickey Mouse

With approximately 20,000 brand new toys in tow, VoluntEARS joined Mickey Mouse and Duffy the Disney Bear in giving a sizable donation to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Central Florida Toys for Tots drive.

Cast members have spent the past few weeks collecting tons of new toys as part of Walt Disney World Resort’s annual effort to support the Toys for Tots campaign. I always get a thrill out of gathering toys for Toys for Tots and love to see the donations as they come in. This one needs a lotso love.

Lotso the Bear

In addition to contributing toys, Disney VoluntEARS have given thousands of hours toward helping the U.S. Marines register families in need, sort and stock toys and assist with toy distribution.

Disney VoluntEARS

This year, Central Florida Toys for Tots expects to assist 7,200 families from Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties in celebrating the holiday season with gifts for more than 20,000 children. The annual toy drive is meant to send a message of hope to youngsters by ensuring they have at least one new gift to open during the holidays.

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Disney Shares Holiday Cheer at Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida

posted on November 23rd, 2010 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Like many of you, Disney chefs are in full-on prep mode for Thanksgiving. Chef Leonard Thomson, Chef de Cuisine with Epcot Catering, is already at work in his kitchen to make sure this Thanksgiving is a memorable one for approximately 700 people who will spend it at Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.

Disney VoluntEARS prepare and serve nearly 750 meals a month at the Coalition and enjoy making the holiday servings extra special.

Disney VoluntEARS Serve Meals at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida

Today, Chef Thomson and team begin pulling together a culinary cornucopia that includes roasted turkey with gravy, cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, braised beef tips, four-cheese baked pasta, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, salad greens, rolls and desserts such as pumpkin cheesecake. Two days worth of care and effort will go into the Thanksgiving feast before it is ready to serve on Thursday evening.

Donations of Disney-chef prepared meals is just one of many ways that Walt Disney World Resort supports the Coalition, which provides food and shelter to nearly 650 people a night. Many of them are families with children.

Disney VoluntEARS Serve Meals at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida

As I think about what I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving, the day-to-day work of the Coalition comes to mind. They are much more than a shelter; they help homeless individuals and families get back on track to self-sufficiency. Every day the Coalition makes lives more magical by giving a helping hand to those in need. It warms my heart to see Disney support this very worthy cause.

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Walt Disney World Resort Creates ‘Cuddliest Christmas Tree’ for Toys for Tots

posted on November 15th, 2010 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


US Marine and Duffy the Disney Bear Tree

It’s not everyday that you see a US Marine on a special mission with a cuddly teddy bear in tow. Such was the sight at Epcot this morning and I’m still smiling from getting a glimpse of it.

Walt Disney World Resort kicked off its annual toy collection drive for Toys for Tots today with a little help from members of the US Marine Corps, Duffy the Disney Bear and his pals Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Disney VoluntEARS, Minnie and Mickey Mouse, Duffy the Disney Bear, and US Marine Corps

Disney VoluntEARS created the “Cuddliest Christmas Tree,” a 20-foot-high, 10-foot-wide Christmas tree made of 1,200 stuffed Duffy bears, all of which will be donated to Central Florida Toys for Tots.

Each year, Disney VoluntEARS make the holidays brighter for deserving local children by donating tens of thousands of toys to Toys for Tots.

From now until Dec. 10, Walt Disney World Resort cast members will collect new toys for the Central Florida Toys for Tots drive. Organizers tell me they are seeing a record level of families are registering this year so these donations will make a big difference at time when it’s needed most.

On a side note…did you know that Disney’s involvement with Toys for Tots began more than 60 years ago? In fact, Walt Disney and his animators designed the original Toys for Tots logo that is still used today.

US Marine and Duffy the Disney Bear Tree

The US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Foundation has drop-off sites set up nationwide for the next few weeks to accept toy donations. To find a location near you, visit http://toysfortots.org.

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Disney Soaps Help ‘Clean the World’ Combat Cholera

posted on October 28th, 2010 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort


Did you know that soaps and shampoos from Walt Disney World Resort hotels have a second life after their initial use by guests?

Disney VoluntEARS work with Clean the World, an Orlando-based nonprofit, to collect, sanitize and repackage discarded amenities from the nearly 28,000 hotel rooms on Disney property so they may be distributed to people in need worldwide.

All 24 Walt Disney World Resort hotels participate in the innovative recycling effort that aims to improve health and personal hygiene in impoverished areas around the world. So far this year, Disney Resorts have donated 25,710 pounds of soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion.

Teams from Clean the World are currently in Haiti aiding in efforts to contain the cholera outbreak by delivering more than 100,000 bars of sanitized soap to several orphanages, clinics and schools. Shawn Seipler, executive director at Clean the World, points out that soap can’t cure cholera but it can help prevent spread of the disease. As you can see from the photos he shared with us, some of these items look familiar.

Haitian Children With Donated Disney Soaps

Considering that Disney is one of the chief suppliers for Clean the World, more Disney soaps will be on the way to Haiti soon. The nonprofit is planning to deliver another 200,000 bars of soap in November.

Haitian Children With Donated Disney Soaps

Clean the World’s efforts complement Disney’s commitment toward improving children’s lives and doing what is right for the environment.

Their mission is impressive and I hope you join me in wishing them continued success.

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