Show Hide
Happy Thanksgiving from the Disney Parks Blog

Wildlife Wednesday: Disney Conservation Fund Awards $3 Million in Grants

posted on September 30th, 2015 by Dr. Mark Penning, Director of Animal Operations, Disney Parks

One of my favorite things I get to do each year is help review conservation grant proposals for the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF). Every summer, I have a chance to work with my fellow cast members to provide needed funds to organizations from all over the world that help animals in the wild, inspire communities to preserve ecosystems and ensure our planet continues to thrive and provide for the amazing diversity of wildlife and communities who share it.


The grant review process is a lot of hard work, but it is very rewarding. This year 80 cast members served on one of six committees focused on reviewing conservation work taking place in different geographic areas. Reviewers include cast members from various parts of The Walt Disney Company with expertise in conservation research, education, animal care, communications, business and philanthropy. Each brings their own experiences, points of view and expertise that help us ensure funds are directed to projects that will have the greatest positive impact on endangered species and habitats. In less than four months, our team of reviewers collectively dedicated more than 2,100 hours of their own time to reviewing more than 300 proposals!

Serving on a review committee is a great opportunity for cast members to make a difference for the animals we are passionate about and inspire our guests to learn more about every day. Reviewers often share their awe at the astounding conservation work they read about, the exciting new approaches to solving conservation challenges and amazing stories of people truly dedicated to making the world a better place for communities and animals. Being a part of this process also helps cast members better understand the role The Walt Disney Company plays in conserving nature and connecting kids and families with nature all over the world.

It is especially rewarding when the group chooses to support a project I have been personally involved with – I was lucky enough to provide field or veterinary support to several of the projects in the past, and have visited many of the field sites where this amazing work is being done. We love seeing the Disney Conservation Fund supporting solid projects that our cast members have checked out in person.

This year, we are proud to share that nearly $3 million in grants from the DCF will benefit wildlife, habitats, and communities through 104 conservation projects! After 20 years of helping nonprofit organizations worldwide, we have officially surpassed $30 million in grants through the fund.

The DCF is supported by guests like you who make contributions at Disney’s Animal, The Seas with Nemo & Friends and The Land at Epcot, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club Resorts and select Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Your support truly makes a difference, and we value the opportunity to work together to protect wildlife each year. I personally would like to share my congratulations to all of this year’s grant recipients, our many cast members for their hard work and to you, our guests, for helping us to conserve nature for future generations.

For a complete list of the 2015 Disney Conservation Fund grant recipients, you can visit Learn even more about the incredible achievements we have reached together at The Disney Post.

  • Share: 


Filed: Community Outreach

Literacy Project Foundation Surprised with $60,000 in Next Chapter of Disneyland Resort Million Dollar Dazzle

posted on September 25th, 2015 by Kevin Rafferty, Jr., Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort


Last weekend, I joined our Million Dollar Dazzle Crew as we pulled off a textbook surprise by announcing the Literacy Project Foundation as the latest recipient of a $60,000 Million Dollar Dazzle gift from the Disneyland Resort. The nonprofit organization offers a reading program at no cost in many Orange County, Calif., elementary schools and after-school programs that helps disadvantaged youth improve their reading skills.

We were scheduled to present Disneyland Resort tickets to once-struggling readers at the nonprofit’s annual gala when we made the exciting announcement.


“This gift enables us to reach even more at-risk youth,” said Sue Grant, executive director of Literacy Project Foundation. “For many years, the Disneyland Resort has supported us with ticket donations and materials for our participants, and this donation is certainly one for the books!”

The Million Dollar Dazzle Crew will continue to surprise local nonprofits with $60,000 each month of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration. I look forward to sharing the next recipient soon on the Disney Parks Blog!

  • Share: 


Filed: Community Outreach, Disneyland Resort

Celebrating HBCUs – Disney Style

posted on September 8th, 2015 by Belinda Wilson, Community Relations Manager

One of the many things I love about being a Disney cast member is our company’s commitment to supporting diversity and education in Central Florida. It was evident this past weekend with the West Lakes Family Day and other events related to the 11th annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney, which featured two football teams from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in an early season match up.

South Carolina State Bulldogs vs Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions college football action at Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, Florida

The MEAC/SWAC Challenge kicked off Thursday at Evans High School in Orlando with the ESPN 101 career panel. Fellow cast member Latonya Johnson was one of five panel members who shared their career paths in the sports industry. Hundreds of students were encouraged to dream, set goals, discover educational opportunities and explore career possibilities.

On Saturday in Magic Kingdom Park, HBCU pride was on full display as the bands from South Carolina State University (SCSU) and University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (UAPB) high-stepped their way through the park, along with their school presidents who were grand marshals for the day.

Disney West Lakes Family Day-040

Prior to Sunday’s football game at the Orlando Citrus Bowl, Disney teamed up with local nonprofit LIFT Orlando to host West Lakes Family Day, showcasing the heritage of six historic African-American neighborhoods near the stadium. During the community event, neighbors and new friends enjoyed food and entertainment, along with a special visit from Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

Even though the SCSU Bulldogs defeated the UAPB Golden Lions 35-7 before thousands of spectators in the rain, we all had a great time celebrating diversity and education.

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Community Outreach, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Calling All Orange County, Calif., High School Students: Applications Now Open for the First Class of Disneyland Resort Dreamers & Doers

posted on September 8th, 2015 by Kevin Rafferty, Jr., Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort

As I mentioned earlier this summer, Disneyland Resort is looking for exemplary Orange County, Calif., high school students driving positive change in their homes, schools or communities to represent our very first class of Dreamers & Doers this fall. Walt Disney World Resort has been recognizing Dreamers & Doers in Central Florida for more than 30 years. We are thrilled to now bring this recognition to the Disneyland Resort community in celebration of our 60th anniversary.

This new program inspired us to seek out some of these influential students who captured their stories in action. From stuffed animal drives for homeless children to clogging classes for the disabled, I was overwhelmed by the amazing things these young people are accomplishing. Take a look at this video and find out what they DREAM about and what they DO to make their dreams come to life!

If you or someone you know is making a difference by conserving nature, inspiring others to be creative, live healthfully or bring hope and happiness to the community, apply now to be a Dreamer & Doer by submitting a completed application to your high school’s main office through November 20. Each Orange County high school will have the opportunity to select up to two Dreamers & Doers.

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Community Outreach, Disneyland Resort

Disneyland Resort Million Dollar Dazzle Crew Hits the Road, Surprises Next $60,000 Recipient

posted on August 27th, 2015 by Kevin Rafferty, Jr., Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort


You may remember that on July 17 we announced a special philanthropic program in honor of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration called Million Dollar Dazzle. Once a month during the celebration, our Million Dollar Dazzle Crew is surprising local nonprofits with $60,000, amounting to more than $1 million.

Last weekend, the Million Dollar Dazzle Crew showed up to a regularly scheduled Disney VoluntEARS event at the Orange County Food Bank with the surprise $60,000 for the nonprofit that runs the food bank, Community Action Partnership of Orange County (CAPOC).

Disney VoluntEARS were in place packing food boxes when Disney Ambassador Allie Kawamoto and the Million Dollar Dazzle Crew came in and announced that our second Million Dollar Dazzle gift was to benefit CAPOC’s Family Resource Centers, offering services from homework assistance for children to free lunches for senior citizens.


“We have a really difficult time fundraising for our Family Resource Centers,” said Buddy Ray, executive director of CAPOC. “It’s easier to raise funds for the food bank because everyone understands what that is. This makes a world of difference for our entire nonprofit. Families are getting quality services that make a difference in their lives.”

Disney VoluntEARS from the Disneyland Resort have supported CAPOC since the early 1990s with quarterly food packing events. This gift represents a new way in which the Disneyland Resort is supporting CAPOC. Keep an eye on the Disney Parks Blog to see which local nonprofit will be surprised next by our Million Dollar Dazzle Crew!

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Community Outreach, Disneyland Resort

Walt Disney World Resort Donates $866,000 Worth of School Supplies to Central Florida Students

posted on August 20th, 2015 by Andrea Finger, Director of Communications

Being married to a high school algebra teacher, I completely understand how much work it takes to get ready for school. I also know that unfortunately, some of my husband’s students don’t have all the supplies they need. But some of my fellow cast members are doing what they can to help.

Over the past few weeks, thousands of Disney VoluntEARS have been picking up extra folders, pencils, pens, composition notebooks and more to help more than 100,000 Central Florida students begin the school year successfully.


Through this Back-to-School Supply Drive, students will receive over $866,000 worth of school supplies, including more than 60,000 backpacks. All of the supplies will be distributed locally by A Gift For Teaching (AGFT), which is a nonprofit organization that provides free school supplies to local students to help their students in need.


In addition to donating school supplies, hundreds of cast members spent countless hours sorting pens, crayons, notebooks and other school items at AGFT’s warehouse in South Orlando. They also answered phones during a telethon hosted by WKMG Local 6 to raise funds for the nonprofit’s supply efforts.


All supplies donated will ensure students, families and teachers can focus on the same goal: a successful start to the 2015-2016 school year!

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Community Outreach, Walt Disney World Resort

Apply Now For Disney Dreamers Academy

posted on August 5th, 2015 by Geoffrey Pointon, Public Relations Manager, Disney Destinations

“The era we are living in today is a dream coming true.” This is one of my favorite quotes said by Walt Disney, a man whom I consider an expert dream-maker because I truly believe that our era is changing the world. With a universe of possibilities, any dreamer can make a difference, which is why Disney Dreamers Academy is selecting 100 high school students to participate in an innovative, outside-the-classroom, educational mentoring program.

Steve Harvey Welcomes the 2015 Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World Resort

High school students nationwide can apply now thru October 30 at to be among 100 selected to participate in this year’s 2016 Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE. Applicants must answer essay questions relating to their personal stories and their dreams for the future. Students are selected based on a combination of attributes, including a strong character, positive attitude, and determination to achieve their dreams.

Entering the search for its ninth class of Dreamers, Disney Dreamers Academy continues to hold true to its mission to inspire and fuel the dreams of teens, help them discover a world of possibilities and help them prepare for the future. Each year, students participate in hands-on, full-immersion workshops related to a variety of career paths, ranging from animation to zoology. Each participant learns important skills such as communication techniques, leadership values and networking strategies.


Select Disney Dreamers, along with a parent or guardian, will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, where they will participate in life-changing sessions while surrounded by the creativity and innovation represented in Disney theme parks around the world. Disney Dreamers Academy will take place March 3-6, 2016.

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Community Outreach, Walt Disney World Resort

Special Olympics World Games ‘Flame of Hope’ Journeys Through Disneyland Resort

posted on July 20th, 2015 by Kevin Rafferty, Jr., Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort

Last night, the Disneyland Resort hosted the “Flame of Hope,” currently making its way through 127 cities and communities in California en route to the Special Olympics World Games opening ceremonies in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 25. The torch shined brightly even in the rain, and I was encouraged to see so many guests brave the weather to watch Special Olympics athletes carry the torch down Main Street, U.S.A. to a ceremony at the Downtown Disney District.


The Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg for the “Flame of Hope” represents the culmination of similar events around the world on its journey to the Special Olympics World Games. In May, the torch made its way to the Walt Disney World Resort during a Unified Relay Across America, going through Epcot and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.

More than 30,000 volunteers, including Disney VoluntEARS, will support the Special Olympics World Games. ESPN is the official broadcast partner of the Games, and will be covering the Opening Ceremonies, plus sharing highlights throughout the event.

  • Share: 

Tagged: , , , , , ,

Filed: Community Outreach, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Downtown Disney District, Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort

Disneyland Resort Celebrates 60th Anniversary and Announces Million Dollar Dazzle Program Benefiting Local Nonprofits

posted on July 17th, 2015 by Erin Glover, Editorial Content Director, Disneyland Resort


Sixty years ago today, Walt Disney dedicated his dream project: Disneyland – a land beyond the boundaries of the motion pictures with which he’d made his reputation, a park where families and guests of all ages could be immersed in worlds of fantasy and adventure.

As part of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, we announced this morning that we will honor 60 years of Walt’s dream with our Million Dollar Dazzle program. Each month during the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, the Million Dollar Dazzle Crew will surprise one or more Southern California nonprofits with a $60,000 gift, totaling more than $1 million. Girl Scouts of Orange County was surprised with the first gift at the ceremony today.

Check back later today for video from this special ceremony!

  • Share: 

Tagged: , ,

Filed: Community Outreach, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort

Disneyland Resort Seeking Influential High School Students in Orange County, Calif., to be Recognized as First Class of Disneyland Resort Dreamers & Doers This Fall

posted on July 1st, 2015 by Kevin Rafferty, Jr., Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort

Are you or someone you know a high school student doing good in the Orange County, Calif., community?

Whether focused on helping their families, classmates or community causes – Orange County high school students are asked to nominate themselves for their good deeds and service. From tutoring younger students, to leading a food drive, to starting a recycling program or helping with a sick or elderly family member – Dreamers & Doers applicants make a positive impact in their community.

Beginning September 8, Orange County high school students can apply to become the first class of Dreamers & Doers, the newly announced Disneyland Resort philanthropy program aimed at recognizing exemplary high school students who take action to improve their community, home or school by conserving nature, inspiring others to be creative or live healthfully, and bringing hope and happiness to the community.


If the name sounds familiar to you, that’s because Walt Disney World Resort has been recognizing Dreamers & Doers in Central Florida for more than 30 years. We are thrilled to now bring this recognition to the Disneyland Resort community in celebration of our 60th anniversary.

Get involved now!
Students interested in applying to become a Dreamer & Doer this fall are encouraged to use summer break to get involved and make a difference, and even showcase how they are making an impact by submitting videos of their work in action. Select videos will then be part of a final video highlighting the program, which will be shown here on the Disney Parks Blog and in various other social media channels. Instructions for submitting videos can be found here. Submit your videos by August 2!

More about the program:
Every high school in Orange County will have the opportunity to select one to two of their school’s Dreamers & Doers applicants, who will receive two Disneyland Resort Park Hopper tickets. From this group, 60 “Shining Stars” will be selected to receive a $1,000 grant for their school and be invited to attend a celebration luncheon where additional surprises will be announced, and six top-ranking students will be designated as “Luminaries” who receive a Disneyland Resort weekend prize package to enjoy with their families. Disneyland Resort also will host a symposium for all “Shining Stars,” providing an opportunity to discuss issues that affect students and create solutions they can implement in their schools and communities. Click here for more information about the Disneyland Resort Dreamers and Doers program.

  • Share: 


Filed: Community Outreach, Disneyland Resort