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.
Julie Ernst, a teacher at John Marshall Elementary School in Anaheim, Calif., purchased two piano keyboards seven years ago with a grant from the Disneyland Resort to start a music education program. Today, the elementary school has a complete lab of 34 keyboards and a full-time music teacher, and this year received a visit from members of the National Association of Music Merchants.
Disneyland Resort CREATE (Creative Resources Enabling Arts through Education) grants have provided Orange County teachers with classroom materials that support visual and performing arts projects for more than 20 years. In the 2014-15 school year, CREATE grants funded 131 schools with 249 arts and music projects, benefiting more than 42,000 kindergarten through 12th grade students in Orange County.
“Music can make a difference in the lives of our students in Anaheim,” said Ernst. “Attendance rates are up, student success is increasing in all curricular areas, staff is proud, discipline issues have dropped, and I am one happy teacher!”
Selected from 10,000 applicants, 100 high-school students, or Disney Dreamers, from across the country traveled to Walt Disney World Resort to participate in the once-in-a-lifetime educational and mentoring event known as Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine. This four-day experience is designed to fuel the dreams of teens and help them prepare for the future.
Recently, the eighth graduating class of Disney Dreamers participated in “hands-on workshops” and inspirational seminars from celebrities, executives and industry experts were presented encouraging the students to dream big and get a jumpstart on achieving their dreams.
Special guests and speakers included Walt Disney World Resort President George Kalogridis, Bishop T.D. Jakes, E! News Host Terrence J, HLN Reporter Rocsi Diaz, Actor Lamman Rucker, Film Producer Will Packer, Celebrity Chef Jeff Henderson and many others.
This year’s commencement featured a performance by Grammy-Winning Gospel Artist Yolanda Adams, as well as final words of advice from Steve Harvey, ESSENCE Editor-at-Large Mikki Taylor, Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks, Super Bowl Champion and Television host Michael Strahan and Vice President of Deluxe Resorts/Executive Disney Dreamers Academy Champion Tracey D. Powell: View Commencement Video Here
Applications for the 2016 Disney Dreamers Academy will open this spring. Visit www.disneydreamersacademy.com for more information.
And always remember to dream big!
This week, Kevin Rafferty, Jr., showed us some fun ways that the Disneyland Resort is helping its local community in Southern California.
In his recap of the recent 17th annual “Flashback,” Kevin told us how a record 500 Disneyland Resort cast members volunteered more than 39,000 hours of rehearsal time to produce the popular show, which raised $25,000 for ACT Anaheim (Accelerate Change Together).
And in his post about the new Teaching Garden at Walt Disney Elementary School in Anaheim, Calif., Kevin gave us an update on this project in which Disney VoluntEARS joined students to enjoy the garden’s first harvest.
Want to learn more about how the Disneyland Resort impacts its local community? Check out the Disneyland Resort in the Community Facebook page!
As my colleague Melanie shared last year, Disney VoluntEARS joined representatives from American Heart Association (AHA) and Walt Disney Elementary School teachers, students and parents to build the first AHA Teaching Garden in Anaheim, Calif., funded by the Disneyland Resort. Since the build and initial planting in November, the garden has continued to serve as a learning laboratory where students nurture growing plants, harvest produce and, in the process, learn the value of healthy eating. Today, I am excited to share that Disney VoluntEARS and more than 700 Walt Disney Elementary School students recently participated in the Teaching Garden’s first Heart Healthy Harvest Day!
Along with harvesting the garden boxes during the event, students tasted new fruits and vegetables and even learned about a unique form of composting that uses worms to recycle organic materials into soil. Each class also planted new vegetables for harvest later this spring.
“The Walt Disney Teaching Garden is a unique and natural learning environment that has given our students a first-hand experience of the seed-to-table process, while providing them with invaluable insight into the importance and appreciation of nutritious and healthy eating,” said Walt Disney Elementary School Principal Teali Fielder.
Looks like the students are really looking forward to their next crop!
A record 500 Disneyland Resort cast members volunteered more than 39,000 hours of rehearsal time to produce the 17th annual “Flashback,” held at the Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure park last week. The musical production, in which cast members produce and perform mini-musicals for family and friends, raised $25,000 for ACT Anaheim (Accelerate Change Together).
Performances were themed to various Disneyland Resort celebrations: “Blast to the Past,” “Circus Fantasy,” “Year of a Million Dreams” and “Show Your Disney Side.” Several participants also volunteered time to teach song and dance numbers to children at the West Anaheim Youth Center, one of ACT Anaheim’s grant recipients.
“Since Flashback’s launch, we have dedicated close to $300,000 to local charities within Orange County and Anaheim,” said Flashback co-creator Glynn Alsup, an attractions area manager. “ACT Anaheim is a great way to touch many of those charities at the same time. It truly is a valuable organization that goes to some great causes.”
The Disneyland Band officially opened the 2015 National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show being held at the Anaheim Convention Center this weekend. The NAMM Show is the world’s largest trade-only event for the music products industry.
Yamaha, the official sponsor of musical instruments to the Disneyland Resort, helped make the appearance possible. Guest conductor Mickey Mouse also joined the performance, which included musical numbers ranging from jazz to classic Disney tunes.
In addition to sharing their commitment to music education at the NAMM Show, the Disneyland Band is performing a dozen community concerts for second-grade students in Orange County, Calif., which they have done for more than 30 years!
This holiday season, Disney VoluntEARS continued the 60-year tradition of supporting the Toys for Tots campaign by collecting gifts for children around the globe.
Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort VoluntEARS supported the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots annual drive. These cast members donated more than 6,000 hours of service to help sort donations and distribute toys to families in need. Disney Cruise Line hosted toy drives onboard their ships, at their homeport in Port Canaveral, Florida and in their shore-side offices. VoluntEARS at Disneyland Paris hosted “Mission Noel.” At this event, they wrapped gifts for children from local communities who were invited to the park for Christmas Eve brunch. In total, our cast members donated more than 40,000 toys, books and games.
Toys for Tots is just one example of how we at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts enrich the lives of kids and families around the globe. Through contributions, collaborations with local organizations, in-kind gifts and volunteerism, we help make lasting and positive change in the world. To learn more about citizenship at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, visit http://aboutdisneyparks.com/citizenship.
In the spirit of the season, I am proud to share with you the top 10 ways the Disneyland Resort and its cast have given back to the community this year. This list speaks to how we continue Walt Disney’s legacy of giving. Of a total $17 million donated in 2014, these 10 efforts top the charts! As we approach 2015 and the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, we will continue to nurture, inspire and empower families in making lasting and positive change in the world. Happy Holidays!
- The Disneyland Resort, Angels Baseball and the Anaheim Ducks committed $3 million (to be allocated over three years) to Accelerate Change Together (ACT) for Anaheim.
- The 24th annual CHOC Walk in the Park at the Disneyland Resort raised more than $2 million to support CHOC Children’s.
- Eighty-five Southern California nonprofit organizations benefited from the Disney VoluntEARS Community Fund – to the tune of $415,000 in grants.
- 120,000 pounds of gently used costumes, shoes, mattresses and box springs were donated to Goodwill in an effort to reduce waste to landfills.
- 13,000 military care packages were sent to U.S. servicemen and women overseas.
- Two KaBOOM! playgrounds were built in 2014, bringing the total number of playgrounds built in Orange County to seven and giving nearly 11,000 children a place to play.
- 709 Disney Wishes were granted at the Disneyland Resort through Make-A-Wish.
- 249 Orange County arts and music projects received Disneyland Resort CREATE grants.
- A total of $75,000 in scholarships were given to ten Orange County high school seniors.
- Nearly 8,000 toys collected at the Disneyland Resort were donated to Toys for Tots.
Did you ever wonder what happens to the coins that get tossed into the wishing wells and fountains around Walt Disney World Resort? I’ve asked this question myself and found out that it really does help make wishes come true.
For more than 30 years, Walt Disney World Resort has been collecting the tossed coins and donating the money to local nonprofit organizations that help children in need. Recently, Disney donated $18,000 to Community Based Care (CBC) of Central Florida to help provide services to children in foster care. This year, cast members chose CBC’s Over-18 Support program to receive the funds. This program helps youngsters in foster care obtain their driver’s licenses, find jobs, secure housing and apply for other health and human services.
So the next time you visit Walt Disney World, remember that when you toss a coin into a fountain and make a wish, you are helping make somebody else’s wish come true!