On Saturday, November 22, Disney Friends for Change sponsored Family Volunteer Day, a nation-wide effort that demonstrates the magic created when families volunteer together to support their neighborhoods and communities around the world. The annual event, now in its 22nd year, celebrates the power that families have to make a real difference in their community, while strengthening their relationships and spending quality time together. Here’s a look at how Walt Disney Parks and Resorts teams participated in Family Volunteering Day and other holiday giving projects:
- At Disneyland Resort, Disney VoluntEARS helped pack food boxes at the Orange County Food Bank in support of Family Volunteer Day. VoluntEARS hosted another event at the Downtown Disney District to make healthy snack-packs that were also donated to the Orange County Food Bank. Additionally, Disneyland cast members participated in a Military Care Package drive and a canned food collection.
- To support Family Volunteer Day, Disney VoluntEARS and families from Hong Kong Disneyland took part in a coastal cleanup activity at Silvermine Bay. The event gave families the opportunity to spend time together while contributing to the cleanliness of their surrounding shoreline. In December, Hong Kong Disneyland cast members and their families will also visit two local hospitals for festive celebrations to help spread the joy of the holidays amongst patients and their loved ones.
- Every year, VoluntEARS from Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa partner with their neighbors at Ko Olina Resort for Thanksgiving Outreach, an event that serves meals to 4,000 people across Oahu’s Leeward Coast.
- In the spirit of Family Volunteer Day, Shanghai Disney Resort partnered with the non-profit organization Right to Play China through “Imagination Playground,” a play outreach program that aims to strengthen family bonds through various creative play activities. More than 100 children of migrant workers and low-income families have participated in family play activities with Shanghai Disney Resort VoluntEARS this holiday season.
- At Walt Disney World Resort, cast members and their families partnered with the 2013-2014 Walt Disney World Resort Ambassadors to support Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation’s (ONIC) Family Fun & Fall Festival. VoluntEARS helped set-up and break down the event, staff the activity and game stations and serve refreshments. Additionally, VoluntEARS from Disney’s Pop Century Resort will serve meals on Thanksgiving at the Coalition for Homeless Center for Women & Children and Men’s Pavilion.
Real magic comes from the efforts of families working together to make lasting and positive change in the world. Thanks to our teams from around the world and to the families who are part of that magic every year.
Since 1955, Disney Parks and Resorts have been places where guests can create memorable experiences with their friends and families. Immersive dining experiences have become an integral part of the storytelling and guest experience. Disney chefs across the world create meals for guests with careful attention to detail. The talented chefs at Hong Kong Disneyland have recently proven themselves to be international culinary leaders.
The wide range of dishes prepared by Hong Kong Disneyland chefs showcase their diverse culinary talents. They are able to cook delicious American meals, South Asian cuisine and even Halal-certified and vegetarian options. The chefs at the award-winning Crystal Lotus restaurant in the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel can even create dishes from four major culinary regions of China: Sichuan, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong.
The chefs at Hong Kong Disneyland have boosted the resort’s reputation for its culinary excellence. A team of chefs led by Hong Kong Disneyland won the world-renowned Salon Culinaire Mondial last year. This western cuisine competition is held every six years in Basel, Switzerland and measures culinary art at the topmost level. Also, two young chefs from Hong Kong Disneyland won the 2013 International Young Chef Challenge in Korea.
Not only do these chefs cook excellent meals at the park, they use their time and culinary talent to serve people in the community. Through a partnership with Hong Kong’s leading hunger relief charity, Foodlink, the Hong Kong Disneyland chefs donate surplus food to those in need. Since the program began in December 2013, Hong Kong Disneyland has collected more than 11 tons of safe-to-eat excess food from its hotel and restaurants. Chefs volunteer their personal time and use surplus ingredients to make delicious meals which are then delivered to underserved children and families in nearby communities in Hong Kong each week.
We are thrilled to have such talented chefs at Hong Kong Disneyland!
Cast members say that one of the best parts of working for the Disneyland Resort is the encouragement we receive to give back to our communities.
This year, Disneyland Resort cast members granted 85 Southern California nonprofit organizations a total of $415,000 in grants through the Disney VoluntEARS Community Fund (DVCF). That’s nearly $2.2 million since the program’s inception in 1997!
DVCF is funded entirely by cast members through regular payroll deductions or one-time donations. Those who contribute during the year have the opportunity to nominate an organization of their choice. The organizations, from local schools to social service agencies, received up to $5,000 each. Organizations that received a grant this year include American Heart Association, Boys & Girls Club, Make-A-Wish and Sam Dimas Mountain Rescue.
Check out the video below and watch Christine Ludin, a hotels cast member at the Disneyland Resort, present $5,000 to the Southern California Special Olympics!
I recently joined my teammates and fellow VoluntEARS, 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. Developed using AHA science and nutrition guidelines, as well as information shared by gardening and education experts, the garden is a learning laboratory where students plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and, in the process, learn the value of healthy eating.
Some of us built planter boxes and planted herbs and vegetables, while others painted a mural, rocks and trash cans to beautify the garden. In just a few hours, we created a great new space where parents will continue to work alongside teachers and students to sustain the garden for at least three years, with supplies provided by the Disneyland Resort.
I am so proud to have been a part of this effort and make a difference for the community at Walt Disney Elementary School.
See the posts below for more Disney VoluntEARS events:
Anyone who has attempted to build anything knows how challenging and time-consuming the task can be. But with a can-do attitude and a giving spirit, it was an easy venture for a group of Walt Disney World Resort cast members who built larger-than-life sculptures using nothing but cans of food!
During the recent CANstruction Orlando food drive and design competition, it was impressive to see two teams of Disney VoluntEARS in action as they stacked more than 11,000 canned and packaged food items to create an iconic pair of mouse ears and a tribute to Disney’s beloved attraction “it’s a small world.” Their desire to give back to the community was in full display as they carefully and strategically stacked one can at a time.
Following the annual CANstruction event, everything used in the sculptures was donated to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, a nonprofit that Disney has supported for more than 20 years donating several million pounds of food through its “Disney Harvest Program.”
Take a minute and see for yourself how these Disney VoluntEARS got everything to stack up!
Like me, many cast members at Walt Disney World Resort strive for a heart healthy lifestyle. As in states across the country, heart disease tops the list of health concerns in Florida. Whether it’s a family member, friend or fellow cast member, we all know and care for someone who has struggled with heart disease and stroke.
That’s why hundreds of Disney VoluntEARS put on their walking shoes yesterday for the 2014 Greater Orlando Heart Walk. As the signature fundraising event for the American Heart Association (AHA), the annual 5K was held at the University of Central Florida. Before they even crossed the finish line at yesterday’s race, Disney cast members formed teams to raise more than $23,000, helping the AHA make strides in its fight against heart disease and stroke.
With names such as “Ahoy Me HEARTies,” “The Happiest of Hearts” and “Mickey’s PhilHEARTmagic – the teams reflected the spirit of cast members throughout Walt Disney World Resort. Thanks to cast members’ fundraising efforts and enthusiasm for the cause, Walt Disney World Resort ranks among the AHA’s top contributors in Central Florida.
Besides raising important funds for the AHA’s research and education programs, the Heart Walk is a fantastic way for cast members to spend time with family, friends and team members in celebration of health and wellness. In addition to raising money and awareness for this important cause yesterday, walkers visited booths, entered to win fitness prizes and just had a great time together.
As an alumna of Clark Atlanta University, one of our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), I was proud to take part in a unique college fair today at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. The HBCU College Information Fair brought together 100 students from Orlando’s Edgewater High School, HBCU advocates and Disney cast members who attended HBCUs.
The event – which is part of the 10th annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge Presented by Disney – began with a presentation by United Negro College Fund Development Director Sherry Paramore, who outlined the value of an HBCU education, as well as how to prepare for college and secure scholarships. And though they’ll be rivals at Sunday’s MEAC/SWAC football game, representatives of North Carolina A&T State and Alabama A&M shared the stage amicably as they provided tips on making your college application stronger and applying for financial aid.
After the presentations, I joined fellow cast members who attended HBCUs in sharing my college experiences with students browsing the fair. As I explained how my academic experiences prepared me for a career at Walt Disney World Resort, I told them that enrolling at an HBCU is more than just being a student at a university. It’s becoming part of a network of future business and community leaders who share in the legacy of achievement.
As we talked, I was inspired by their hopes, dreams and vision for the future. I hope they were inspired, too … and that I see some of them again one day as fellow Disney cast members!
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.
Ten extraordinary high school seniors were each surprised at their Orange County, California schools with an in-class visit from Disney Ambassador Megan Navarette – and a $7,500 scholarship from Disneyland Resort! Along with demonstrating academic excellence and leadership skills, this year’s scholarship recipients were chosen for a combined 7,000 hours of community service.
Since 2005, the Disneyland Resort Scholarship Program has granted more than half a million dollars to graduating Orange County high school seniors, who are selected by a distinguished panel of community leaders for their passion for volunteerism, academic excellence and contributions to the community. Learn more about this year’s Disneyland Resort Scholarship recipients here!
Disney Junior announced its new Give a Book, Get a Book program in a big way this past weekend, as Disney Junior stars Ariel Winter and Tim Gunn (of “Sofia the First“) and David Arquette (of “Jake and the Never Land Pirates“) performed a storybook reading at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in Anaheim, Calif.
Through Give a Book, Get a Book, Disney will partner with First Book to provide for the donation of up to 1 million books to U.S. communities in need, and also present families with free digital books from Disney Publishing Worldwide. The program includes a redemption code offering a free Disney Digital book and a way for families to experience giving back by donating books to the community of their choice after purchasing a specially-marked Disney Junior book or product.
Families and children gathered around at the Disneyland Hotel to listen to the celebrity readers. They also enjoyed hearing a story read by LeVar Burton, children’s literacy advocate and Cofounder and Curator-in-Chief of the award-winning Reading Rainbow app. Burton spoke about the importance of building literacy and of storytelling in the digital age.
Storytelling is the foundation of Give a Book, Get a Book, designed to inspire parents and caregivers to spend time each day sharing stories that help develop the critical thinking, vocabulary and language skills a preschooler needs. The initiative includes public service announcements, interactive Radio Disney events, and free story time events at Boys & Girls Clubs of America Disney Store locations, starting April 21.
Details are available at the new website, www.giveabookgetabook.com. Families can find online activities there and also access resources that promote the value of storytelling.