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!
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!