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Disneyland Resort Cast Members Grant Nearly $2.2M to Southern California Nonprofits Since 1997

posted on November 21st, 2014 by Melanie Vogel, External Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort

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!

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Disney VoluntEARS, American Heart Association and Walt Disney Elementary School Build First Teaching Garden in Anaheim

posted on November 7th, 2014 by Melanie Vogel, External Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort

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:

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Disney VoluntEARS Put Their ‘Can’ Do Spirit to Work Helping Central Florida Food Bank

posted on October 28th, 2014 by Wilma Colón, Media Relations Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

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!

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Central Florida Disney VoluntEARS Take Wellness to Heart at AHA Walk

posted on September 7th, 2014 by Janet Burnley, Vice President for Compensation, Human Resources Information Systems, Workforce Planning and Health/Wellness for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

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.

Central Florida Disney VoluntEARS Take Wellness to Heart at AHA Walks Central Florida Disney VoluntEARS Take Wellness to Heart at AHA Walk

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.

Central Florida Disney VoluntEARS Take Wellness to Heart at AHA Walks Central Florida Disney VoluntEARS Take Wellness to Heart at AHA Walk

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.

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Disney Brings HBCU Alumni and Advocates Together to School Local Students in Higher Ed Opportunity

posted on August 29th, 2014 by Belinda Frazier, Manager, Corporate Citizenship

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.
Local Students to Attend College Fair at Disney

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!

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Filed: Community Outreach, Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney VoluntEARS Celebrate 2.5 million Back-to-School Donations with Day of Service at A Gift For Teaching

posted on August 8th, 2014 by Andrea Finger, Director of Communications

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.

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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.

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Disneyland Resort Awards Orange County, California Students $75,000 in Scholarships

posted on May 6th, 2014 by Kevin Rafferty, Jr., Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort

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!

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Celebrities Help Announce Disney Junior’s Give a Book, Get a Book and a Donation of up to 1 Million Books

posted on April 15th, 2014 by Michele Himmelberg, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort

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, Families can find online activities there and also access resources that promote the value of storytelling.

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ACT Anaheim Announces $1.5M in Inaugural Grants

posted on April 3rd, 2014 by Kevin Rafferty, Jr., Communications Specialist, Disneyland Resort

Accelerate Change Together for Anaheim (ACT Anaheim) announced today that it is awarding $1.5 million in inaugural grants to 10 local nonprofit organizations. Disneyland Resort led an effort to develop ACT Anaheim by funding the 2012 Anaheim Youth Services Assessment that highlighted challenges facing youth in California’s 10th largest city.


Over the next three years, three of Anaheim’s largest businesses – Disneyland Resort, Angels Baseball and the Anaheim Ducks – committed $3 million to benefit underserved Anaheim youth, marking a more collaborative approach to help improve their lives in the community. The Orange County Community Foundation joined as managing partner of the program, helping increase the inaugural granting pool from $1 million to $1.5 million by bringing in additional funders.

The inaugural grants range from $100,000 to $200,000, and are expected to address gaps in services for more than 1,000 Anaheim youth, including mentoring and after-school programs. The inaugural grantees and grant amounts are:

  • GOALS, $200,000
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Anaheim, $175,000
  • Community Service Programs, $175,000
  • Girls Incorporated of Orange County, $175,000
  • Western Youth Services, $175,000
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, $150,000
  • Tiger Woods Foundation, $125,000
  • Anaheim Family YMCA, $125,000
  • Orange County Congregation Community Organization, $100,000
  • Taller San Jose, $100,000
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Disney Grants Make Dreams Come True for 85,000 Central Florida Kids

posted on March 26th, 2014 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort

For children and families around the globe, Walt Disney World Resort is a magical place where dreams come true every day. At Disney, we take great pride in calling Central Florida home for the past 42 years and we’re always looking for ways to share our magic with our community. Today, we hit a high note with our ongoing efforts by announcing $3.8 million in Disney grants to 87 deserving local nonprofits. These donations will make a positive impact in the lives of more than 85,000 Central Florida children this year.


This morning, Disney Grants recipients were cause for celebration at the Orlando Science Center. It was such a treat to be there and yes, there was much confetti. Mickey Mouse joined Walt Disney World Resort President George A. Kalogridis and Walt Disney World Resort Director of Community Relations Nancy Gidusko to present the grant awards. All the while, the renowned Voices of Liberty from Epcot supplied musical inspiration by performing a cappella for two songs; the inspirational “You Raise Me Up” and the Oscar-winning song, “Let it Go.” Click on the video to see highlights.

Disney also presented the annual Bob Allen Award to Page 15, an Orlando non-profit that offers free after-school tutoring and creative writing workshops for local students. Page 15 will use the grant to continue enhancing students’ communication skills, encouraging personal creativity and inspiring a lifelong passion for language arts.


From my vantage point, it was humbling to see the genuine outpouring of gratitude from grant recipients and hear about how much of a difference these Disney grants will make in the lives of children and families throughout Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake and Polk counties.

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