One of the traits of a military veteran is a commitment to service no matter whether it’s to country or community. In that spirit, members of our Disney SALUTE veteran diversity groups comprised of cast members who served in the military or friends and family of veterans in both Orlando and in Anaheim volunteered to bring some holiday magic to their respective communities.
In Orlando, SALUTE VolunTEARS representing Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Signature Experience cast members visited the Orlando Fisher House and decorated it for the holidays with beautiful decorations that Disney World had donated to them to bring holiday cheer to 16 special families. The Fisher House serves as a home-away-from-home for military and veteran families, where they stay cost-free while their loved one receives medical treatment at the Lake Nona VA hospital next door. The team also made holiday cookies for the resident veteran families staying there bringing some extra magic to these families.
“It was wonderful to welcome the SALUTE VoluntEARS back to the Fisher House this year,” said Tim Cooke, CEO of the Lake Nona VA Hospital. “You will never know how much it means to have you and your SALUTE VoluntEARS decorating the Fisher House for the loved ones and Veterans that will be staying here during the holidays.”
In Anaheim, at the Disneyland Resort, Disney SALUTE VoluntEARS, and U.S. Marines came together to lend a helping hand to the Disney Ultimate Toy Drive Supporting Toys for Tots at “A Christmas Fantasy” parade preview for Disneyland Resort cast members on Tuesday, November 9.
Cheers echoed throughout the crowd as cast members entered the event and made their way to the toy collection bins to donate a new, unwrapped toy. SALUTE VoluntEARS and U.S. Marines in attendance thanked each cast member that donated to the cause, sharing that each toy would go to a child in need and support their local community.
As Sgt. Deleon Powell – a 10-year Marine and current Toys for Tots Coordinator for Orange County – thanked cast for their donations, he described the experience when his team delivers donated toys to the families before Christmas Day. “We love seeing the smiles on their faces when receiving toys, and that wouldn’t happen without Disney and the cast members,” he said. Sgt. Powell recalled a special moment he shared when he delivered a toy to a young boy a few years ago. “He looked up at me and said ‘thank you Mr., I want to be like you when I grow up.’ We [Marines] may have a hard exterior, but internally it made my heart melt,” said Sgt. Powell.
Disneyland Resort SALUTE Team supporting Toy for Tots in Anaheim
Sgt. Brian Lima, a 6-year Marine and new member with Toys for Tots, was excited to participate in this year’s event through his connection to charity work. “Giving back has always been something that’s been a part of my life. Being involved in Toys for Tots makes me feel good; [it’s] knowing that at the end of the day, there are less fortunate kids out there and we get to put smiles on their faces. It’s what I live for,” said. Sgt. Lima.
Along with the U.S. Marines, SALUTE VoluntEARS shared in the event’s excitement and joy.
Ariel Elias, a Marine veteran and SALUTE VoluntEARS leader, was honored to participate in this event with his fellow cast members. “This is an extra special opportunity to join [together] with Toys for Tots, which has a long history of helping children during the holidays,” said Ariel. “Making a difference in just one child’s life during the holidays is personal to me. I have been deployed overseas and have seen how much children need our help. I am just happy to do what I can to contribute as part of the SALUTE VoluntEARS team,” said Ariel.
Thank you to all the SALUTE VoluntEARS and U.S. Marines for your bravery and dedication, and your support in providing toys for children in need.
As a company founded by two brothers who served their nation during World War I, The Walt Disney Company has a longstanding tradition of supporting the U.S. Armed Forces. The selflessness of the many heroes who work at Disney is demonstrated through SALUTE, which not only serves to support fellow cast members, but also the military and veteran community at large—like the Fisher House or Toy for Tots—through volunteerism.