5…4…3…2…1 and the cheers go up as cast members, friends and family cross the start line and take new steps in their unique wellness journey wearing festive gear, with many bathed in the glow of the twinkling Disney Park holiday lights.
Throughout the 3.1 miles, whether a reindeer runner, jingling jogger, wintery walker or just starting to get their mistle-toes warmed up — the Be Well…Cast Member, Friends & Family Holiday 5K was “orna-meant” for the more than 10,000 participants. It’s become an early-morning holiday tradition.
From Disney California Adventure park to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, and virtually under the sunny skies of Vero Beach and Hilton Head Island, through the tree-lined streets of Central Park, the shores of Oahu, and all across the country cast members sleighed their way to a 5K finish line.
Honored guests from the United States Marines Corps joined to run this year at the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort, celebrating the thousands of 5K participants who generously donated to the Disney Ultimate Toy Drive supporting the Marine Toys for Tots Program.
Darlene Williams, cast member and a multi-channel cruise vacation agent for Disney Cruise Line, participates in these exclusive offerings to remain accountable for her remarkable wellness transformation over the last couple of years.
“From last year to this year, I kept moving forward knowing that my goal for this year would be to improve my health and get to my goal weight, and then participate in the 5K with my fellow cast, celebrating all our journeys together,” Darlene said.
Darlene participated alongside her biggest supporters — her partner, Ken, her children Sadie and Aiden, and one of her best friends, and retired cast member, Chris. At this year’s Be Well…Holiday 5K she celebrated losing over 200 pounds total and the ability to keep up with her children in the Disney Parks, the reason she began to focus on her personal well-being.
“The fact that the company provides these opportunities and encourages us to stand up and take control of our health means a lot,” Darlene said. “Without the resources provided to me, I fully believe I would not have been as successful as I have been in my journey. These events make being well that much more exciting. I love that the Walt Disney Company celebrates wellness in this way.”
For Hannah Torres, a Communications cast member at the Disneyland Resort, her family participated in the Be Well…Holiday 5K last year for the first time, and that first 5K together as a family motivated each of them to focus on wellness by training for the event this year.
“I think the Cast Member, Friends and Family Holiday 5K has helped me realize that wellness looks different for everyone,” said Hannah. “Whether you’re sprinting to the finish line or walking alongside your loved ones, there’s something about exercising throughout Disneyland Resort before park opening with your family that instantly results in a core memory that you’ll talk about for years to come.”
Hannah was joined again this year by her father, Mike, her mother, Molly, and her cousin visiting from Colombia, continuing a now treasured family wellness tradition. “I feel that the 5K is a reminder that exercise can be fun and a time shared with others,” said Hannah’s mother, Molly Torres. “Sharing this time with our family is very special —definitely something we’ve come to look forward to year after year.”
For cast members participating virtually and together as a team, at Disney’s Vero Beach, our pal Goofy came out to cheer at the finish line. More festive fun continued at Disney’s Hilton Head Resort with Pluto, and soon at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa. And cast members at the Disney Store Times Square even braved a rainy Central Park, refusing to let it dampen their holiday joy as they participated together as a team again this year.
“The idea that the Be Well…Holiday 5K takes place during the holiday season reminds us that we cannot put our health aside, regardless of the time of the year,” said Nissa Velez, a leader at the Times Square flagship store. “It is a reminder that we have to care about ourselves … on this walk together, we supported each other every step of the way.”
Spreading holiday cheer extended far beyond the 5K courses and will help bring joy to millions of kids through toy donations from 5K participants. Disney’s relationship with Toys for Tots began over 75 years ago when Walt and his animators personally designed the original Toys for Tots train logo that is still used today. Having the Marines join as honored guests to participate and cheer on our cast members, their friends and family created a powerful impact on 5K participants. In turn, the participants cheered with gratitude for the Marines for their service, and for their taking the time during the holiday season to join in this special wellness event.
While this exclusive holiday 5K was “tree-mendous” for our cast members, friends and family, there’s a wellness journey for everyone — no matter where you are. Find time during the holidays to get active with your loved ones as you celebrate the season together.