Disney Public Affairs Archives

October 8, 2013

2013 CHOC "Walk in the Park" Ready to Hit Pavement at Disneyland Resort on October 13

The event is the biggest annual fundraising effort for CHOC Children's, devoted to meeting the medical needs of children throughout Southern California and beyond

ORANGE, Calif. (Sept. 27, 2013) - - Before the sun rises on Sunday, October 13, Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, will be filled with thousands of people coming together in support of the health and well-being of children. CHOC "Walk in the Park," presented by Disneyland Resort, is the largest and most unique single pediatric walk event in the U.S.

Now in its 23rd year, the popular event benefits CHOC Children's, a regional pediatric healthcare system serving children and families in Southern California and beyond. The 2013 walk covers three miles through Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park where "CHOC Walkers" get a special peek behind the magic before the parks open to the general public. At the end of the 5K walk, the event continues in the resort's Downtown Disney District where event sponsors, hospital support groups, shops and restaurants have special offers for Walk participants.

Among the event's estimated 15,000 walkers are participants from across the U.S. and around the world, including walkers from Canada, Mexico, Australia and South Korea.

Nearly 800 teams are expected, and include current and former patients and families, as well as doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. Walkers come together to celebrate the lives of children saved by CHOC Children's, and to honor the memory of those children who bravely lost their battle against serious disease or illness.

It's the biggest yearly fundraising effort for CHOC. Monies raised by the event support a variety of patient and family programs, including education, research and the adoption and utilization of the latest technologies to advance the health of children.

Last year's event raised more than $2 million, and since its inception in 1990, the Walk has raised more than $21 million.

In order to help CHOC reach its goal of providing quality healthcare to the region's two million children, each CHOC Walker must raise a minimum of $50 to participate in the Walk. Everyone can register at and receive up-to-date event information at CHOC Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

For the past 12 years, CHOC "Walk in the Park" has been held at the Disneyland Resort but the Resort's commitment to CHOC began more than 50 years ago when Walt Disney himself championed the need for a children's hospital in Orange County. Since then, the Disneyland Resort - executives, Cast Members, VoluntEARS and beloved characters - have contributed funds, time and tenderness to enhance CHOC's environment of healing.

June 25, 2013

Disney Wishing Well Coins Make Wishes Come True for Central Florida Foster Kids

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., June 24, 2013 - For decades, Cinderella's Wishing Well at Magic Kingdom has been the launching pad for millions of wishes. Today, it was the place where one of those wishes came true.


Gathering up the small coins and pennies tossed by hopeful guests, Walt Disney World Resort donated $15,000 to the Foundation for Foster Children. The non-profit organization helps children living with foster families realize some of their own wishes such as access to summer camps, art classes, social activities, tutoring and even cakes on special occasions.


"One of our goals is to increase public awareness and support for more than 1,400 foster children who live in Central Florida," said Betsey Bell, executive director of the Foundation for Foster Children. "This donation enables us to give these kids new opportunities and experiences that will help them succeed and become contributing members of our community."


In front of Cinderella's Wishing Well, a plaque reminds guests that their wishes will help the dreams of children come true.

"Each coin is a symbol of hope and dreams," said Nancy Gidusko, director of community relations at Walt Disney World Resort. "This donation will help foster families make wishes come true for children living under their care."

For more than 30 years, Walt Disney World has donated the money from the wishing wells, fountains and water-based attractions to children's charities. This year, Cast Members at Walt Disney World Resort voted for the Foundation for Foster Children to receive the donation.

May 17, 2013

Outstanding Students Selected as Disney Dreamers & Doers Shining Stars

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., May 16, 2013 - With the school year coming to a close, Walt Disney World Resort recognized 16 Central Florida students who have excelled in their academic achievements and civic efforts, naming them Disney Dreamers & Doers Shining Stars.

Entering its 30th year, the Disney Dreamers & Doers program recognizes students who have a caring spirit, consistently demonstrate outstanding character and lead by example. The group of students receiving the Shining Star distinction includes a third grader who organized several food collection drives; a sixth grader who used social media to find homes for rescued animals and a high school senior who volunteered 1,350 hours helping people in need.

"We all know dreamers and we all know doers," said Nancy Gidusko, director of community relations for Walt Disney World Resort. "What makes these students so outstanding - true Shining Stars - is that they are dreamers who take positive steps to make their dreams a reality. They are changing our communities and our world, providing inspiration to their peers and giving us hope for a brighter future."

Approximately 400 students were chosen by their schools as 2013 Disney Dreamer & Doer. From that group, a panel of judges selected the Shining Stars from elementary, middle and high schools in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake and Polk counties as well as the Florida Virtual School.

"Having a Disney Dreamer & Doer as well as a Shining Star is a proud moment for Timber Creek High School," said Gabriel Berrio, principal of the school. "It adds to our excitement and to the pride we already have for our students and our community."

Disney Dreamers & Doers Shining Stars receive a Mickey Mouse statue known as a "Mousecar," a gold medallion and annual theme park passes for themselves and their immediate family.

The 2013 Disney Dreamers & Doers Shining Stars are:

Orange County

West Creek Elementary School - Robert Sena
Orangewood Christian Middle School - Nicholas Christian Reed
Timber Creek High School -Jessica Velázquez

Osceola County

St. Cloud Elementary School - Angelika Pabón
Trinity Lutheran - Rebecca Dupuis
Celebration High School - Jaime Kaplan-Perico

Seminole County

Lake Mary Elementary School - Mary Tracy
Annunciation Catholic Academy - Hannah Veigle
The Master's Academy - Kasen Raines

Lake County

Umatilla Elementary School - Annagrace Hall
Eustis Middle School - Camryn Rivers
South Lake High School - Heather LeBlanc

Polk County

Auburndale Central Elementary School - Jennifer Morales
Lawton Chiles Middle Academy - Holt Russell
All Saints Academy - Maxwell Hewett

Florida Virtual School

Bailey Ansbaugh

To date, more than 12,400 students have been recognized as Disney Dreamers & Doers. The program is just one of the ways that Walt Disney World Resort actively supports education in Central Florida. In the past year, Disney's involvement has included Disney Helping Kids Shine grants for local school districts and early learning coalitions, more than 18,000 hours donated by Disney VoluntEARS at local schools and more than 3 million school supplies donated to students at the start of the school year.



Umatilla Elementary - 3rd grade

Annagrace Hall began a food drive at her school after realizing that one of her friends was among the many recipients of a backpack program that provides meals to those in need. She wondered what would happen if the school's pantry ran out of food, and felt she needed to take action.

The drive was a huge success, allowing her to provide families with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinners, holiday gifts and gift cards for families to use in the summer months. Her "small" idea blossomed into more than she expected, and she is now planning for her second annual holiday drive.

One of Annagrace's teachers admires her for wanting to help so many people at such a young age. She describes her as an exceptional child with a sense of caring and commitment.


Eustis Middle School - 8th grade

Camryn Rivers has been involved in various charities such as Kids Against Hunger, March of Dimes, and raising dollars for Haiti. When a teacher was diagnosed with cancer and was in danger of losing her life without proper medication, Camryn took action to help.

Camryn organized a 5K race, including the sale of t-shirts and team bracelets. To her surprise, over 700 participants attended to show their support, and her profit was $15,000. These dollars were donated to her teacher to assist in her recovery.

One of Camryn's teachers said that she is dedicated to her studies and helping people in need. She describes what an honor it is to know her, and that in her case, the student has inspired the teacher.


South Lake High - 11th grade

Heather LeBlanc discovered that a local animal services facility was euthanizing animals. She decided to become involved so that innocent animals could go to deserving, loving homes. She and her cousin opened Misfit Animal Rescue.

Heather takes the animals from the facility for vaccinations and finds loving, fur-ever homes for them. She has also attended city council meetings, and the county is now working on a resolution to save these animals as well. Since her involvement, over 150 impounded dogs and cats have been saved.

One of Heather's teachers said that she has made significant impact in her county. While many students are spending weekends on the beach, she is focused on humanitarian efforts.



West Creek Elementary - 5th grade

Robert Sena has overcome challenges with a positive attitude and optimism. After a job loss forced his family to move into a motel, Robert felt compelled to help others. He volunteers at Coalition for the Homeless, and also speaks to both students and adults about healthy life habits.

Robert recently applied for and received two grants to support his passion for encouraging a healthier generation. One grant will fund a new vegetable garden at his school, and the other will be used for a garden at the Community Food & Outreach Center.

One of Robert's teachers said that he shows true dedication to his community and his academics. He is involved in many activities and sets a wonderful example for his peers.


Orangewood Christian Middle - 8th grade

Nicholas Christian Reed has a best friend. His brother is a musician, equestrian, swimmer, and has a love for traveling. Nicholas said his brother is severely autistic, and his family's biggest blessing. He teaches his brother as much as his brother teaches him, and it is his job to protect and love him.

Nicholas believes he is lucky one to have the best brother anyone could want. Although his brother is the true Dreamer & Doer, he can't tell his story, so Nicholas will just tell others about his many gifts. The relationship they have inspires Nicholas to make his home, school and community a better place.

One of Nicholas's teachers said that he commits his time and service to others with specific needs. He leads and practices a lifestyle to emulate, and excels in all areas of service.


Timber Creek High - 12th grade

Jessica Velazquez leads service-learning projects at her school and the community. Her 1,350 hours of volunteering include a variety of activities from preserving the environment to clothing and food drives to helping migrant farm workers and those who are homeless.

Although Jessica has faced emotional and financial hardship like others, she feels that helping has infused her life with hope and joy. She encourages others to take action and participate now in order to make a difference in the lives of others.

One of Jessica's teachers describes her as role model and leader. As a foster child, she has faced difficulties, yet she focuses her energy on the well-being of others.



St. Cloud Elementary - 5th grade

Angelika Pabon's visit to a homeless shelter made her realize how blessed she is to have a safe place to live. It inspired her to start a donation drive to give pajamas to those in need. To date, she and her Girl Scout troop have donated 625 pajamas to shelters, foster homes, and children in hotels.

Angelika has begun reaching out to farmers' markets and rotary clubs to collect socks and underwear for foster children. She understands that collecting these items is not the same as providing a safe home, but she feels her efforts create awareness in the community to help more children in need.

One of her teachers describes Angelika's desire to give to others as very mature for someone her age. She strives to ensure that all students feel valued and included in activities.


Trinity Lutheran - 8th grade

Rebecca Dupuis is drawn to help others. She has volunteered at various places such as the Orlando Science Center and Teen Court, and sponsors a child at the Village of Hope in Haiti. She enjoys sending letters to soldiers in Afghanistan, and appreciates what soldiers do to help all children.

Volunteering helps Rebecca feel she can make a difference, and has taught her how lucky she is to have the life she has. Her view is that a community works when its members practice basic human decency and are considerate and helpful to one another.

One of Rebecca's teachers said that her positive spirit and academic drive make a difference in her community. She helps classmates and promotes school pride through her volunteer projects.


Celebration High - 12th grade

Jaime Kaplan-Perico builds relationships with students in her intern role with the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida. At first she did not understand their choices or their hardships, until she took the time to listen to their tales of homelessness, illness, and isolation.

Jaime said the children have taught her how to be more patient and to better appreciate the simple things in life. When a student thanked her for listening to her and allowing her to express her feelings, it melted her heart. This confirmed her important role with the "club kids".

One of Jaime's teachers said she demonstrates kindness to those who face difficulties. She is involved with other organizations and has become an advocate for those in need.



Auburndale Central Elementary - 4th grade

Jennifer Morales helps her 4 year old brother to read, write, and learn his letters. Because he has a hard time sitting still, she makes learning fun, such as creating an alphabetical train to teach him letters, or going on an alphabetical treasure hunt. She wants him to get a step closer to his future.

Jennifer's brother speaks in Spanish during the day, but switches to English when she gets home. She teaches him big words, like hypothesis and onomatopoeia. Jennifer said that teaching him helps her too, and because learning is fun, he is always eager to learn.

One of Jennifer's teachers describes her as a leader, both in school and at home. She is not afraid to try new things and does her best all the time. She can do whatever she puts her mind to.


Lawton Chiles Middle Academy - 8th grade

Holt Russell is a kite surfer and owner of Rejoyce Cotton Candy. After meeting a 2-year old in Guatemala who had been left in a garbage can by a mother who could not care for him, he decided to focus his efforts on building an orphanage for children in Africa.

Holt's company is named after his grandmother Joyce, who had an enormous heart for orphans. His cotton candy machine appears at many community events and he even went kite surfing from Miami to the Florida Keys to raise money for his cause.

One of Holt's teachers said that he gives 100% to anything he does. He is respectful, kind, and makes the extra effort to help other students and teachers.


All Saints Academy - 12th grade

For the past 5 years, Maxwell Hewett has accompanied his father, who is a dentist, to Guatemala to provide dental services in impoverished communities. Parents in these communities must pay $8 per month to send their children to school, yet families cannot afford to pay this amount.

Maxwell created a nonprofit with his sister called the Guatemala Awareness Project. On one of their trips, they purchased 500 handmade bracelets that are sold here, and all profits are sent to Guatemala so that more students are able to enroll in school.

One of Maxwell's teachers said that while most students spend their summers improving themselves, he spends his free time improving the lives of others. He is more than a dreamer - he is a doer.



Lake Mary Elementary - 5th grade

Mary Tracy has 4 siblings. Her brother and sister have extra needs, and she helps her family by doing a variety of chores. When her brother is afraid during thunderstorms, she sits with him. When her sister needs help in her wheelchair, she makes her comfortable so she can breathe better.

Mary's involvement in Girl Scouts allows her to also help others in need through volunteer projects. She knows she is not doing things that matter to the world, but she is doing things that matter to those she loves. She doesn't believe she has changed the world, but she knows she has changed herself.

One of Mary's teachers describes her as kind, caring, and responsible. Both Mary and her family work together to make the world a better place through kindness and good deeds.


Annunciation Catholic Academy - 8th grade

Hannah Veigle was diagnosed with diabetes in fifth grade. Although others felt she would have limits, Hannah wanted to prove them wrong. She started a walk team called Hannah's Troops and has raised over $20,000 to fight juvenile diabetes.

Hannah is active in other activities as well. She has a pen pal in Haiti who is an orphan and fighting HIV. Her pen pal inspires her and she hopes to meet her someday. She describes diabetes as a gift that pushes her to put her best foot forward, always be optimistic, and actively pursue her dreams.

One of Hannah's teachers admires her positive outlook and behaviors. She could have felt sorry for herself after her diagnosis, but instead used it as an opportunity to help others.


The Master's Academy - 12th grade

Kasen Raines found her passion while working in India in 2009. She undertook a project to rescue girls from slavery, and through this experience learned the power of listening, sharing, and hope. When she returned to the US, she began mentoring girls struggling with self-image and other issues.

Kasen's efforts have resulted in the collection of over 550 phones for Harbor House to help victims of child slavery. She also tutors students and serves as a mentor for several girls. She does not want to ignore the pain of those around her, and continues in her campaign to help girls around the world.

One of Kasen's teachers describes how her global perspective and outreach has touched the lives of students and teachers. Her cell phone drive was creative and inspirational.


Florida Virtual School - 6th grade

Bailey Ansbaugh went on a trip to Osceola County Animal Control, and that sparked a passion. When she found out she was too young to volunteer, she decided to collect loads of newspapers, blankets, and comfort items to make the dogs more comfortable.

Her next project was to find homes willing to adopt. Her first puppy save was a pit bull who was not going to be kept at the center very long, so she knew she had to do something fast. She began a Facebook campaign and was able to find a home for Cookie.

One of Bailey's teachers said that because of her involvement, animals have many of the supplies needed for their care. She continues her work on finding homes for all the animals.

June 18, 2012

Disney Friends for Change Launches Ambassadors Program


Disney Channel Stars

Disney Channel Stars Debby Ryan ("Jessie"), Bella Thorne and Zendaya ("Shake It Up"), and Ross Lynch and Laura Marano ("Austin & Ally") Serve as Inaugural Ambassadors

$750,000 in Grants Awarded as Part of Program Launch

BURBANK, Calif., June 18, 2012 - Disney Friends for Change, a global
initiative that inspires kids and families to take action and make a difference
in their communities, today announced that Disney Channel stars Debby Ryan
("Jessie"), Bella Thorne and Zendaya ("Shake It Up"), and Ross Lynch and Laura
Marano ("Austin & Ally") will serve as Friends for Change Ambassadors,
encouraging kids and families to make a lasting, positive change by helping
people, communities, and the planet.

In collaboration with select non-profit organizations, Disney Friends for
Change Ambassadors will lead campaigns to engage millions of kids to take action
and volunteer. Each nonprofit will receive a Disney Friends for Change grant to
further the reach and impact of the themed campaign. In total, $750,000 will be
awarded to the following three efforts:

* "Helping Communities - Volunteer," led by Debby Ryan and in
collaboration with Free The Children (from June 29 - August 16)

* "Helping People - Be a Leader," featuring Bella Thorne and Zendaya,
and in collaboration with Free The Children (from August 17 - September 27)

* "Helping the Planet - Green Your Scene," championed by Ross Lynch
and Laura Marano, and in collaboration with TreePeople (from September 28 -
November 30)

"We are so excited about the real difference kids are making every day using
our action kits and volunteering in their communities," said Leslie Goodman,
senior vice president for Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy at The Walt
Disney Company. "Through the leadership and encouragement of our Disney Friends
for Change Ambassadors, we hope to inspire millions of more kids to take action
and change their worlds."

Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer, Disney Channels Worldwide,
said, "The bond our viewers have with our talent is deep and powerful. As
ambassadors of Friends for Change, our talent can serve as a megaphone for the
importance of pro-active community involvement, motivating kids and their
families to discover the many rewarding ways we can all make our world a better
place to live." He continued, "I often talk to my team about extending our
value as a company beyond the TV screen, and this initiative does an exemplary
job of that - and for this, I could not be prouder."

As part of the program, Disney Channel will debut a series of interstitial
messages, featuring the Disney Friends for Change Ambassadors beginning MONDAY,
JUNE 18. Disney Channel, Radio Disney, and will chronicle the Ambassadors throughout the summer as they
volunteer and inspire kids of all ages to lead. Also part of the interstitial
series and debuting FRIDAY, JUNE 29, Debby Ryan will share her personal
experience volunteering in India through Disney Friends for Change with Free The
Children, where she helped build a new school for a local village. Inspired by
the stories and efforts of Disney Friends for Change kids, Debby helped to start
the Ambassadors program.

To coincide with the on-air interstitials, Friends for Change will offer tools
and resources at where
kids and families can discover additional ideas on how to make a difference.
Site visitors are able to download action kits, learn more about the
Ambassadors' campaigns, and participate in the new Shout Out Module, an online
forum that allows kids and families to motivate each other and exchange tips on
actions to help their schools and neighborhoods. Families can also vote online
to further support each Ambassador's campaign and help thousands of more kids as
a result.

June 1, 2012

Big Help for Hunger Relief Gets Underway


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., May 30, 2012 - Disney executives were among a group of community leaders who helped Second Harvest Food Bank break ground on a new $15 million facility that will provide hunger relief for thousands of Central Floridians in need.

On May 30, the construction of the 100,000-square-foot distribution center got under way marking a milestone in the "Building Solutions to Hunger" capital campaign. Last year Walt Disney World Resort donated $500,000 to this campaign and pledged 20,000 pounds of fresh produce to Second Harvest.

"We know that a contribution today in this new facility will benefit our community for decades to come," said Nancy Gidusko, director of community relations for Walt Disney World Resort. "I encourage other companies to join in this outstanding community effort."

Scheduled to open its doors in early 2013, the new facility will serve 55,000 people each week and will help provide one million more meals for children every year. Due to insufficient space Second Harvest is forced to turn away more than four million pounds of donated food each year.

"The worst part is, most of the rejected donations were nutritious, high-quality fresh fruits, vegetables and meals. It's heartbreaking," said Dave Krepcho, president and CEO of Second Harvest.

Last year more than 730,000 people, half of them children, received emergency food in the six Central Florida counties served by Second Harvest.

Understanding this need, Walt Disney World has shown its commitment by providing financial support, sponsoring food drives and encouraging Cast Members to volunteer their time to sort food. Since 1971, Disney has also donated several million pounds of food through its "Harvest Program" which collects prepared and un-served food from eateries throughout the resort's properties and delivers it to the food bank five days a week.

March 13, 2012

Disney Announces Heroes Work Here

Company-Wide Initiative To Hire, Train and Support Military Veterans


KANSAS CITY, Mo., March 13, 2012 - Today at The Walt Disney Company's (NYSE: DIS) Annual Shareholder meeting in Kansas City, President and Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Iger announced Heroes Work Here, a new company-wide initiative to hire, train and support returning veterans. The new program continues Disney's long history of respect and appreciation for the U.S. Armed Forces by expanding the company's commitment to recognize and honor the sacrifice and service of these men and women.

As part of the initiative, Disney will provide at least 1,000 jobs and career opportunities for returning U.S. veterans over the next three years, support military families and veterans during their transition into civilian life, and launch a national public awareness campaign to encourage all employers across the U.S. to hire veterans.

In addition to providing career opportunities for veterans, Disney will also invest in select non-profit organizations that provide training and other support services. Through the Disney VoluntEARS program, employees will also engage in service projects with veterans' organizations in communities around the country. The public awareness campaign, featuring veterans currently employed in various businesses across The Walt Disney Company, will highlight their value, encourage companies to hire these highly skilled men and women, and direct them to the Joining Forces initiative for more information.

Mr. Iger debuted the first spot at the conference, which can be viewed here:

"As a new generation of America's military men and women transition into civilian life, we are increasing our commitment and support for these modern day heroes," said Mr. Iger. "It's a measure of our respect for how much they have sacrificed on our behalf, and our sincere gratitude for their extraordinary contributions to this country."

He added, "The military values of honor, integrity, commitment, and courage, along with the skills and experience they've gained through their service, make veterans incredibly valuable employees for any company."

Heroes Work Here includes recruitment efforts across all segments of The Walt Disney Company, including ESPN, the Disney-ABC Television Group, Disney Consumer Products, The Walt Disney Studios, and Disney Parks and Resorts. The company will host career fairs and participate in events designed to showcase opportunities for returning military personnel.

Information about Heroes Work Here and available positions for veterans can be found at a dedicated section of the Disney Careers Website.

Disney's Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World

'Dreaming Big' Mantra Comes Alive March 8-11, 2012 as 100 Students Get Fresh Perspective, Jump Start on Career Paths and Life

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Walt Disney World Resort is welcoming 100 high school students from across the U.S. who have been selected to attend the 2012 Disney's Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine.

Often described as the world's most creative classroom, the four-day power-packed program is hosted by Disney and renowned entertainer Steve Harvey. Disney's Dreamers Academy inspires and fuels the dreams of selected students to help them dream bigger, discover a world of possibilities and get a jump start on making those dreams come true.

Now entering its fifth year, more than 500 high school students will have participated since Disney's Dreamers Academy opened its doors in 2008.

A celebrity panel of judges led by comedian, author, philanthropist and Disney's Dreamers Academy Ambassador Steve Harvey reviewed more than 4,700 applications and selected the 100 students for the Class of 2012 Disney's Dreamers Academy. Judging criteria included exhibiting curiosity, compassion and leadership skills.

During the 2012 Disney's Dreamers Academy, students will engage in multiple activities, including interacting with a range of industry professionals and experience immersive introductions to various career paths. Disney's Dreamers Academy students participate in workshops on a variety of subjects, including entertainment, entrepreneurship, the medical field, culinary arts and creative inspiration from Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative gurus behind Disney's theme parks and attractions.

"We are thrilled to announce this new class of 100 unique Dreamers who will graduate from the Academy with a whole new perspective on their future," said Tracey Walters-Powell, executive champion of the program for Disney Parks & Resorts. "We received more applications this year than any other and we have selected an amazing class for this historic fifth year anniversary of the Dreamers Academy."

"I've been with Dreamers Academy from day one and each year the program gets stronger as we add new interactive and experiential components for these students, so to hit the five-year mark is quite an accomplishment," said Steve Harvey, who has served as Ambassador of Disney's Dreamers Academy since the program started. "Investing and re-investing in these kids each year, you can really see the pay off as they leave the Academy and start to look at their future in a much different and much brighter light."

Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks said, "I am not going to divulge any secrets as to what's being planned for this important fifth anniversary, but if you know anything about Walt Disney World, you know this life-changing event is going to be a truly amazing spectacular for these students and we are proud to be a part of it."

Proving that Disney's Dreamers Academy graduates emerge with a new perspective on life and their career paths, two recent graduates from the Class of 2011 Disney's Dreamers Academy - Diamond Sims of Miami and Princeton Parker of Los Angeles - were invited to share their stories on the popular blog Huffington Post.

"Disney's Dreamers Academy was a part of my life that I will never ever forget," said Sims, who is now a freshman at University of Florida. " I met people who are from the same place as I am. I met people from all types of professions who were willing to provide advice, guidance and encouragement. In only a few days, they helped mold me into the young woman that I am today."

Parker,17, who just started his first year of communications studies at the University of Southern California, said: "Disney's Dreamers Academy changed my life not only by enlarging my dreams and understanding, but also by introducing me to more than 100 other young visionaries who possess the same drive, tenacity, vigor and capacity to dream."

Speakers Resource Group Added to Enhance Dreamers Academy

To increase the depth of experiences shared at Disney's Dreamers Academy, a formal speakers resource group has been formed that includes accomplished professionals who serve as program ambassadors and who share common goals: inspiring youth to believe in their dreams and giving them tools to jumpstart their dreams into reality. The Disney's Dreamers Academy Speakers Resource Group champions students in a variety of ways, including participating in the panel of judges who selected the 100 students to attending the flagship event at Walt Disney World Resort to offering insights about the four-day event curriculum. They also collaborate with Disney in extending Disney's Dreamers Academy program content into relevant community, educational and entertainment platforms.

The 2012 Disney's Dreamers Academy Speakers Resource Group will include: Mikki Taylor (Editor-at-Large, ESSENCE Magazine); Yolanda Adams (gospel music legend); Terrence J (BET host of 106 and Park); Stephen A. Smith (broadcaster and sports analyst); Dr. Steve Perry (education advocate and CNN commentator); Sonia Jackson-Myles (founder and author, The Sister Accord); Jonathan Sprinkles (award-winning motivational speaker); and Brandi Harvey (Corporate and Community Relations Director, the Steve Harvey World Group) and Karli Harvey (Hair Artesian, U Salon, Atlanta).

For additional information and updates on the program please visit or You can also follow on Twitter @dreamersacademy.

February 6, 2012

Disney Characters Make Rounds with Special Dose of Magic


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Feb. 3, 2012 - Drawing wisdom from Mary Poppins, a dedicated team of Disney Cast Members is using a dose of Disney magic much like "a spoonful of sugar" to help the medicine go down.

Throughout the year, Disney's Animals, Science and Environment team ventures into local hospitals to spread cheer at the Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children and Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

Accompanied by all sorts of exotic animals on these special visits, Disney animal keepers and education instructors bring the joy and wonder of wildlife to young patients who get a therapeutic benefit from being able to focus on the fun at hand.

Special visitors make the rounds as well; Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Donald Duck and Chip 'n' Dale have all been known to appear toward the end of the program.

"When Mickey Mouse walks into the room, you don't feel like you're in a hospital anymore," says Gabriel Burns, a Cast Member who travels along on many of these journeys. "It's really incredible. Pluto, Chip 'n Dale and other Disney characters have the unique ability to help the kids forget what's ailing them."

"I've seen Pluto lay on the floor next to a 4-year-old cancer patient during his chemotherapy because the young boy typically holds his Pluto plush doll on the floor during his treatments," Burns says. "The child was smiling, and his mom was crying because her son was happy."

Disney has a rich heritage of compassionate support of children that can be traced back to the early days of the company. Walt Disney frequently visited children in hospitals and guided company giving toward supporting children in need.

This tradition continues today through fulfilling wish trips and accommodating children who are affected by life-threatening medical conditions. While granting Disney-related wish requests remains a key initiative at Disney Parks, many Disney wishes are fulfilled in hospitals when illness prevents a child from leaving.

From sending a child's favorite Disney character to visit at their bedside, to hand-delivering a Disney movie to enjoy with the family, opportunities that extend the magic of Disney to children in hospitals are as abundant as a child's imagination.

December 13, 2011

Disney VoluntEARS Collect Nearly 30,000 Toys For Local Children


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Dec. 8, 2011 - Walt Disney World VoluntEARS reported for duty this morning on a joint mission with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and Mickey Mouse to contribute to the local Toys for Tots campaign.

During the past month, Walt Disney World Cast Members collected more toys than ever before - delivering nearly 30,000 new books, games and other children's gifts for the annual drive, which benefits children in Orange and Seminole County. Several U.S. Marines helped Mickey Mouse and Disney VoluntEARS unload the first delivery of toys to the Toys For Tots warehouse today.

Since 1947, Toys For Tots has been sending a message of hope to youngsters by ensuring they have at least one new gift to open during the holidays.

"We hope that by donating toys and giving our time to Toys For Tots, we can make the holidays a little merrier for the children in our community," said Nancy Gidusko, director of Community Relations.

In addition to donating toys, Disney VoluntEARS are spending more than 4,500 hours at the Toys For Tots warehouse sorting donations.

"With the amount of Central Florida families in need, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve is grateful for all the donations we collect so that each child receives at least one toy," said Cpl. Anthony Ruggiero. "Without Disney, we wouldn't be able to help as many families as we do each year."

Disney's involvement with Toys for Tots began more than 60 years ago when Walt Disney and his animators designed the original Toys for Tots logo, which the campaign still uses. Today, the Walt Disney World Resort focuses its charitable support on organizations and programs like Toys For Tots that make a positive impact on local children. The company makes its impact through the outreach efforts of Disney VoluntEARS, collaboration with local community leaders and millions of dollars in cash and in-kind support to organizations in our community.

The annual toy drive is one of many charitable activities underway at Walt Disney World Resort during the "Season of Sharing" that focuses on improving the lives of local children and their families during the holidays and beyond.

October 24, 2011

Annika Sorenstam Tees Up Students for Success at Future Leaders Forum


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Oct. 20, 2011 - Fifty high-school students from The First Tee are getting their head in the game today at the fifth annual Future Leaders Forum sponsored by The Toro Company and Walt Disney World Resort. The three-day event is designed to help students broaden leadership skills, prepare for college, and explore career disciplines within the golf industry.

Learning how lessons from the game of golf have real-life applications, participants are gaining insights from World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam and other industry leaders. Sorenstam, also the spokesperson for The First Tee Nine Healthy Habits, is leading participants in an interactive session highlighting the importance of incorporating healthy choices into all areas of their lives. The First Tee Nine Healthy Habits is a collaborative effort among The First Tee, ANNIKA Foundation and Florida Hospital for Children to promote healthy, active lifestyles for young people.

"The First Tee is proud to have Annika as a part of this year's event," said Joe Louis Barrow, Jr., chief executive officer of The First Tee. "These participants will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to network and learn from some of the most talented professionals in golf and business, thanks to the generosity of The Toro Company and Walt Disney World Resort. Together we are helping create the next generation of leaders."

Selected students will also participate in "Disney's Leadership Excellence: The Inside Track" that teaches the leadership strategies, techniques and behaviors of successful Walt Disney World leaders. Additionally, the Forum connects students with industry experts to learn about careers in tournament operations, golf course management, broadcast media, marketing and hospitality. The program includes presentations from Disney Institute, Toro, PGA of America, The Golf Channel, Marriott Golf and The Children's Miracle Network, along with a behind-the-scenes look at a PGA Tour tournament.

"With Toro's strong commitment to growing the game, this program has connected young leaders with professionals in the industry to better understand the business of golf and the role they play in ensuring the game's future success," said Mike Hoffman, chairman and CEO of The Toro Company. "This year's class of participants are developing leaders in their communities, and we are excited to collaborate with The First Tee and Walt Disney World in this unique learning experience."

The application process included an essay on goals, career aspirations and post-high school plans; community and chapter involvement; and a letter of recommendation from school faculty and The First Tee Chapter Executive Director.

Since 1998, The Toro Company has been a premier corporate partner and preferred supplier of golf course maintenance and irrigation equipment for The First Tee. Toro is also the official provider of turf and irrigation equipment for Walt Disney World Resort.

For more information, visit

July 1, 2011

Disneyland Park Unveils Enhanced Outdoor Audio Description Technology for Guests with Visual Disabilities

ANAHEIM, Calif - June 30, 2011 -- Beginning July 6, guests with visual disabilities will be able to explore Disneyland Park in a whole new way through an enhanced Disney-designed device that provides detailed audio description of outdoor areas and fits in the palm of a guest's hand.

Disney Parks have long been at the forefront of providing accessibility for guests with disabilities. This additional feature compliments the existing audio description inside approximately 20 Disneyland Park attractions and theaters that was launched just over a year ago.

March 20, 2011

Disney Cast Members Share their “ImagiNations”


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - It's a creative competition like no other and the challenges are uniquely Disney. The stakes are high for Walt Disney Imagineering's annual ImagiNations Design Competition but the rewards can make career dreams come true.

"Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be an Imagineer," said Erissa Wood describing her desire to work at Walt Disney Imagineering. "The ImagiNations Design Competition allowed me to achieve this goal."

Now a member of WDI, Wood, joined by fellow ImagiNations finalists, Allie Fishman, Adam Ressa, Laura Whitbeck and Bill Wroe, recently spoke with Disney College Program and professional interns about their experiences as former competitors.

Established nearly 20 years ago, the ImagiNations Design Competition seeks to expand diversity and cultivate the next generation of Walt Disney Imagineers by challenging teams of college and graduate students to develop their own innovative Disney experience. While many submit projects, only six finalist teams earn an all-expense paid trip to California, where they will tour WDI's headquarters, present their project to Disney executives, compete for cash prizes and interview for paid Imagineering internships. Last year's ImagiNations program produced 25 percent of all WDI interns. Finalists also received professional internships in other departments throughout the Disney Company.

"ImagiNations is about finding creative students with a natural ability for integrating innovative ideas and developing that talent to become future Imagineers," said Chris Trout, Walt Disney Imagineering vice president of human resources. "The competition allows contestants to showcase skills and ideas which will resonate with our guests and possibly launch their careers within The Walt Disney Company."

The panel of former finalists enthusiastically addressed the prospective participants about the contest, WDI culture and their entries. "Imagineering focuses on immersive storytelling to really engage our guests," said Wood. "ImagiNations gives you the unique opportunity to showcase your skills at blending storytelling, innovation and creativity to create a stellar experience."

The three finalists from 2010 presented portions of their elaborate submissions to the audience. Fishman and Whitbeck created an interactive all-inclusive resort, which centered on famous Disney maritime characters, while Ressa's group designed a ride that transplanted guests onto the Axiom space hub from Disney-Pixar's Wall-E.

Fishman, Ressa, and Whitbeck also shared the opportunities they received through ImagiNations to further develop their talent. All three earned professional internships with Fishman and Ressa joining WDI in Show Design and Props, respectively, and Whitbeck interning with Walt Disney World's safety team.

Wroe and Wood, both 1994 finalists, praised the gateway offered by ImagiNations into multiple disciplines throughout the company. Wroe built on relationships formed through ImagiNations to engage in various roles within Disney, leading him to his current position as a sales tour guide with Disney Vacation Club.

"Disney truly cares about its employees, allowing us to grow professionally, find our niche, and move forward in the company," he said. "In Disney, if you have passion there is no limit for where you can go."

March 16, 2011

The Walt Disney Company Commits US $2.5 Million in Humanitarian Aid to the Victims of the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

The Company will also match employee donations to Red Cross
and Save the Children up to US$1 million

Tokyo and Burbank, Calif., March 14, 2011 The Walt Disney Company announced today that it will donate $2.5 million to the American Red Cross to support humanitarian aid efforts related to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. In addition, the Company will match Disney cast member and employee donations to the Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Fund and Save the Children, dollar for dollar, up to $1 million total.

"Our hearts go out to the people of Japan," said Robert A. Iger, president and CEO, The Walt Disney Company. "We send our continued thoughts of support and encouragement as this great nation begins the long road to recovery."

"We are truly grateful for Disney's generosity to help those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan," said Gail McGovern, President and CEO of the American Red Cross. "Disney's support is enabling the Red Cross to provide critical assistance and essential relief items in this time of urgent need."

The Walt Disney Company is committed to working with humanitarian organizations to help rebuild stricken communities and assist families as Japan recovers from these devastating natural disasters.

March 14, 2011

Nominations Being Accepted for 2011 Disney Dreamers and Doers


Since 1984, Walt Disney World Resort has collaborated with local school districts to identify and recognize young people who demonstrate excellence in their schools and communities.

The Disney Dreamers and Doers Program is one way for schools in Orange, Osceola, Polk, Lake and Seminole counties to honor students who serve as role models to others. Each school selects one Dreamer and Doer and these students are then considered by a panel of judges for the Shining Star Award. Three students become Shining Stars in each of the five counties: one from the elementary school level, one from middle school and one from high school. Dreamer and Doer Shining Stars are announced in May of each year.

In previous year students were selected for their volunteer efforts. Moving forward, criteria for the Disney Dreamers and Doers recognition will not only include volunteer service but also other positive actions that young people are doing: being engaged in mentoring and safety initiatives, serving as role models for siblings/family members and helping teachers after school, taking steps to be healthy and achieve good grades in spite of difficult circumstances, and more. Disney Dreamers and Doers make their world - and our world - a better place!

Students have until April 15, 2011 to self-nominate to be considered as their schools' Disney Dreamer and Doer.

January 13, 2011

Disneyland Resort Salutes Medal of Honor Recipient U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta


Anaheim, CA - January 12, 2011 - The Disneyland Resort and its cast members, including Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs and Disneyland Resort President George A. Kalogridis, today recognized U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta at a special flag retreat ceremony. Giunta was recently presented the Medal of Honor - the nation's highest military honor - by President Obama for his heroic actions in Afghanistan. He is the first living service member to receive the medal for action in any war since Vietnam. Also honored was U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erick Gallardo, Silver Star recipient and Southern California native from Chula Vista. Giunta and Gallardo served together in Afghanistan and were decorated for their heroism during the same battle. Both honorees enjoyed the day at Disneyland Resort with their families.

In front: Staff Sgt. Erick Gallardo and wife Jacqueline.
In back: Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta and wife Jen.

October 12, 2010

Shopping Has Its Rewards at First-Ever Benefit Sale for United Way and Other Local Nonprofits


ORLANDO, Fla., October 7, 2010 - Just in time for the holiday season, United Way (UW) is announcing The Benefit Sale, hosted and sponsored by Walt Disney World Resort. Supporting the efforts of UW and other local nonprofit agencies, the inaugural retail event on Saturday, November 6 from 5:30 - 9:30 a.m. will feature incredible discounts of up to 50 to 75 percent off select merchandise at many of the participating Downtown Disney locations.

Access will be limited; a special voucher will be required for entry and can be purchased in advance for $5 from HFUW or from local participating nonprofit agencies. All of the proceeds from the sale of vouchers will go directly to HFUW and the 94 health and human service programs it supports through nearly 50 social services agencies throughout Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

"The Benefit Sale is a great way for residents to kick-start their holiday shopping while helping their friends, family and neighbors in need," said Robert H. (Bob) Brown, HFUW President/CEO. "We all know someone who's been tremendously impacted by today's economy. United Way and our partner agencies are doing everything that we can to help residents who are in dire need. Your contribution by purchasing a voucher to The Benefit Sale will have a tremendous, lasting affect for so many people right here in our own community."

In addition to helping Central Floridians in need, residents can enjoy great discounts for early birds. The sale will also feature door buster specials, surprise markdowns and more from Downtown Disney area merchandise locations.

Also, special boutiques from Epcot will be offering several unique assortments in a rare opportunity to shop from outside the park. Beauty specialists from Dior, Pucci, Acqua di Parma, Guerlain and Givenchy will be on hand with special offers on the latest cosmetics and fragrances.

A preview of many other special promotions, product launches and discounts from Walt Disney World Resort will be updated throughout October and can be viewed in advance at

On Nov. 6, only shoppers with vouchers will receive wristbands to gain access to The Benefit Sale. Wristbands will be required for admission to the Downtown Disney merchandise locations during the hours of The Benefit Sale. Vouchers and wristbands are not required for children ages 12 and under. To purchase vouchers for The Benefit Sale or for more information about Heart of Florida United Way, please visit or

July 20, 2010

Cast Members to Perform Benefit Concerts for Make-A-Wish Foundation

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Rehearsals are underway for the Encore! Cast Choir and Orchestra's summer production, Dream Our Dreams, A Musical Tribute to the Legacy of Disney. Known for staging spectacular charity concerts, the volunteer ensemble has chosen Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central & Northern Florida as their 2010 beneficiary.

Encore! offers Cast Members an outlet for their creativity and a chance to showcase their talents while performing great music for worthy causes. The troupe, founded in 2002, has grown to include roughly 330 singers, 100 instrumentalists, 50 dancers and a production team of 40. Encore! producer Bruce Light says at least half of the group has jobs outside of entertainment and aren't performers by trade. For all involved, it's a labor of love.

Since its inception, Encore! has donated the funds from its ticket sales to local charities, raising more than $115,000 to date. The group recognized early on that they could do a lot of good by giving back. "We were getting a good amount of money from ticket sales and we didn't need it," said Clay Price, Encore! co-founder, artistic director and conductor. "We thought let's give it to an organization that is going to benefit from this more than us."

Each year, Encore! determines its beneficiary by group vote; Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central & Northern Florida is the current recipient of their charitable giving. Past recipients include United Arts of Central Florida, SPCA of Central Florida, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and A Gift For Teaching.

Dream Our Dreams is scheduled for Aug. 6 - 8 at Epcot World ShowPlace. Performances are open to the public. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door and available through

April 27, 2010

Celebrating Earth Day, Every Day, Walt Disney World Resort “Lightens Up” on Energy Use

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Apr. 24, 2010 - One small change by Walt Disney World Cast Members has the potential to save enough electricity to power more than one thousand homes for a year.

Disney Cast Members are retrofitting more than 1000 theatrical spotlights and floodlights around the resort with more efficient and longer-lasting light fixtures. Some of the fixtures include LED (light emitting diode) lights which can be 330% more efficient than other lights. For example, a 575-watt spotlight may be replaced with a 70-watt LED light that puts out the same light equivalent.

Some of the attractions slated to "lighten up" include Gran Fiesta Tour, Living with the Land, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, Test Track, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Snow White's Scary Adventure and many more. Engineers estimate this one small change will save more than 2.5 million kilowatt hours annually, which is enough to power to light 1135 homes for a year.

Walt Disney World Resort recently intensified efforts to embed environmental stewardship into the decisions and actions of Cast Members and guests through a series of science-based programs and policies. The efforts include effectively managing resources through energy management, water conservation and waste minimization.

January 26, 2010

Disney Cast Members Help “Hope for Haiti” Telethon

Local VoluntEARS Play Supporting Role in Worldwide Broadcast


LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA, Jan. 26, 2010 - Lending a helping hand through their expertise in guest service, approximately 400 Walt Disney World Cast Members volunteered to answer more than 15,000 calls for the "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon and route donations to disaster relief organizations participating in the historic event. The benefit, which featured more than 100 of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, aired worldwide on major networks and cable outlets on Jan. 22 and raised more than $61 million for earthquake disaster relief.

"I feel like my heart is in Haiti," said Wendy Richard, a Disney Cast Member who helped field calls and process donations for the global broadcast from the Disney Reservations Center in Orlando. Like thousands of Walt Disney World Cast Members, Richard has close personal ties to Haiti and has lost friends and family in the region. "Anything I can do to help from here, I really want to do it," said Richard.

Accepting donations ranging from five dollars to $15,000, Cast Members kept their enthusiasm and energy up Friday night as the calls kept coming for more than two hours.

"Disney Cast Members are generous, compassionate and know how to rally when people are in need," said Shannon McAleavey, senior vice president of Walt Disney World Resort Public Affairs, who noted that every donation was equally powerful and every dollar will make a difference.

Funds raised from "Hope for Haiti Now" will benefit The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Oxfam America, Partners in Health, the Red Cross, UNICEF, the United Nations World Food Programme and Yele Haiti Foundation. Donations are still being accepted online at

Offering to help with the "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon is one of many ways The Walt Disney Company and Disney Cast Members are extending their support to the people of Haiti. The Walt Disney Company has committed $100,000 in humanitarian aid through the Red Cross International Fund to support relief efforts and is working closely with Cast Members from Haiti to accommodate their needs during this difficult time. Cast Members also have the option to make a direct contribution from their paycheck to the Red Cross Crisis Relief Fund.

December 10, 2009

Community Candlelight Glows with Charitable Spirit


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Dec. 8, 2009 - Warm holiday wishes filled the air at sunset on December 6 as more than 1,400 community leaders gathered to enjoy a performance of the Candlelight Processional at Epcot's America Gardens Theatre. A Walt Disney World Resort holiday tradition since 1971 (hosted at Epcot since 1994), the illuminating event showcases the reason for the season through memorable music and the retelling of the Christmas story.

Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Princess Tiana in Disney's new animated feature "The Princess and the Frog," provided heartfelt narration; joined by the Voices of Liberty, a mass choir comprised of local high school choruses and Walt Disney Cast Members and a 50-piece live orchestra.

In lieu of holding a reception after the performance, Walt Disney World Resort president Meg Crofton announced that donations would be made to the Health Care Center for the Homeless and Second Harvest of Central Florida's Kids' Café program. Both charities were pleasantly surprised by the announcement; each will receive $15,000 and can immediately put the funds to use.

"This is a great Christmas gift that a lot of our patients will benefit from," said Health Care Center for the Homeless CEO Bakari Burns, who shared they plan to use the funds toward their mammography services and denture sponsorship program.

"Disney's donation of $15,000 will go a long way in supporting our Kids' Cafés," said Second Harvest of Central Florida executive director Dave Krepcho. "After-school programs for children are even more important these days because the current economy has put a strain on many families' resources. The thousands of meals provided with these funds are much appreciated."

Health Care Center for the Homeless improves the lives of the homeless in Central Florida by providing quality health care services to indigent people; medical support that was once unavailable in our community prior to the charity's founding. To learn more, visit

Second Harvest Florida Bank of Central Florida's Kids Café is an after-school program that provides nutritious meals to children from low-income families in a safe, secure environment. Find out more by visiting

September 1, 2009

Disney-Sponsored HBCU Football Game Provides Weekend of Activities in Central Florida


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Sept. 1, 2009 -- The Fifth Annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney kicks off Thursday, Sept. 3 with a fun-filled weekend of activities leading up to game day. The events include a career panel for local high school students followed by three separate competitions including an exciting match-up on the gridiron, a southern-style feast off the field and an entertaining performance on the stage.

The MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney pits South Carolina State University, the current defending champion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), against Grambling State University, which is the 2008 title winner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). This is the second consecutive year that the Florida Citrus Bowl has hosted the MEAC/SWAC football rivalry.

"We are excited to celebrate this rich college tradition that gives enthusiastic football fans from throughout the eastern seaboard another reason to visit Central Florida," said Eugene Campbell, vice president of Community Relations and Minority Business Development for Walt Disney World Resort. "We are proud to sponsor this game as a way to not only support the African-American community and the 25 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Mid-Eastern and Southwestern Athletic Conferences, but also as an opportunity to grow this event into another highly ranked national football game that will have a positive economic impact on Central Florida."

The weekend highlights include:

Thursday, Sept. 3

* ESPN 101 Career Panel, 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.

Approximately 600 local high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing careers in sports and entertainment will attend the ESPN 101 High School Career Panel at the Disney-sponsored Boys & Girls Club in Pine Hills. Students from Edgewater, Evans, Jones, Oak Ridge, Wekiva and Ocoee High Schools will learn about the wide world of job opportunities within the sports business from a panel of industry professionals. This year's panelists include ESPN SportsCenter co-host Jay Harris; Robert Vowels, NCAA vice president of educational affairs; Gerald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers business development manager; Valerie Royal, manager of Minority Business Development for Walt Disney World Resort, and more.

Friday, Sept. 4

* MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff Banquet, 8 p.m.

Disney's Hollywood Studios serves as the back drop for coaches, student-athletes, team representatives, community leaders and sponsors as they celebrate the Fifth Annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney college football game. The highlight of the evening includes the presentation of the Walter Payton award, which will honor a deserving player from each school. This year's keynote speaker is Pro- Bowl Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow. SportsCenter anchor Jay Harris will emcee the banquet.

Saturday, Sept. 5

* Disney STEP Classic, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.

The Disney STEP Classic offers a full day of exhilarating musical entertainment and choreography at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Dozens of high school and college teams from the eastern United States take center stage on Saturday to showcase their best step routines and compete for top prizes totaling $20,000 in cash and scholarships. The top three winners will be showcased on the Pre-Game Stage before the MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney and will be recognized during halftime.
* Magic Music Days Performance, 2:45 p.m.

As part of the MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney "Fan Day," South Carolina State University's Marching Band will parade down Main Street, U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom just prior to Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade.
* Legends Dinner, 6 p.m.

Several notable legends, including athletes and musicians from the MEAC and SWAC will be honored during an evening tribute to their legacy at the Atlantic Dance Hall at Walt Disney World Resort. Grammy award-winning gospel artist Smokie Norful (University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) and former NFL cornerback Everson Walls (Grambling State University) are among those who will be recognized.

Sunday, Sept. 6

* The Heart and Soul Tailgate, 10 a.m.
The Heart and Soul Tailgate party features the best in gospel talent, games, fun and food. Fans can start the day at McCracken Field, located just outside the Florida Citrus Bowl, with the best collard greens in the south from the winner of the Collard Green Cook-off along with soul food from some of the best restaurants in Central Florida.
* Fifth Annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney, 2 p.m.
This year's event features the MEAC's South Carolina State University against the SWAC's Grambling State University. The game will be televised live to a national audience on ESPN2 HD and This will be the first time these two teams have met since 1994. The MEAC leads the series 3-1.
* Battle of the Bands - Florida Citrus Bowl (Halftime)
South Carolina State and Grambling State bands will hit the turf during half-time to entertain football fans with their innovative and upbeat routines in hopes of winning their own on-field battle.

Sponsoring this annual football game is part of Walt Disney World Resort's commitment to diversity and inclusion, which helps drive growth, creativity and innovation. Evidence of that commitment is seen through the company's involvement with such organizations as the FAMU Law School, Bethune Cookman's Hospitality College, Disney Entrepreneur Center, African American Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, Florida Minority Supplier Development Council and Hispanic Business Investment Fund of Florida.

May 20, 2009

Walt Disney World Resort Says "Shine On" Central Florida with $700,000 in Grants and 15 Shining Star Awards

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., May 15, 2009 - Making a clear connection between itself and the recent "shine on" sightings in Central Florida, Walt Disney World Resort is sending prize patrols across the region to surprise, reward and recognize recipients of its Disney's Helping Kids Shine Grants and Disney Dreamers and Doers Shining Stars programs. By May 22, the prize patrols will have distributed a total of $700,000 to worthy non-profit organizations and 15 awards to local students.

"We are celebrating our community by shining a spotlight on some very deserving non-profits and students who help make dreams come true in Orange, Osceola, Lake, Polk and Seminole counties," says Eugene Campbell, vice president of Community Relations and Minority Business Development for Walt Disney World Resort. "Walt Disney World Resort is dedicated to building a better future for youth in Central Florida, and ultimately, a stronger community for us all."

Disney's Helping Kids Shine Grants celebrate those who commit their time and talent to making a difference in the lives of Central Florida's children. This year, Walt Disney World Resort is awarding grants to 34 Central Florida non-profit organizations that focus on children in four specific areas: connecting with adults, constructive use of free time, character development and compassion. Recipients are chosen by a panel of judges made up of Central Florida community leaders and Walt Disney World Cast Members.

Coalition for the Homeless Receives Disney's Top Grants Award

The season of giving started on Monday when Walt Disney World Resort recognized the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida with its top Disney's Helping Kids Shine Grant - the Bob Allen Outstanding Community Service Award - for the second year in a row. Mickey Mouse, along with Walt Disney World Resort President Meg Crofton, Allen family members and a Disney prize patrol, awarded $60,000 to the non-profit's child development programs, which aim to instill values such as trust, honesty, integrity, responsibility, personal power and self-esteem.

"It's humbling and a great honor to be recognized for our work with families," said Brent Trotter, President/CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. "Families with children are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population in Central Florida today. We've created a wide variety of services to meet the unique needs of the growing number of children who use the Coalition's services, and are happy to have the support of Disney in our mission."

Disney Surprises Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Florida with $50,000

Mickey Mouse, joined by a Disney prize patrol, arrived at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Florida on Wednesday to honor the agency with the Dianna Morgan Children's Champion Award in recognition of the magic the organization creates through youth outreach and mentoring.

"We couldn't be more surprised or thrilled," said Jennifer Rider, Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Florida, which received $50,000. "Thanks to Disney's funding, we'll be able to maintain our support staff that make and sustain our mentoring matches. They play a critical role in helping set our youth up for future success."

Dreamers and Doers Recognizes 15 Shining Stars

Out of the nearly 400 local students recognized as 2009 Disney Dreamers and Doers, 15 students have earned top honors as Disney Shining Stars - and visits from Disney prize patrols to celebrate their accomplishments.

Disney Dreamers and Doers rewards outstanding students who are improving their communities through volunteer service in Central Florida. Nominees are submitted by schools throughout Orange, Osceola, Lake, Polk and Seminole counties and chosen by panel comprised of community leaders and Walt Disney World Cast Members.

The recipients of the 2009 Disney Dreamers and Doers Shining Star Award include:

Orange County
Elementary School: Jillian Ortner, Sunrise Elementary School
Middle School: Natalia Rivera, St. Charles Borromeo School
High School: Jeanine Sinanan-Singh, Trinity Prep

Osceola County
Elementary School: Joshua Almonte, Ventura Elementary School
Middle School: Dominic St. Germaine, Kissimmee Charter Academy
High School: Amber Pettit, Harmony High School

Lake County
Elementary School: Meagan Dickerson, Cypress Ridge Elementary
Middle School: Chandler Watkins, Carver Middle School
High School: Lacey Morgan, Leesburg High School

Polk County
Elementary School: Shelby Fallin, Griffin Elementary School
Middle School: Patrick Davis, Southwest Middle School
High School: Ashley Greene, Ridge Community High School

Seminole County
Elementary School: Branson Mann, Sweetwater Episcopal Academy
Middle School: Raevon Redding, Tuskawilla Middle School
High School: Lauren Snyder, Paul J. Hagerty High School

All Disney Dreamers and Doers receive four theme park tickets, a certificate and a special pin. In addition, the 15 Disney Shining Stars receive a Mickey Mouse statue and Walt Disney World Annual Passes for themselves and their immediate families.

Now in its 26th year, more than 11,000 students in Central Florida have been recognized as Disney Dreamers and Doers.

By May 22, a total of 34 Disney's Helping Kids Shine Grants and 15 top Dreamers and Doers Shining Stars will be awarded. Prize patrol reports and pictures will be posted on so the community can follow the journey across Central Florida.

May 13, 2009

Coalition for the Homeless Receives Disney’s Top Grants Award

ORLANDO, Fla., May 12, 2009 - Shining a spotlight on services for homeless children in our region, the Walt Disney World Resort recognized the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida with its top Disney's Helping Kids Shine Grants honor - the Bob Allen Outstanding Community Service Award - for the second year in a row.

Mickey Mouse, along with Walt Disney World Resort president Meg Crofton, Allen family members and other Disney dignitaries arrived at the Coalition's facilities on Monday with a prize patrol to award $60,000 to the non-profit's child development programs which aim to instill values such as trust, honesty, integrity, responsibility, personal power and self-esteem.

"It's humbling and a great honor to be recognized for our work with families," said Brent Trotter, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. "Families with children are the fastest-growing portion of the homeless population in Central Florida today. We've created a wide variety of services to meet the unique needs of the growing number of children who call the Coalition home, and are happy to have the support of Disney in our mission."

Disney's Helping Kids Shine Grants celebrates those who commit their time and talent to making a difference in the lives of Central Florida's children. One of its top awards - the Bob Allen Outstanding Community Service Award - honors the late Bob Allen, who started his career at Disneyland in 1955 and ended his tenure with a decade-long period as vice president of Walt Disney World Resort. After his death in 1987, Allen's family formed an endowment fund that assists local social service, environmental and humanitarian organizations.

During the next two weeks, Disney will send prize patrols across Central Florida to surprise, reward and recognize a total of 34 Disney's Helping Kids Shine Grants recipients chosen by a panel of judges made up of Central Florida community leaders and Walt Disney World Cast Members. Prize patrol reports and pictures will be posted on so you can follow along on the journey across Central Florida and track the total giving.

To learn more about the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, visit:

May 2, 2009



Burbank, Calif. - April 29, 2009 -- Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures has arranged with The Nature Conservancy to plant 2.7 million trees in Brazil's Atlantic Forest, one of the planet's most endangered rainforests, it was announced by Dick Cook, chairman, The Walt Disney Studios. In keeping with the Disneynature EARTH's themes of protecting the planet and its wildlife, Walt Disney Studios volunteered to plant a tree in honor of every moviegoer who saw the film during its first week of release. The motion picture grossed an impressive $16.1 million at the box office during week one and broke an opening day record as well as an opening weekend record for a nature documentary. The film also garnered the highest praise from critics and moviegoers alike.

Through its campaign to Plant a Billion Trees (, The Nature Conservancy, one of the world's leading international conservation organizations and its local partners are working to reforest 2.5 million acres of land and re-connect more than 12 million acres in Brazil's Atlantic Forest, one of the planet's most endangered and ecologically significant rainforests. This restoration effort will allow hundreds of plants and animals to re-colonize their former habitats and will protect vital watersheds.

Commenting on the announcement, Cook said, "We're proud to be working with The Nature Conservancy, one of the world's most effective conservation organizations, in planting trees in the endangered Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Through the Conservancy's Plant a Billion Trees campaign, we have an opportunity to honor those who supported 'EARTH' by making a tangible and lasting contribution to conserving globally-significant wildlife habitat. Our goal with Disneynature is to entertain and inform moviegoers about the wonders of our planet, and encourage them to learn more about what they can do to conserve nature."

"Disney has created a spectacular portrait of our planet with Disneynature's 'EARTH' and demonstrated their commitment to the planet by supporting our ambitious, large-scale reforestation effort to restore and preserve the magnificent Atlantic Forest," said Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. "We applaud Disney for their contribution to our effort to plant and restore one billion trees by 2015 in the Atlantic Forest, a global conservation priority area of rich biodiversity."

Beth Stevens, senior vice president, Environmental Affairs, The Walt Disney Company, added, "We are thrilled that through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund that we were able to expand a long relationship between Disney and The Nature Conservancy. The fund was established to support the study and protection of the world's wildlife and ecosystems, and 'EARTH' presented the perfect opportunity to give back to our planet in this tremendous way."

Where the Atlantic Forest survives, it presents some of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth. The region is home to more than 200 bird species and 60 percent of all Brazil's endangered species. And, on fewer than two and a half acres, scientists have identified more than 450 tree species - more species than are found on the entire eastern seaboard of the United States. The forest also is important because it is the source of clean drinking water for 120 million people. Today, however, only 7 percent of the original Atlantic Forest remains in well-preserved but isolated fragments. The Nature Conservancy's initiative in the Atlantic Forest contributes to the global effort by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to plant at least one billion trees worldwide each year, with a cumulative goal for 2009 of planting 7 billion trees worldwide.

Narrated by James Earl Jones, "EARTH" tells the remarkable story of three animal families and their amazing journeys across the planet we call home. "EARTH" combines rare action, unimaginable scale and impossible locations by capturing the most intimate moments of our planet's wildest and most elusive creatures. Directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, the acclaimed creative team behind the Emmy Award®-winning "Planet Earth," combine forces again to bring this epic adventure to the big screen.

About Disneynature

Disneynature, the first new Disney-branded film label from The Walt Disney Studios in over 60 years, was launched in April 2008 to bring the world's top nature filmmakers together to share a wide variety of wildlife subjects and stories with theatrical audiences. Earth, the first film to premiere domestically under the new label on Earth Day 2009, garnered a record-breaking opening weekend for a nature documentary. Walt Disney was a pioneer in wildlife documentary filmmaking, producing 13 True-Life Adventure motion pictures between 1949 and 1960, winning 8 Academy Awards (R). For more information about Disneynature, go to:

About The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy at:

April 23, 2009

Environmentally Friendly Bakery Debuts at Disneyland Resort

Anaheim, Calif. April 22, 2009 - The new central bakery at the Disneyland Resort, used by Cast Members to create the delicious treats Disneyland guests enjoy, opened last month boasting numerous environmentally friendly features.

As with all new construction at the Disneyland Resort, various environmental tactics were researched and implemented. One such initiative is the use of 14 solar tubes that provide natural lighting into the building, significantly reducing the need for electricity. Another effort in energy reduction is the use of ice makers that form an ice block over night and then send chilled water to the air conditioning system to help cool the entire building during the day.

In addition to saving energy, the building uses porous asphalt paving in the parking lot, which captures, filters and returns rain water back into the ground, serving as a natural recycling system. Water reduction is also a part of the conservation program with an underground sprinkler system that is used for the surrounding landscape. The system prevents water evaporation and works on a time clock with humidity sensors - reducing water usage.

"Being environmentally conscious is extremely important to us and we are proud that this new addition to the Disneyland Resort helps conserve resources in so many ways," said Disneyland Resort President Ed Grier.

The new, larger bakery was constructed in response to the Resort's continued growth. The new space is four times the size of the existing pastry kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel. Approximately 8 million products, ranging from wedding cakes to parfaits, are expected to be produced at the new bakery each year.

March 30, 2009

The Seas Granted Accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums


Silver Spring, Maryland, March 30, 2009 - The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) today announced that The Seas was granted accreditation by AZA's independent Accreditation Commission.

"The Seas has been awarded AZA accreditation because of its high standards in every aspect of its operations," said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. "Orlando should be proud to have one of the top facilities in North America as a valuable community asset and economic engine."

To be accredited, The Seas underwent a thorough investigation to ensure it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards, which include animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process in order to be members of the Association, and are required to resubmit to this process every five years.

"Every visit you make to The Seas supports wildlife conservation." Maddy added. "It's an opportunity for families to get together and connect with conservation."

The mission of the AZA Accreditation Commission is to establish, uphold, and raise the highest zoological and aquarium industry standards through self-evaluation, on-site inspection, and peer review. The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution's operation in areas such as animal care (including living environment and daily enrichment), keeper training, safety for animals, staff, and visitors, educational programs, conservation efforts, veterinary programs, financial stability, risk management, visitor services, and other areas. The inspection team prepares an extensive written report for the Accreditation Commission. Finally, top officials are interviewed at a formal Commission hearing, after which accreditation is granted, tabled, or denied. Any institution that is denied may reapply one year after the Commission's decision is made.

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting an institution dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, the AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, please visit

March 18, 2009

Disney Bowl-A-Thon Strikes Support for Economic Education in Local Schools

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., March 16, 2009 - Showing power in numbers, approximately 5,800 Walt Disney World VoluntEARS teamed up this past weekend to extend their reach into local classrooms via the Disney Bowl-A-Thon. The two-day fundraising event, held March 14-15 at bowling centers across Central Florida, raised more than $ 237,000 for Junior Achievement; ultimately benefiting thousands of local children.

Junior Achievement is a non-profit organization that enhances economic education and programs by striking a balance between the business community and schools. Seeking to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy, Junior Achievement helps students connect the real world to what they learn in the classroom.

"We help students understand money and credit," said Gary Blanchette, president of Junior Achievement of Central Florida. "We help provide solutions to financial illiteracy in America." Thrilled to collaborate with Walt Disney World Resort, Blanchette explained that all of the dollars raised by the Disney Bowl-A-Thon go to work immediately. "Thanks to Disney, we can expand our mission in the classroom. Twelve-thousand children in Central Florida will benefit from Junior Achievement outreach," said Blanchette.

Jessica Herrera, a Stonewall Jackson Middle School eighth grader, credits Junior Achievement for helping her understand the importance of her actions and improving her test scores. "Junior Achievement showed me that what I do today will impact the future that I have tomorrow," said Herrera.

Disney VoluntEARS, along with volunteers from other companies, donate time teaching Junior Achievement curriculum for grades K-12 in schools across Central Florida. Funds raised from the Disney Bowl-A-Thon will go toward Junior Achievement programming, educator kits and classroom supplies.

Over the past 14 years, Walt Disney World Resort has raised more than $3.2 million for Junior Achievement.

March 15, 2009

Walt Disney World Resort Releases 2008 Community Report

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., March 11, 2009 - As part of The Walt Disney Company's first consolidated corporate responsibility report, Walt Disney World Resort released the 2008 Community Report that highlights the many ways the company remains actively involved in Central Florida.

The community report focuses on accomplishments related to the environment, workplace and community, with a special emphasis on children and families. The detailed snapshot also represents the latest phase in Disney's longstanding heritage of corporate social responsibility and reflects a company-wide effort to build an integrated, transparent strategy for serving the needs of primary stakeholders, including guests, Cast Members, shareholders, business partners and local communities.

"Our commitment to the Central Florida community is unwavering," said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World Resort. "We are focused on helping to make this community an inviting and dynamic place to live, work and play, not only for ourselves, but also for our nearly two million neighbors."

In 2008, Walt Disney World Resort and its Cast Members contributed approximately $32.5 million to local organizations for programs that focus on building a brighter future for children in Central Florida. In addition, Disney VoluntEARS donated more than 204,000 hours to benefit local non-profit organizations. Highlights from the report include:

The Environment

Walt Disney World Resort is committed to minimizing its overall impact on the environment as it encourages and inspires environmentally responsible behavior on the part of Cast Members, guests and business partners.

· In collaboration with Keep Brevard Beautiful and the Ocean Conservancy, Disney VoluntEARS participated in the 2008 Florida Coastal Cleanup, removing more than 3,500 pounds of trash and storm debris from the shores of Lake Fran in Orlando.

· Conservation biologists from Disney's Animal Programs released a loggerhead sea turtle into the Atlantic Ocean as part of a program to raise awareness of threats to sea turtle survival.

· In April, Walt Disney World Resort completed the state's Green Lodging certification program for its 23 Central Florida resort hotels and Disney's Vero Beach Resort. The Florida Green Lodging Program is a voluntary state initiative that encourages hotels and motels to adopt cost-saving green practices that reduce waste and conserve natural resources.

Our Workplace

Walt Disney World Resort is committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace. In recognition of the magic Cast Members create for guests each and every day, Walt Disney World Resort offers a wide variety of programs, services and benefits that are designed to make a difference in Cast Members' lives.

· In October, Walt Disney World Resort opened the Center for Living Well - a state-of-the-art, on-site health and wellness center - to provide eligible Cast Members and their families a "one-stop shop" for primary medical care and related services. The $6 million, 15,000-square-foot facility includes a pharmacy, lab, basic radiology, and wellness and behavioral health resources.

· With 62,000 Cast Members speaking 59 languages from 81 countries, diversity and inclusion are core values that drive growth, creativity and innovation at Walt Disney World Resort. The company received the highest honor at the 2008 Beacon Awards ceremony, which celebrates diversity in the greater Orlando-area workforce.

· Walt Disney World Resort is actively involved in cultivating the workforce of the future. In January 2008, the resort hosted Disney's Dreamers Academy, an innovative program that aims to expose high-school students to creative and non-traditional career opportunities, while inspiring them to exceed the boundaries of their dreams and imaginations.

Our Community

A tradition of community service has been an integral part of the Disney heritage since the company's early beginnings in Central Florida. That commitment extends from charitable giving to minority business development to generating tax revenue for the local community.

· In March, Central Florida celebrated the opening of a Boys & Girls Clubs facility in the Pine Hills area of Orlando. Walt Disney World Resort donated $1 million toward the construction of the new building which includes computer stations, learning centers, game rooms and a multi-purpose gym.

· Walt Disney World Resort awarded $700,000 in Disney's Helping Kids Shine Grants to 38 Central Florida non-profit organizations for programs that focused on building better futures for children.

· During the 2008 Heart of Florida United Way Campaign, Cast Members contributed $3.2 million to help local agencies assist fellow residents in Orange, Seminole and Osceola Counties.

· Walt Disney World Cast Members conducted a successful Back-to-School Supply Drive, donating more than 6,000 backpacks to Central Florida students and more than 467,000 supplies to A Gift for Teaching.

· In August, Walt Disney World Resort helped bring a second Historically Black College and University football game to Central Florida. The MEAC / SWAC challenge brought thousands of fans to Central Florida from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Disney's 2008 Corporate Responsibility Report may be found at

March 8, 2009

Disney Releases Rehabilitated Manatee

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Feb. 24, 2009 -- Marine mammal experts from Walt Disney World Resort returned a manatee to its natural habitat today in the warm waters of the St. John's River at Blue Springs State Park near Orange City. Approximately 3,800 endangered manatees exist in Florida.

The manatee, named "Bock," was rescued as an orphan from the St. John's River in 2001 as part of a manatee rehabilitation program managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He arrived at The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot in 2003 weighing about 500 pounds. At The Seas, marine mammal experts weaned him from the bottle and began feeding him a diet of romaine lettuce, fruits and other vegetables. After extended treatment and therapy, he now weighs more than 1,000 pounds and is approximately eight years old.

Bock's release is timed to coincide with the arrival of several other manatees currently wintering at Blue Springs. During the next few months, he will be able to swim with other manatees, learn appropriate behaviors and hopefully return to Blue Springs again in search of warmer water.

Bock will be fitted with a satellite tracking belt to follow his movements and allow for behavioral observation after his release. His progress will be monitored by the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) in which Disney's Animal Programs has been involved since 2001 when the MRP was established. The MRP is a cooperative group of nonprofit, private, state and federal entities that monitors the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees.

While the care associated with manatee rehabilitation at The Seas with Nemo and Friends was provided by Disney, Epcot guests have also helped other manatees in the wild by supporting the company-matched Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF). The DWCF has contributed more than $348,000 for manatee research and awareness around the globe. Since its inception in 1995, the DWCF has supported manatee research and community conservation in countries including the United States, Belize, Guatemala and Gabon, and worked with organizations including Mote Marine Laboratory, University of Florida and the Wildlife Trust.

September 3, 2008

Florida Hospital Unveils New Details, Name for Disney Children's Hospital

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 27, 2008 - Officials from Florida Hospital today revealed new details about their visionary plans to shape the 'Children's Hospital of the Future,' which will make a significant impact on children's health throughout Central Florida and be a model for pediatric hospitals beyond the region.

The plans include sophisticated, interactive technology for patients; accomplished pediatric physicians who specialize in advanced, minimally invasive surgery; and a former United States Surgeon General who will provide leadership for the children's health and policy platform. Administrators also unveiled the hospital's new name, Disney Children's Hospital at Florida Hospital. While The Walt Disney Company has long supported children's hospitals both locally and around the world, Disney Children's Hospital will be the first children's hospital in history to bear the Disney name.

"This hospital will be on the forefront of technology and a model for patient experience that will be truly dedicated to the well-being of children," said Marla Silliman, administrator of Disney Children's Hospital at Florida Hospital.

One of the keystones of this visionary plan is the creation of a dedicated children's emergency department that will be the first in the country to feature Ambient Experience Design solutions from Philips. First impressions set at the entrance, in addition to patient rooms and dedicated play areas, are designed to soothe young patients and their families. Areas throughout the department will feature lighting and design elements to bring the comforts of outside into the hospital setting. Patient treatment rooms will offer animation selections on the ceiling accompanied by soft lighting and music, allowing "escapes" to areas such as the beach or mountains.

"Philips is delivering a captivating and comforting, child-friendly space. We're incorporating the latest in clinical design and technologies, as well as elements, to provide calming, positive assurances to patients and their families," said Brent Shafer, executive vice president and CEO, North America, for Philips Healthcare. "In collaboration with Disney Children's Hospital, we're aiming to define the 'Children's Hospital of the Future.'"

Technology will extend to the in-room experience as well, where the first Interactive Patient Care technology of its kind in Central Florida will allow bedside access to the GetWellNetwork® Patient-Life System® so that pediatric patients can play video games, watch movies and surf the Internet. Parents may also view the latest information on childhood obesity, asthma, diabetes and other topics through patient education videos on the same system. "GetWellNetwork is excited to contribute our Interactive Patient Care technology to the 'Children's Hospital of the Future' at Disney Children's Hospital," said Michael O'Neil, Jr., founder and CEO, GetWellNetwork, Inc.

"This technology enhances the patient experience and gives them access to interactive resources that educate and entertain to make their stay as comfortable as possible. With the touch of a keyboard or remote, patients or their parents can view vital health information and communicate with other areas of the hospital to help meet their health care needs."

Joining the medical leadership of the hospital, Dr. Antonia Novello, former United States Surgeon General, will guide the children's health and policy platform as the vice president of Women and Children Health and Policy Affairs. During her tenure as the first female and first Hispanic Surgeon General, Novello helped launch the Healthy Children Ready to Learn Initiative and actively promoted immunizations of children and childhood injury prevention efforts.

Also joining the hospital's staff are Dr. Bryan C. Weidner and Dr. Christopher M. Anderson, who will provide advanced surgical services including minimally invasive procedures for pediatric patients. Minimally invasive surgeries require fewer incisions, reducing blood loss and hastening patient recovery. Weidner is board certified in general surgery, surgical critical care and pediatric surgery. Anderson is board certified in general surgery and board eligible in pediatric surgery.

"The addition of Dr. Novello to our staff is a real coup for Disney Children's Hospital and the children of Central Florida and beyond," Silliman said. "In addition, the skill and expertise of renowned pediatric surgeons and the Nicholson Center for Surgical Advancement will help keep us on the leading edge of surgical technology." The new dedicated lobby and entrance for Disney Children's Hospital is expected to open in mid-2009. The three-level lobby designed by Walt Disney Imagineers will feature several of the most beloved Disney characters from "The Little Mermaid," "The Lion King," "Brother Bear" and "The Jungle Book."

"Walt Disney World Resort is committed to the dreams of children in our community, and we're pleased to lend some of our magic to Disney Children's Hospital at Florida Hospital," said Shannon McAleavey, senior vice president of Public Affairs for Walt Disney World Resort." This will be a special place that will enable children to use their imaginations in a unique, immersive environment that will contribute to their overall health and healing."

In the lobby, children of all ages will be able to draw individual markings on a cave wall, create jungle sounds on musical step pads, fish for virtual salmon, or play in a magical world of popping bubbles and dancing sea horses. And each night as the sun sets, the lobby will transform into a celestial display as unique as each child, featuring constellations on the ceiling and a musical score created by the young patients.

"The partnership between Florida Hospital and Disney demonstrates that Central Florida is quickly becoming known just as much for medicine and science as it is for its thriving tourism industry," said Lars Houmann, president of Florida Hospital and chairman of bioOrlando. "We believe Disney Children's Hospital will provide the blueprint for other children's hospitals in the future."

Disney Children's Hospital at Florida Hospital is currently undergoing construction and renovation, which is expected to be completed by 2010. The project continues to rely on the generous philanthropic support of the community.

When complete, the seven-story, 200-bed hospital will have family-centered pediatric rooms; a first-of-its-kind, dedicated pediatric Emergency Department featuring ambient lighting; an Advanced Center for Pediatric Surgery led by renowned surgeons; destination pediatric programs including advanced surgery, oncology, neurosurgery, cardiology, transplant services and full-service pediatrics; and an innovative Health and Obesity platform.

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About Disney Public Affairs

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Disney and Florida Attractions News Blog in the Disney Public Affairs category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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