With Mickey Mouse cheering them on, more than 250 Walt Disney World Cast Members gathered today for a pep rally to kick off a month-long celebration of the 30th anniversary of Disney VoluntEARS. The program is a global, company-wide effort that provides opportunities for Cast Members to contribute their time to make a positive impact on the community.
During the month of May, Cast Members around the world will commemorate the 30-year milestone by participating in activities that promote the happiness and wellbeing of children and families, strengthen their communities and inspire others to volunteer. At Walt Disney World Resort, thousands of Cast Members have committed to nearly 50 volunteer activities over the next 30 days from serving meals to the homeless to building playgrounds in local neighborhoods to caring for rescued animals.
“Walt Disney World is proud to be a member of the Central Florida community,” said George A. Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort. “We live in a dynamic community with many needs, and our VoluntEARS invest their time and talents in a variety of endeavors. Through them, we inspire children and families, revitalize our environment and improve the quality of life.”
Last year, Walt Disney World VoluntEARS donated 230,000 hours to support over 1,700 Central Florida organizations. In addition, 700 Walt Disney World VoluntEARS received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the White House for contributing more than 100 hours of service. This year, Disney will also donate a total of $916,000 to 450 local non-profit agencies and community service groups through Disney’s EARS to You program.
As part of today’s event, Walt Disney World Resort recognized the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Community Involvement Team as the VoluntEAR Team of the Year and veterinary assistant Liz Hedrick as the Disney VoluntEAR of the Year. The VoluntEAR Team of the Year donated more than 5,500 hours serving meals to the homeless, helping build houses and making pet beds for animal shelters. Hedrick donated more than 750 hours providing health evaluations of rescued animals, free community dog training classes and visiting nursing homes with her therapy dog. Hedrick and Disney’s Animal Kingdom team received $3,000 each for the charities of their choice — Wildlife Rehabilitation of Central Florida and the SPCA of Central Florida.
“Over the years, the SPCA of Central Florida has been lucky to be the recipient of Liz’s time, energy, and love,” said Jake White, executive vice president and general manager of the SPCA. “Her commitment to our pets is unmatched. Through heartfelt actions like hers, we are able to be successful in our mission.”
The VoluntEARS program started at Disneyland Resort in 1983 as a way for Cast Members to focus their volunteer efforts in a more meaningful way. The team achieved great success in their support of charitable organizations, and that momentum led to a company-wide launch of the Disney VoluntEARS in the early ’90s.