LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., June 11, 2008 – Walt Disney World Resort celebrated the efforts of hundreds of Cast Members who donated their time, talent and resources in 2007 to help improve the lives of Central Floridians. Receiving the highest honors were Christy Conk as VoluntEAR of the Year and the Disney Theme Park Merchandise VoluntEAR Action Team for VoluntEAR team of the Year.
From sending postcards to U.S. troops to collecting craft supplies for the PACE Center for Girls to helping students with disabilities learn to ride and care for horses, the individuals and teams continuously dedicate their time towards making a positive impact in their communities and were recognized for their recent efforts during a special ceremony at Epcot’s World Showplace Pavilion. These 555 Cast Members also shared their generosity by passing on $450,000 in grants to community organizations of their choice through Disney’s EARS to You program.
EARS to You grants are awarded based on the number of volunteer hours each Cast Member contributes and may be used for the charity of their choice. Nearly 450 Disney VoluntEARS who contributed more than 100 hours of service during 2007 also received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the White House. The President’s Volunteer Service Award is a presidential recognition program for Americans of all ages who contribute a significant amount of time to volunteer service.
VoluntEAR of the Year As a member of Disney’s Animal Programs team, Christy Conk shares her passion for animals by VoluntEARing her time every Thursday at a community organization called HeRD – Horses for Riders with Disabilities. Her contributions include caring for the facility’s horses, instructing students with disabilities, and helping them improve their verbal skills, motor function and thought processes, as well as many other life skills. In addition to her weekly time, Conk helped introduce the HERD program at Lake Louisa State Park, where she supports a variety of other educational outreach programs such as teaching school children how to identify and protect local butterflies.
VoluntEAR Team of the Year The Disney Theme Park Merchandise VoluntEAR Action Team championed a wide variety of events throughout 2007, including a postcard-writing campaign to U.S. troops, decorating bungalows at Give Kids the World and leading a food drive for the Second Harvest Food Bank All 19 team members have share one philosophy — “No matter how much we do, we always ask – ‘what else’.”
The Walt Disney Company, through the Disney VoluntEARS program, provides opportunities for Cast Members to contribute their time and expertise toward positively impacting their communities. This year, Disney Cast Members around the world are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Disney VoluntEARS program by participating in a total of 500 charitable events aimed at assisting children, strengthening their communities and preserving the environment.
Throughout the years, hundreds of nonprofit organizations in Central Florida have benefited from the dedication and contributions of Disney VoluntEARS, including BETA Center, where VoluntEARS assist resident teenage mothers by distributing food or reading to children; Second Harvest Food Bank, where VoluntEARS work to sort food that is distributed free of charge to families in need; and Coalition for the Homeless, where VoluntEARS prepare and serve food to families trying to regain financial stability.
The goal of Disney’s Helping Kids Shine initiative is to engage children in society by creating healthy, guiding relationships with adults, providing constructive free time activities, offering character-building opportunities and encouraging a sense of compassion for others, while helping those children who face adversity. In 2007 Disney VoluntEARS gave more than 174,000 hours of their time to community causes – the equivalent of $3.5 million in labor – and donated more than $3 million of their own money to the United Way.