Most people think of the Walt Disney Company as the World’s largest theme park operators and the home of Mickey Mouse. But the Company is so much more than that. Since its inception 1923, Walt Disney has always contributed to his community and helping out the less fortunate. And this trend continues today, and Walt would be very proud indeed to see this. For more than 20 years, the Walt Disney Company has been sponsoring an annual “Back to School Supply Drive” here in central Florida, donating millions of school supplies and backpacks to kids in need, thus giving them the tools they need to succeed in school. This year, the Disney Company purchased 13,000 school backpacks and Cast Members donated a record 3.1 million supplies for the five counties. Today, at a press event Disney was all set to donate backpacks and school supplies to the kids in need.
An interview with Disney’s Nancy Gidusko, director of community Relations, said it best. I asked what was her part in the School Supplies Program, and she replied “I am in Community Relations at Walt Disney World, where we do all of the Company Philanthropy, as well as organize events with our Disney VoluntEars.
“Disney’s outreach in the community has always focused on children. One of the most important things is the experience they have in school,’ Gidusko said. “So for many years we have been doing the “Back to School Supply Drive. Walt Disney World purchased 13, 000 backpacks and our Disney Cast Members contributed more than 3 million supplies, they are given to 5 counties to make sure the kids have a great start!” “Our Cast Members are extremely generous, whether it’s the annual “Toys for Tots” or the United Way.”
I inquired about the decision to what Counties or schools received the supplies. and was told that Disney first decided what was to be community they should focus on, so the smartest thing was to see where our Cast Members live. They are in the 5 counties of Central Florida, Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Lake and Polk. That’s where we live, that’s where we invest in our Communities, this is where we do our Philanthropic outreach. Disney believes Company Philanthropy is part of joining a community, not just a place to build your workplace, but be invested in the Community.
I also spoke to Susan Moxey, Superintendent of Lake Schools and she was very enthusiastic about the program. I asked her how the Disney Program helps the kids in need. She said, “It’s such a valuable contribution to our academic programs for students; they are prepared, they have the supplies they need to learn and they are excited, it’s such a treat for them! We have seen a great increase in need from our students for school supplies and materials. Disney is a wonderful partner for us and we value and appreciate Disney!”
Superintendent Walt Griffin of Seminole County echoes the praise, “It’s such an opportunity for us to appreciate the hard work of all the Cast Members to give these thousands of supplies for our school children.”
Today’s ceremonies took place back stage where five school buses waited to be loaded with boxes of supplies by Disney’s Voluntears. Norman Vosssalutte, Walt Disney World Ambassador opened the program by introducing Nancy Gidusko, director of Disney’s community relations. With a throng of “Voluntears” behind her, she introduced the five Superintendents of the schools receiving the supplies…Dr. Barbara Jenkins, Orange County, Melba Luciano, Osceola County, Dr. Susan Moxley, Lake County, Walter Griffin, Seminole County and Dr. Sherrie B. Nickell Polk County. Nancy explained how many children cannot afford the proper supplies and why the program exists. And she introduced additional helpers, none other than the “Fab Five”, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto who joined the Voluntears to help load and send those supplies out. So after the Superintendents all rang a traditional School Bell to start the New Year, the buses where loaded up and were on their way.
Disney also supports education here in Florida in several other ways… Financial support, with annual contributions and grants and other non-profits that focus on education, Individual recognition with achievements in academics and community service which are recognized through Disney Dreamers and Doers program and Cast Members share their expertise and knowledge in classrooms all over Florida, last year they volunteered 14, 622 hours in the local schools.
Yes, Disney is more than theme parks, attractions and shows; they are also a great neighbor to have in the community.