Walt Disney World Cast Members are lending a helping hand to Central Florida students in need this week by giving them the right supplies to start the upcoming school year with confidence. Stocking up on boxes of crayons, rulers, folders and packs of notebook paper, Disney Cast Members hit an all-time high by donating more than 2 million school supplies through Walt Disney World Resort’s annual back-to-school supply drive.
“I’m so proud of our Cast Members who gave a record number of school supplies to benefit our community, which is encountering a record level of need,” says Nancy Gidusko, director of Community Relations for Walt Disney World Resort. “By contributing these back-to-school basics, Disney Cast Members are making a difference in the lives of many local students and reaching more students, teachers and classrooms than ever before.”
This week, hundreds of Disney VoluntEARS sorted school supplies and distributed them to local students and teachers through partnerships with A Gift For Teaching and S.T.A.R.S. (Supplies to Assist Our Students). The annual campaign expanded beyond Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties this year to include Lake and Polk counties.
On Tuesday, Disney VoluntEARS gave nearly 1 million school supplies – ranging from pencils to scissors – to A Gift For Teaching. Walt Disney World Resort’s donation is annually the largest contribution received by the organization. Local teachers can pick up the supplies year-around through A Gift For Teaching’s free store, which benefits students in need in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.
“With their substantial donations, Walt Disney World Resort Cast Members are at the forefront of helping us collect as many school supplies as we can for students in struggling families and the teachers that are compelled to help them,” said Jane Thompson, president of A Gift For Teaching.
Later this week, Disney VoluntEARS will distribute 6,460 backpacks, filled with 1.3 million school supplies, through S.T.A.R.S. The backpacks will be given to students at 13 Orange County public elementary schools in areas of high need.
“Disney is making a difference in the lives of thousands of young local students by donating the necessities for school,” says Chesta Hembrooke, president and founder of S.T.A.R.S. “For many, the backpacks are the only new item they receive to start the school year.”
S.T.A.R.S. has coordinated community donations of back-to-school supplies for local public school students since April 2003. Hembrooke believes that school supply donations, such as the one made by Disney Cast Members, make a significant impact toward a student’s future success. “New school supplies give children confidence on the first day of school so they can be on equal footing with everyone in their class,” says Hembrooke.
The back-to-school supply drive is one of many ways that Walt Disney World Resort actively supports education as part of its commitment toward building a better future for Central Florida’s children. Disney’s involvement in grade-school level education can be seen in charitable giving, classroom support and student recognition. Examples include:
- In 2009, Disney VoluntEARS helped Central Florida public schools by giving 10,028 hours toward activities ranging from serving on Parent/Teacher Association boards to assisting teachers in the classroom.
- Disney VoluntEARS gave $25,650 to Orange County public schools in 2009 through Disney’s Ears to You grants.
- In February 2010, nearly 6,000 Walt Disney World Cast Members and Imagineers raised approximately $250,000 in the Disney Bowl-A-Thon to benefit Junior Achievement; a non-profit that teaches children financial skills and awareness. Walt Disney World Resort has been involved with Junior Achievement for more than 16 years and has raised more than $3.45 million for the organization. Disney VoluntEARS also teach Junior Achievement curriculum for grades K-12 in schools across Central Florida.
- In 2009, Disney continued to be the primary sponsor of the A Gift For Music program with a $100,000 donation. A Gift For Music provides free music lessons to students who normally could not afford them.
- To date, more than 11,500 exceptional Central Florida students have been recognized as Disney Dreamers and Doers.