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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Aug. 21, 2009 – As summer break draws to a close, Walt Disney World Cast Members are lending a helping hand to deserving Central Florida students and teachers by giving them the right supplies to confidently start the upcoming school year. Stocking up on boxes of crayons, rulers, pencils, folders and packs of notebook paper, Disney Cast Members hit an all-time high by donating a record 654,012 school supplies through the annual back-to-school supply drive at Walt Disney World Resort.
“School supplies may seem so simple but they are so very important,” says Eugene Campbell, vice president of Community Relations and Minority Business Development for Walt Disney World Resort. “I’m so proud that our kind and generous Cast Members recognize the need to give students all the tools necessary to achieve their very best during the school year. They’ve set a record for Disney’s contributions of school supplies to our community’s young students which is absolutely inspiring.”
This week, more than 200 Disney VoluntEARS sorted the supplies and distributed them to local students and teachers through partnerships with non-profits S.T.A.R.S. (Supplies to Assist Our Students) and A Gift For Teaching. S.T.A.R.S. received a total of 392,138 in Disney-donated supplies which filled nearly 6,000 backpacks given to students at 19 Orange County public elementary schools. A total of 261,874 Disney-donated back-to-school items were given to teachers through the Free Store at A Gift For Teaching’s Orlando facility.
“The need for school supplies is greater than ever in Central Florida due to the economic times,” says Chesta Hembrooke, President and Founder of S.T.A.R.S. “By donating the necessities for school, Disney is making a difference in the lives of thousands of young local students. For many, the backpacks are the only new item they receive.”
S.T.A.R.S. has coordinated community donations of back-to-school supplies for public elementary school students in need since April 2003. Hembrooke believes that school supply donations, such as the one made by Disney Cast Members, go beyond just being tangible tools and 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.
In addition to the backpacks, the supplies that Disney VoluntEARS contributed to A Gift For Teaching represent the organization’s largest supply drive donation to its back-to-school PUSH campaign. The supplies will benefit students in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties year-round through A Gift For Teaching’s Free Store for teachers.
“Every child should have the opportunity to learn equally and that starts by giving students and their teachers the supplies they need,” said Jane Thompson, president of A Gift For Teaching. “Thanks to the donation of new school supplies by Cast Members of the Walt Disney World Resort, A Gift For Teaching’s shelves will be stocked with basics for months to come – giving approximately 148,000 of Central Florida’s most underprivileged students opportunities for creativity, learning, “fitting in” and being successful.”
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 2008, Disney VoluntEARS helped Central Florida public schools by giving 15,005 hours toward activities ranging from serving on Parent/Teacher Association boards to assisting teachers in the classroom.
* Disney VoluntEARS gave $63,350 to local public schools in 2008 through Disney’s Ears to You grants.
* In March 2009, nearly 5,800 Walt Disney World Cast Members and Imagineers raised more than $261,700 in the Disney Bowl-A-Thon to benefit Junior Achievement; a non-profit that teaches children financial skills and awareness. Over the past 14 years, Walt Disney World Resort has raised more than $3.2 million for the organization. Disney VoluntEARS also teach Junior Achievement curriculum for grades K-12 in schools across Central Florida.
* In 2008, 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 11,000 exceptional Central Florida students have been recognized as Disney Dreamers and Doers.