LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Dec. 7, 2009 – Costuming Cast Members at Walt Disney World Resort collected and dressed an all-time-high number of teddy bears this holiday season, donating 414 of the one-of-a-kind stuffed toys to the Salvation Army of Central Florida. The organization gives the bears to local children who are in need of Christmas gifts.
“I know it’s for the kids, and they are happy when they get them,” says Maryla Zielinska, a garment cutter coordinator in the Creative Costuming Workroom. “It’s Christmas – time to give something to other people.”
Maryla makes several costumes every year, and she makes lots of extra shoes, bows and hats for her co-workers’ bears. “It’s fun for me,” she says. “I remember my childhood, when I made things for my dolls.”
This annual program is an opportunity for the dedicated Costuming Cast to demonstrate their skills, creativity and compassion as they make one-of-a-kind outfits for bears that warm hearts across Central Florida.
Costumer Janice Jones started the program in Costuming in 1996, when she heard about the call for community members to dress the teddy bears. She thought it sounded like a great fit for the Costuming team, a highly skilled group of seamstresses, tailors, costume assistants, cosmetologists and many others throughout the division.
“The program showcases the team’s creativity and caring,” Janice said. “Everything is stitched with love, and it’s from the Costuming family.” The team members serve as VoluntEARS, sewing the costumes on their own time.
Magic Kingdom Sewing Specialist Josefina Salas may be the most prolific producer of bear costumes. Each year she takes a full box of 18 bears and brings them all back dressed in unique outfits, plus a few spare outfits in case any bears don’t get dressed in time.
She saves up scrap material from her projects all year. This year, one of her finest creations was a George Washington bear, made with scraps of the fabric that was used for George Washington’s vest during the recent Hall of Presidents rehabilitation. But her personal favorite was a Princess Tiana bear, fashioned after the newest Disney princess.
The number of Costuming bears surpassed last year’s all-time high of 301, setting an impressive personal best in a year of community-wide need. The team also stuffed 225 stockings for the organization, a record number, too.
This year, for the first time, Costuming team members at the Disneyland Resort in California joined the effort, contributing a few bears of their own. Inspired by the efforts of her long-distance colleagues, Janice set a new goal: “I’d like to expand to Paris next year. I think that could be really cool.” She has already started planning with her Disneyland Paris counterpart.