I still can’t believe that I was at Walt Disney World the week before the entire world was turned upside down. March 3rd through the 5th, I covered the opening of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. During that time, the energy within Disney World’s four parks was at an all-time high! On the drive home from those magical few days, “Nothing Can Stop Us Now,” the theme song for Disney’s new attraction, was stuck in my head. This was a good stuck, a song you actually want in your head. As opposed to the bad stuck, a song you never want in your head (I’m looking at you, Mentos commercial). I had this overwhelming feeling like we hadn’t even seen the best of what’s to come at Walt Disney World. It was almost as if Galaxy’s Edge and Rise of the Resistance were essentially trial runs, or a dress rehearsal, and the best was yet to come.
Nothing could stop us now, or so we thought. Within one week of the opening for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the world was stopped in its tracks because of COVID-19. The travel industry continues to be at a standstill, and there’s no doubt that Disney’s Parks and Resorts was one of the hardest hit.
I’m sure most of you are tired of seeing the constant negative, and I don’t blame you. I’m tired of constantly reporting the negative. It’s not something I choose to do every day, but unfortunately, most of the stories these days have a negative undertone. Here’s the silver lining, as easy as it is to become buried under this seemingly relentless pile of bad news, it’s just as easy to pull ourselves out from under and focus on the positive. This morning, I chose to focus on the positive global impact the Walt Disney Company has made since the pandemic began. Looking back on all these feel-good stories from Disney over the last few months was, in a way, cathartic for me. Hopefully, it will be the same for you.
Excess food from its parks
Walt Disney World and Disneyland may have closed their gates, but their magic, continued to thrive. First thing’s first, Disney Parks decided to do something about the excess food in their parks, as a result of the closures. Within a matter of days, Disney made the decision to donate that excess food from their parks to local communities in need.
In total, Disney has donated over 270 tons of food to local food banks from Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disneyland Paris, and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. Since March, Disney Parks has provided nearly $3 Million in in-kind donations benefitting communities around the globe.
In response to requests from hospitals that are in need of additional protective garments and medical-related supplies, Disney Parks has donated 150,000 rain ponchos to MedShare, a humanitarian aid organization, for distribution to hospitals in need. The idea was inspired by nurses across the country who inventively found that rain ponchos can be an excellent way to protect their clothing and prolong the use of PPE, while also freeing up gowns when needed.
Charles Redding, the CEO of MedShare, was extremely grateful that the Walt Disney Company decided to partner with them. Speaking to the Disney Parks Blog, the CEO said, “The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we’ve seen before,” Redding added, “We have to find ways to pool our resources and work together to help the healthcare workers who are doing their very best to treat patients and contain COVID-19. We appreciate Disney partnering with us to support hospitals and healthcare workers on the frontlines.”
Disney Parks has also donated more than 100,000 N95 masks to the states of New York, California, and Florida, and is finding additional ways to give back.
Shop Disney began selling non-medical, reusable face masks that feature some of our favorite characters. Taking it a step further, Disney will donate 1 million masks to underserved communities via humanitarian aid organization MedShare. Disney also announced that all the profits from the mask sales in the US through September 30th, up to $1 million, will also go to MedShare.
In a statement, Senior VP of the Disney Store and ShopDisney- Edward Park, said, “We realize this is a challenging time for families, and wearing any type of mask can be daunting. Our hope is that Disney’s cloth face masks featuring some of our most beloved characters will provide comfort to the families, fans, and communities that are so important to us.”
Disney Cruise Line Crew Members
Throughout the current suspension of all Disney Cruise ships, its crew members have continued to work on a series of Disney VoluntEARS events. They have teamed up with several organizations, including the Foundation for Hospital Art and the Starlight Children’s Foundation, to bring some Disney pixie dust to those who need it most.
Crew members painted multi-paneled murals inspired by classic Disney characters and movies. Upon their completion, the Foundation for Hospital Art will donate each unique piece of art to hospitals.
Walt Disney World Cast Members donated Easter Lillies
Cast members at Walt Disney World Resort kept the magic of Disney alive, even though the Easter holiday. Courtesy of Walt Disney World, 200 local seniors received a special surprise with their Meals on Wheels delivery – Easter lilies.
The story behind this magical moment begins with a cast member, Michelle Giger Rohrmann, who manages the nursery where the flowers were grown. Michelle and her team realized that with Walt Disney World temporarily closed, the lilies intended for springtime decorations in our parks and resorts could still spread joy.
Donations to the Orlando Police Department
Walt Disney World sent pallets of popcorn, cookies, and other treats, directly from their parks to the Orlando Police Department.
Orlando Police made a video and thanked the resort, saying they couldn’t wait to share the treats with their families and community.
The Orlando Ballet received fabric from Walt Disney World Costuming
With the temporary suspension of the performance season at Orlando Ballet, staff from their wardrobe department have been hard at work using their talents to sew face coverings for the members of our community who need them most. To support this inspiring effort, Walt Disney World Resort donated more than 400 yards of fabric and 2,400 yards of elastic to the organization, which will be converted into an estimated 3,000 of these much-needed non-medical, non-industrial-grade face coverings for local healthcare workers.
Disney celebrates real-life superheroes
The Disney Parks Blog dedicated an entire article to the real-life superheroes, who are making a difference in their communities every day.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida has been hard at work supporting the local community the past several weeks, distributing enough food for 5.5 million meals. To reach as many neighbors throughout Central Florida as possible, they have deployed 50 mobile pantries to high-need areas reaching across six counties.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, California has been preparing since late February to support increased community needs given the impact on local schools, businesses, college students, and seniors in all 34 cities of Orange County.
USO Central Florida has been taking care of more than 2,500 National Guard members as they respond and support on the front lines to fight COVID-19. National Guard members have moved into Florida to assist in testing centers and at hospitals. USO volunteers also shared a little bit of Disney magic with the USCG Port Canaveral team by delivering some care packages and treats to military workers and their families.
Disney continues to work with Make-A-Wish
Just when the entire world needed a little perspective, Disney celebrated World Wish Day and brought all of us back down to reality. I’ll admit, I was at a point where I was complaining about the amount of work my children were getting from their teachers, complaining about balancing my job while homeschooling my children, and so many other “first world problems.” With my conscience as my guide, it must have known I (and most of the world) needed some guidance.
For 40 years, Disney and Make-A-Wish have worked together to make over 140,000 wishes come true around the globe. Every one of them is special to us, and a chance to celebrate the hope, courage, and perseverance of the amazing children at the heart of every wish experience.
It’s my sincere hope, in writing this article, that anyone reading this will not only feel good but will also be inspired. Since its conception, the Walt Disney Company has been a beacon of light and inspiration. Disney’s light has continued to radiate on a global scale, throughout its 12 parks, spanning across 6 resorts. As a direct result, millions of local communities have felt the warmth of that light and became inspired by #DisneyMagicMoments. I understand that Disney donates on a global level, but I also understand and acknowledge that just one small act can make a world of difference. I don’t have 1 million face masks, but I certainly have 1 or 2 that I could donate to my community. There are several items in my pantry that I could donate to local food shelters. How about you?
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