LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., July 14, 2017 – They fed the hungry, sewed blankets to bring warmth on cold nights, inspired others to give back and so much more. Their actions are guided by their deep caring and continues a longstanding commitment to volunteerism. These Disney Cast Members were recently awarded with the Disney VoluntEARS Family of the Year, Disney VoluntEARS Team of the Year and Disney VoluntEAR of the Year. Collectively, the 17 individuals who work on different teams at Walt Disney World Resort served more than 2,500 hours in the community last year, and they’re just getting started.
“Our incredible group of Disney VoluntEARS award recipients represent the over 6,500 Disney VoluntEARS who gave their time last year to bring hope, encouragement and support wherever they could,” said Nancy Gidusko, director of Corporate Citizenship at the Walt Disney World Resort. “In 2016 alone, Walt Disney World VoluntEARS dedicated over 262,000 volunteer hours to charitable organizations in their local communities.”
These annual volunteer awards are presented to Disney Cast Members who make a difference in Central Florida. As part of the recognition, VoluntEARS of the Year honorees are each presented with a $2,500 charitable grant from The Walt Disney Company to go toward a nonprofit organization of their choice. These grants of $7,500 are in addition to the more than $1.4 million in Ears to You Grants that The Walt Disney World Company will donate to local nonprofit organizations on behalf of its Cast Members who contributed 10 or more VoluntEAR hours during the past year.
The Berning family, the 2017 Disney VoluntEARS Family of the Year, focused their volunteer efforts on bringing the family together. Cast Members Mark, a lead database engineer, and Kristian, a labor and staffing analyst, found opportunities to serve with their 10-year-old daughter Lauren. The family’s favorite project of the year was blanket making for the Disney Blanketeers. The family of three contributed over 130 hours making blankets for donation, even getting their grandparents and great-grandparents involved. The Bernings will continue bringing families together by contributing their $2,500 grant to Florida Elks Charities.
The Walt Disney World Workforce Management team continually looks for ways to inspire their Cast Members to get involved in the community, organizing several ongoing team volunteer events monthly. The core group of 13 members was recognized as the 2017 Disney VoluntEARS Team of the Year. The Workforce Management VoluntEARS estimate they served over 25,000 meals in 2016 at local charities, and the team decided to donate their $2,500 grant to Second Harvest Food Bank help the nonprofit continue its mission to distribute food to 550 local nonprofit feeding programs in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Brevard and Volusia county.
Transportation Manager Nancy Vidarte was recognized as the 2017 Disney VoluntEAR of the Year for her service to more than a dozen volunteer initiatives. Nancy served as a Disney Loaned Executive for the 2014 Heart of Florida United Way campaign where she learned firsthand about the impact volunteers can have on their community. Nancy stays connected to Lighthouse of Central Florida, serving as a project lead for the organization’s Sight and Sole Walkfest. Nancy can continue shining a light on the organization and furthering its ability to affect lives in a positive way with her $2,500 grant contribution.
“Nancy’s ongoing dedication to Lighthouse throughout the year makes such a difference for our organization,” said Kyle Johnson, Vice President & Chief Sustainability Officer, Lighthouse Central Florida/Lighthouse Works. “Disney VoluntEARS always bring a little extra magic to the work we do, and we are thrilled to have established partnership relationship with both Disney and Nancy, and look forward to her continued volunteerism with our organization through 2017.”
The award recipients were honored at an event held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort on June 26. In attendance were representatives from each of the recipients recognized non-profits.