Tips From Disney Expert: Make a Difference in Your Community

One of our favorite parts about being Disney Ambassadors is getting to go out into the community and make a difference along with our fellow Disney VoluntEARS. Since it’s still January, and New Year’s resolutions are still top of mind, here are a few ideas we have for you to get involved in your community, too.

Start with small acts of kindness.

The smallest actions can make a big impact on another person. Try to be on the lookout for simple ways you can help those around you, wherever you may go. Pay it forward by covering the next person in line at your coffee shop. Give a stranger a compliment. Do a favor for a coworker (or fellow cast members, as we call them).

Help the people around you.

Your community includes your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors. Maybe a friend needs a hand moving into a new apartment or a family member could use help cleaning up after dinner. Perhaps a busy parent you know would appreciate if you offered to babysit their kids for a few hours. Like with our first tip, small acts of kindness can go a long way.

Clean it up.

One of the easiest ways to get started making a difference in your community is to help clean up the spaces around you. Head to the beach or a local park to pick up trash. Even when you’re out and about, running errands, pick up a piece of trash you see and throw it away. As cast members, we never leave a piece of trash on the ground at the resort. You, too, can bring this Disney Difference into your own community.

Donate what you can.

If you have an organization that is important to you, any little bit you can donate helps. You can also make a difference by donating your time to that organization—ask if they have a need for a new volunteer! Another way you can donate is by giving away gently used clothes, shoes or household items you don’t want anymore. Here at the Disneyland Resort, we regularly hold clothing and food drives to benefit local nonprofits. You, too, can find an organization near you that will take your donated items and find them a new home.

Find your passion.

It’s easy to spend your time volunteering if it’s for a cause you care about. Our Disney VoluntEARS program offers cast members many opportunities to volunteer with organizations they care about. Find something that interests you personally and look for ways to get involved. Maybe you love working with children, the elderly or animals—whatever you may have a passion for, there are many local organizations that need volunteers. As Disney Ambassadors, these are some of our favorite, simple ways to make a difference in the community. Like all of our Disney VoluntEARS, we hope you’re inspired to make your community a better place.


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Cool Disney Jobs: Helping Others Help Others

Name: Quinn Shurian
Role: Corporate Citizenship Specialist
Years with the Company: 25
Hometown: Newbury Park, CA
Interests: Making quilts, baking and visiting local theme parks

Q: Please tell us about your role.

A. I lead all of our Disney VoluntEARS efforts at the Disneyland Resort, which means I get to provide ways for our cast members to give back. I do this by coordinating all of our volunteer projects out in the community and leading cast-facing campaigns like our annual clothing and canned food drives, fundraisers for CHOC Children’s and more.

Q: How did you get to be in this role?

A. I served as Disney Ambassador from 2009–2010. During that time, I got to be a part of many of our community outreach programs, whether it was collecting toys for Toys for Tots, or blood drives or visiting children in hospitals. Those experiences are what ignited my passion for the community.

Q: Why did you first want to work at the Disneyland Resort?

A. Being a Southern California native, Disneyland was a huge part of my upbringing. It’s always been the place to go to celebrate with friends and family. One year in school, I needed to write a report on something and I chose Disneyland and Walt Disney. I remember sending a letter to Disneyland asking some general questions and in response, I received an envelope filled with fun facts, biographies and more! That extra bit of magic was the point when I knew this was where I needed to work.

Q: What is your favorite part of your role?

A. I love that at the end of each of my projects, I get to see how many people we’re helping. To know that I have a hand in making that difference is the most incredible part of my job.

Q: Which of your projects has been most memorable for you and why?

A. Toys for Tots is always one of my favorites. It’s not often you get to see the fruits of your labor in such an impactful way. Seeing thousands of toys loaded onto a truck is such a rewarding feeling! You know how many days you can brighten in that one instant.

Q: How does it feel to bring cast members so many opportunities to give back?

A. It’s an incredible feeling. We try very hard to have a variety of options that will appeal to a broad audience. It’s important to find something anyone can get behind and support. Whether it’s time, talent or treasure, it’s important to me to give everyone an opportunity to help make a difference.


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A New Beginning with Disney Aspire

For many of us, the start of a new year signifies new beginnings—a chance to set new goals and make changes in our lives to achieve them. Mark Gautier, a houseman at the Disneyland Hotel, knows all about the significance of a fresh start.

In 2013, Mark fell into a coma after going into diabetic shock. “My kidneys failed, my heart stopped three different times and, by the grace of God, the team of doctors and nurses working on me were able to revive me,” Mark recalled. When he awoke from the coma two weeks later, Mark was determined to lose weight, get healthy and make the most of his second chance at life.

In order to make exercise more fun, he and his now-wife, Vanessa, got Disneyland Resort annual passes. Mark didn’t expect to fall in love with the parks. “A few weeks after coming here, I just said, ‘I want to work here,”’ Mark remembered. “It was the ambiance, the detail, the artwork, I was amazed by everything and I wanted to be part of it.”

Since then, Mark has lost about 150 pounds, got married and, in 2016, was hired at the Disneyland Hotel. He and Vanessa are now the proud parents of a 1-year-old daughter—and Mark is pursuing new dreams in a way he never thought possible.

One of the most difficult challenges during Mark’s illness was the loss of his ability to write and draw, an effect of his coma. Growing up in Santa Ana, Mark had always been inspired by street art and loved recreating it in his own style. “I was devastated because I’ve always loved the arts and I thought I lost the ability to do it all,” Mark said. Today, Mark is not only creating art again but is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in graphic design through Disney Aspire, the free education investment program for hourly cast members. Mark enrolled in the online program last March and is working toward his bachelor’s degree.

“It’s important to me to make the most of Disney Aspire because it gives me another chance, not just for myself but for my family,” Mark said.

“I want my daughter to grow up and for her to be proud of me. I want to be her role model, to show her that it’s never too late and to not give up on anything she wants to do in life.” Mark has his own big dreams—he hopes to someday work at Walt Disney Imagineering to become part of creating the magic that inspired his own journey. “I was already given a chance at another life, and once Disney Aspire came about, it was just another chance,” Mark said. “I have so much to look forward to now.”

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Community: Guests and cast members donate more than 11,000 toys for Toys for Tots

Disneyland Resort hosted a Toys for Tots drive last month for guests and cast members to donate toys for less fortunate children in Orange County. More than 11,000 toys were collected at backstage locations, and the Downtown Disney District, with U.S. Marines on hand to collect the donations.

Disney’s tradition of supporting the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots program dates back to Walt Disney, who personally supervised the creation of the Toys for Tots logo, which is still in use today. Disney artists even designed the first Toys for Tots promotional posters, as part of Disney’s founding sponsorship of the program when it began in 1947.

Today, Disney continues its strong support of the program. Since 2006, Disneyland Resort guests and cast members have donated nearly 175,000 toys to Toys for Tots.

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History & Heritage: “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade Rings in 25 Seasons; Cast Members First to Experience the Holiday Classic This Year

Ever since its premiere in 1995 at Disneyland park, “A Christmas Fantasy” parade has been a must-see for guests visiting during the holidays. Whether it’s Santa Claus and his reindeer or the beloved toy soldiers, every member of the family has a favorite part of this classic parade.

Cast member Kelsie Blackwell, who has been working at Disneyland Resort for 11 years, started performing in “A Christmas Fantasy” parade her very first year. Over the years, guests have seen Kelsie as a Candlelight Ball Dancer in the “Christmas Ball”; as a Candy Baker in the “Candy Shop”; at the back of the parade during the big finale featuring Santa’s sleigh; or even on Green Army Patrol.

“It’s a parade that I didn’t know much about when I started,” she admits. “Now, 11 years later, it’s become a tradition for me, too. When you look out, and you see parents who are saying, ‘Oh look, here come the snow people!,’ or ‘Here come the gingerbread cookies!’—and they’re pointing out the characters to their kids … it’s really cool that we can be a part of passing that tradition on, generation to generation.”

Kelsie is most proud of the community of cast members—performers and technicians alike—who come together to bring holiday enchantment to guests each day. “It’s a beautiful, magical parade,” she says. “But it takes a lot of people to make that magic happen … all the hair and makeup people, the costuming people, the float drivers, and all the maintenance people— there really is a lot of pixie dust going on. After all these years, it’s still baffling to me that everybody’s making this happen like clockwork. It’s one of my favorite things about working here!”

This year, Disneyland Resort cast members were invited to a special, cast-exclusive preview of “A Christmas Fantasy” parade. Nearly 1,800 cast members enjoyed the opportunity with hot cocoa and candy canes. The seasonal parade runs through Jan. 6.

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Tips From Disney Expert: Visiting Disneyland Resort During the Holidays

The holiday season is one of the most popular times to visit Disneyland Resort. To help plan your trip, here are our tips for visiting during the holidays, now through Jan. 6!

1. Don’t miss “A Christmas Fantasy” parade: Sometimes, we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season that we lose sight of what it’s all about. That’s why we love escaping to Disneyland Resort this time of year, especially to watch “A Christmas Fantasy” parade. Arrive early and once you have an ideal spot, consider asking a member of your party to pick up some hot cocoa or holiday churros for the group to enjoy while waiting for the parade.

2. Plan a special holiday dining experience: Consider booking a special dining package or a guided tour such as the “Holiday Time at the Disneyland Resort” guided tour. The tour includes heartwarming holiday stories combined with reserved seating for “A Christmas Fantasy” parade. With so many delectable eats and treats around the resort, try as much as possible with a Disney Festival of Holidays Sip and Savor Pass. This allows you to taste your way around the Festival Foods Marketplace locations, sampling a variety of multicultural holiday dishes.

3. Experience holiday attraction overlays: The holidays mean the return of favorite attraction transformations including “it’s a small world” Holiday. Head toward “it’s a small world” Holiday after sunset to watch an even more impressive sight the
attraction’s façade lighting! During holiday evenings, guests can experience this special lighting every 30 minutes with thousands of twinkling lights. Other seasonal attraction transformations include Haunted Mansion Holiday, Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl.

4. Take home Disney PhotoPass photos: Cherish your holiday memories for years to come by taking home your Disney PhotoPass photos. Unlimited downloads of your photos are complimentary when you add Disney MaxPass to your theme park tickets. Plus, you can get every member of you party in the photos since they’re taken by a Disneyland Resort photographer.

5. Meet Santa Claus: Direct from the North Pole, guests can meet Santa Claus through Dec. 24 at Disneyland Resort theme parks and hotels. Our favorite spot to meet him is at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail because we love the lush forest setting. We recommend downloading the Disneyland app to help you track down Santa. You never know where his reindeer will lead him!

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Cool Disney Jobs: On the Scent

Disneyland Resort has a comprehensive approach to security that includes measures that are visible and others that are not. This includes the presence of trained security dogs to help patrol Disneyland Resort property. Three cast members on the “Pluto” team, Rex, Gus and Andy, recently took a photo with their pal Pluto for National Dog Day. Although they have a strong work ethic in common, each has a unique personality.


Role: Security K-9 Years with the Company: 2 Hometown: Budimir, Slovakia Interests: Loves to show his Mohawk when he is not working Rex’s handler, Robert, says, “Rex is known for his silly antics, but he can be serious, too. He’s dedicated to tracking down his favorite characters, Woody and Buzz.”


Role: Security K-9
Years with the Company: 4
Hometown: United Kingdom
Interests: Cheese and taking photos
Gus’ handler, Shannon, says, “Gus is a big goofball who loves to jump around and work for me. Gus is a cheese gourmet and uses his expert nose to find only the best!”


Role: Security K-9
Years with the Company: 4
Hometown: Borken, Germany
Interests: Work and his rubber toy
Andy’s handler, Mo, says, “Andy loves playing with his toys, and is full of energy! He especially loves interacting with Mr. Potato Head at Toy Story Mania! in Disney California Adventure park.”

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