What Is Disney’s VoluntEARS Program?

Disney has brought magic into our lives through theme parks, movies, songs and iconic characters, but another way Disney has touched many people’s hearts is through their philanthropic efforts. From partnering with the Make a Wish Foundation, First Book, and Toys for Tots,  their charitable donations and contributions have been unmatched.

But, you may not know of another way that Walt Disney World has brought magic into people’s hearts. It’s through their VoluntEARS programs. This program is available for cast members and employees and it allows them the opportunity to contribute their time and talents to various causes of their choosing.

“Volunteerism is deeply rooted in our company’s culture and values. Our employees and cast members are passionate and involved citizens in their local communities,” explains Disney.

Disney VoluntEARs
In Florida, Disney VoluntEARs helped with a coastal cleanup. Photo credit: Disney.

Conservation Efforts

An exciting project that the VoluntEARS program has been a part of in the past was helping the Monarch Butterflies. Close to extinction, the Monarch Butterflies desperately needed new habitats for their survival, so hundreds of VoluntEARS came together and planted butterfly-friendly backyard habitats to help increase the population. Many of these habitats can be found all over Disney World and Disney Resorts too. Thanks to the efforts of the Disney Conservation Fund and the VoluntEARS, many different species of butterflies can be spotted all around Disney’s theme parks today. Next time you head to a Disney park, see if you can spot some of these beautiful butterflies. I know I noticed some on our last trip.

Epcot Butterfly
Butterfly spotted on Pluto’s Topiary at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival Photo by Anna Fox (Flickr CC by 2.0)

Helping Local Communities

Not only do the VoluntEARS help with Disney projects, but they also go out into their local communities to make a difference. This year, they partnered with the Boys and Girls Club and helped fill thousands of back bags with essential back to school items for the start of the new school year. They also teamed up with their local food banks and helped deliver food in those communities. They even created handmade booties, caps and blankets and donated them to children’s hospitals and animal shelters. Talk about using their talents for a greater good!

Disney VoluntEars
One of Disney’s core values is to help those in the communities surrounding their theme parks. Photo credit: Disney.com

Volunteer Hours Turned Into Grants

What I found most unique about the VoluntEARS program is that cast members and employees can turn their eligible hours of volunteer service into a financial contribution made by Disney, which is then donated to a charity of the cast members choice. $24 million in grants have been awarded to various charity since 2010 thanks to the countless hours the VoluntEARS have contributed. Just another way that Disney has brought some of the Disney magic, not only into the lives of those in those in need, but also to the Volunteers themselves by honoring and recognizing their work.

Disney Give Kids the World
Disney often partners with local non-profit organization Give Kids the World. Photo Credit: Disney Parks Blog

VoluntEARS Challenge

In celebration of Disney’s 50th year anniversary, the company is launching a 50 for 50 Disney VoluntEARS challenge. Cast members that volunteer 50 hours and attend 50 VoluntEARS events will be awarded specially themed EARidescent commemorative items if the challenge is completed within the allotted time. It surely is a special time to be a part of the Disney family and I personally can’t wait to hear about all the contributions and donations that were made on their behalf.

Disney VoluntEARs Shanghai
The VoluntEARs program is also active in Shanghai. Photo credit: Shanghai Daily

The VoluntEARS program has given cast members and employees a great opportunity to use their talents and time to give back to their communities since 1983.  With more than 12 million hours volunteered, Disney has been an instrumental part of spreading the magic and joy to local communities in need. Next time you spot a VoluntEARS, make sure you congratulate them for all their hard work and for making a vast difference in our communities.

Featured Photo: Disney.

Written by

Lourdes Molina

Contributing Writer

Lourdes is a Florida native who spent many weekends vacationing at the Disney World parks. Now a mom of two boys, living outside of the Charlotte, NC area, she has loved experiencing the Disney magic through the lens of her boys. She looks forward to their annual trip to Florida to see family and of course her old pal Mickey Mouse.

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