By Tajiana Ancora-Brown, Director of External Affairs, Walt Disney World Resort
Just in time for Earth Month, teams across Walt Disney World have been creatively drawing on the long-standing history of helping to reimagine the patient experience in local children’s hospitals by virtually bringing some fun from our parks straight to the Central Florida community.
Our Animals, Science & Environment cast members have a dedication for connecting the animals they care for with families, fans, Disney cast and the community – especially young children. And when Covid-19 hit, that wasn’t going to halt this team from bringing the magic of nature to children facing serious illness; so, they elevated their creativity to find a new, virtual solution that delivers that same animal education and Disney magic in a whole new way.
Before the pandemic, Dr. Scott Terrell, director, Animals & Science Operations, and his animal care team visited AdventHealth for Children, Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Nemours Children’s Hospital with animals such as rabbits, hedgehogs and birds that brought joy and a welcomed distraction from treatments and the stress of a hospital stay. Our animal care experts would introduce children to these small animals and talk about how they sometimes receive medical care – similar to what they may go through during their experience – aimed to reduce their anxiety and show them the animals were in good hands, just like they would be.
“Our team is devoted to animal care and conservation in our parks, but also in supporting the local community,” said Dr. Scott. “Being able to connect children and families – especially those facing critical illness – to animals and conservation efforts found in our parks is something we are passionate about because we see the positive impact that the magic of nature has on our guests every day.”
The reimagined version of this program virtually connects the magic of nature to children through a series of new videos featuring animals found in our parks and important conservation messages. Then, one of our talented Animation Experience character artists leads them through a learn-to-draw experience of a beloved Disney character – like Dumbo and Simba – inspired by those same animals. With special donated sketch paper and comfort toys like Dumbo plush at their side, patients across Central Florida children’s hospitals are experiencing moments of joy and inspiration as they create their very own masterpieces featuring these adored Disney characters.
This new program – perfectly timed with our Earth Month celebrations – creatively combines our rich legacy of caring for the environment with our ongoing support in local children’s hospitals and helping to reimagine the patient experience. It’s safe to say that I am wild about the devotion and commitment our cast members have for sharing the magic of nature with everyone and inspiring kids, families, our own Disney cast and communities around the world to make the world a better place.