Every year, Disney Friends for Change partners with Youth Service America (YSA) to offer grants “to help make a lasting, positive change in the world.” This year, 60 grants were awarded to participants between the ages of 5-25 and living in cities from Annapolis to Willimantic.
One recipient is Allison Marciniak, a kindergartener at Mackensen Elementary in Bay City, MI. Her project, “Be a Buddy, Not a Bully,” is made up of kids from grades K-5, and the members meet once a week to discuss the effects of – and how to deal with – bullying. The project aims to “[help] kids to understand that bullying hurts but being a buddy feels good.” On Monday, April 29, Marciniak and other members of “Be a Buddy, Not a Bully” made rounds at their elementary school, asking other students to take a pledge not to bully others.
Marciniak said of the grant proposal, “It was something I wanted to do.” Her mother, Karrie, who helps organize “Be a Buddy, Not a Bully,” added, “I’m so proud of her […] she’s a good kid and she cares about people. That’s all I can ask for.”
Other projects that earned grants through Disney Friends for Change this year included a flash mob in New Mexico to raise awareness of climate change, a carnival in California to raise funds for Comfort Zone Camp, and a project designed to raise awareness of the extinction of wild tigers. Several other groups received funding to help disseminate gently used books, to donate food to needy families, and to provide community education about environmental issues. And another grant was given for a second anti-bullying program in California.
YSA partners with several companies, including Disney, to help improve communities across the country. According to their mission statement, “the impact of YSA’s work through service and service-learning is measured in student achievement, workplace readiness, and healthy communities.”
The Disney Friends for Change (FFC) initiative began in 2009 as a way of encouraging fans to get involved and take action to help protect the environment. The movement has become so popular with stars and fans that in the summer of 2011 the first Disney’s Friends for Change Games replaced the Disney Channel Games on the Disney Channel.