Wednesday, August 7, 2013

An Alternative Activity Idea for Your Walt Disney World Vacation

When you think of a Walt Disney World vacation, what comes to mind?  Theme parks?  Of course!  Water parks, character dining, Downtown Disney?  Sure thing!  Drinking or Desserts Around the World?  Most definitely!  Volunteering at a sports event?  That's right!  Wait, what?

What do I mean, volunteering...you're on vacation to relax and have fun, right?  What's this volunteering thing have to do with that?

The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World plays hosts to lots of sporting events, from the hugely popular runDisney endurance races like the Disney Marathon to track & field, soccer, Special Olympics and even field hockey events.  And the one thing all these events have in common is the need for hundreds of volunteers to help out so all the games, races and other activities can occur without a hitch.  Sure, there's lots of locals that like to volunteer for these events, but there's always plenty of room for visitors as well.
My sister-in-law and I volunteering at the bag check station for last January's 5K
My personal experience volunteering while at WDW is during the various runDisney race events.  There's lots of positions available, like packet pickup (where runners pick up their race number, shirt and goody bag), water stops along the race course, bag check and the finish line (make a runner's day by draping a finisher's medal around their neck!).  They even have spots available for those that are certified/licensed in different medical areas for the medical tents.  I've tried a little of everything and I'll tell you, it's not hard and doesn't even need to take a lot of your time.  For the races, shifts are usually anywhere from 5-7 hours depending on the type of event and what you'll be doing.
Here I am volunteering at the Expedition Everest Challenge Family Edition event-I helped set up the medal racks, then worked the food table handing out snacks for participants once they finished the race
Think this sounds interesting but don't want to spend your time without getting something in return?  Depending on the event, you'll normally receive a shirt or jacket that you get to keep, a snack box for your shift (usually a sandwich, chips or fruit-sometimes both, maybe a bag of nuts or trail mix plus bottled water), plus as you work, the hours you put in accumulate and once you hit 16 hours, Disney Sports will mail you a one-day, one-park ticket good at any of the four WDW theme parks.  The ticket usually expires a year from it's issue date.  If you are volunteering at one of the longer endurance races like a half marathon or the marathon and work a shift on race day, you'll actually get a free one-day one-park ticket just for working that shift!
Wouldn't you love to get a free park ticket just for volunteering your time?
But more importantly, you'll have a feeling of accomplishment, and of giving back to the community by helping others.  Plus, you're going to have fun.  You can cheer on participants, help encourage them while they compete, and be there to witness their emotional and physical triumphs on the course or field.

My friends on the Running of the Ears website/forum (a group of really fun people who like to run Disney races and support each other while doing so) know I love to head to WDW for their races, but you know--I'm actually getting more addicted to volunteering while I'm there!  Want to check out the volunteer opportunities?  Click here to see the Disney Sports Volunteer page for a listing of events and to register.  But be sure to keep checking back on their page-many events will fill up fast, some even on the day they open for registration!  It is possible to get put on a wait list if you don't get in, and quite often those on the wait list are needed to fill in last minute spots, call-outs and no-shows.  Be aware though, there is a minimum age to volunteer...and you can't bring younger children along with you.  The youngest age I've seen is 12 to be able to volunteer.

So if you're looking for a different kind of experience while at Walt Disney World, be sure to check out the volunteer opportunities with Disney Sports to see if there are any events going on while you're there...you'll be glad you did!

Have you ever volunteered at an event while at WDW?  How was your experience?

**Feedback requested-I'm an Annual Passholder, so since I don't need the park ticket for myself, I'm thinking of making part of the August giveaway.  So what do you think, would you want to win a one-day, one-park ticket?  It is not upgradable since it is a comp ticket.  I'll be announcing the August giveaway within the next week, so any feedback would be appreciated!**

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