My Experience with the #runDisney VoluntEAR Program

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Photo Credit: runDisney.com

It has been a few months since I volunteered to help during the runDisney Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World®. My daughter and my friends are runners and I regularly go to Disney races as a spectator to chEAR them. Last February I decided I would volunteer to help the organizers at runDisney since I was going to be there anyway, and I always felt just a little left out as my daughter and friends headed out to the races.

Sign-up to volunteer is easy – you simply go the runDisney.com website and scroll all the way down to the bottom. Under the “Other Links” category – click on Volunteers (or click HERE). You will be guided through the process of registering to become a VoluntEAR! You can choose which events you would like to participate in and also choose what assignment you would like. VoluntEARs are needed in many different areas – unwrapping and hanging medals for distribution, water/drink distribution, and working at the Expo prior to the race – are just a few of the spots that voluntEARS are utilized. Volunteers are definitely needed – it takes hundreds of people to work together to keep things moving in an efficient way.

I admit that I had no idea what to expect when I signed up. About a week before the Princess Half Marathon I received an e-mail detailing my instructions for race day. I was instructed to arrive at Blizzard Beach at 3 a.m. When I arrived I was guided through the process of what was expected of me in such a well organized (and typical Disney fashion) that within minutes I was ready to get out there and get to work. I was given a windbreaker (to keep) that identified me as a voluntEAR and some coffee and snacks. I was amazed at the number of people that do this on a regular basis, are not only familiar with the procedures but have also formed friendships with the others they work with regularly. Shortly after arrival we were taken by bus to our work locations. I had signed-up to help distribute water and drinks to the runners as they cross the finish line, so unlike other voluntEARs, I had a bit of free time before the first runner would be making it to our area. While waiting we all worked as a group setting up tables of drinks and snacks so that handing out drinks would be a simple process. runDisney people really have the entire process down to a perfect science.

Several hours later, as the runners started to cross the finish line and drinks, snacks and bags were handed out, I found myself anticipating the arrival of the next runner – chEARing everyone on as they approached the end. Each runner was chEARed on from the first one to cross to the very last one to cross. The time flew by and before I knew it, they were loading us back onto a bus to return to Blizzard Beach to claim our cars.

Before leaving for the day, we were once again given a snack and our “thank you” for volunteering – a one day park pass (that doesn’t expire for one year)! Appreciation is not always a park pass. For smaller races runDisney utilizes a points system where 16 points equals a one day ticket. You will receive one point for every hour worked as a volunteer.

Having done this once, I know I will continue to volunteer for many reasons. The most important reason to me was that I was thrilled to be able to see my daughter and many of my friends as they crossed the finish line! I was no longer just the travel companion and really felt I was a part of their experience. I saw two friends, new to racing, cross the finish line that never thought they would be able to finish and gave them each a huge hug for their success. I have made some new friends that I stay in contact with on Facebook and Twitter – and new friends help make the world go round!