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Program offers Disney theme park tickets to community volunteers
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Richard Hurst volunteers Saturday morning at the JA Walters Family YMCA, operating the scoreboard during youth basketball games. Hurst is taking part in Disney’s “Give a Day, Get a Day” program where a volunteer for a day earns a free day at a Disney theme park.

What would you do with a free day at one of the Walt Disney World theme parks?

Would you go to the Magic Kingdom and ride as many rides as possible? Or would you choose the Animal Kingdom and see a giraffe and hippo?

Local organizations have teamed up with Disney to participate in the “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day” program. By volunteering with certain organizations people are able to get a free one-day ticket to the Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World Resort.

The program will continue until tickets are distributed or Dec. 15, whichever comes first; up to eight members in a family can qualify.

The number of hours that people must volunteer is decided upon by the organization.

Brenda Twitty, volunteer coordinator with No One Alone in Dahlonega, heard about the Disney program through commercials and e-mail. She has been receiving four to 15 e-mails a day from people wanting to volunteer and said that the high number of volunteers really does help NOA.

“Domestic violence is a sensitive topic,” Twitty said. “It is refreshing and nice that we have people to help. We are all on the planet together, so it is time we start helping each other.”

Volunteers at NOA are assigned to tasks such as office assistant, activity coordinator, working with children and working at the thrift store providing clothing for women who are rebuilding their lives.

Twitty said that her volunteers are a mix of young, single people, young families and even retirees. She said that a lot of people come to her saying that they feel like they need to be doing something more meaningful with their lives.

Dianne Gilleland, the advocate coordinator with Enotah CASA in Dahlonega, said that the volunteers with CASA go through training, and once they agree to take on a case, they are able to get their free Disney ticket.

“We are the voice for the children,” Gilleland said. “When DFCS gets involved, they go before the judge and the parents can talk, but the child has no one.”

Gilleland said CASA volunteers work with the children and talk to anyone in their lives, be it parents, teachers or doctors.

Ivan Altuzar, the branch executive director for the J.A. Walters Family YMCA in Gainesville, said it has about 45 volunteers set up for the next month. They will help with sports programs, greet members, interact with kids and set up appointments. They will commit three to eight hours to their tasks.

Altuzar said that volunteers will also be helping with a maintenance program in February to revamp the walking trail outside of the YMCA facility.

Altuzar believes that the Disney program is a win-win opportunity.

“It is a way to give back to the community,” Altuzar said. “And at the same time, they have an amazing opportunity to spend vacation with their family.”

Kevin Johnson of Buford was volunteering at the YMCA Saturday by keeping the scoreboard for basketball games. He heard about the Disney program on a commercial and thought that volunteering at the YMCA would be fun.

“Usually the refs run the clock because they don’t have volunteers, so it is nice to know that you are needed,” Johnson said.

Johnson has a special reason for getting the Disney ticket.

“I’m taking my 4-year-old daughter for the first time,” he said.

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