They call themselves the Blanketeers, but they make much more than just blankets.
The Disney volunteers also make booties, caps, pet toys, pet beds, quilts, and most importantly, they make people happy by donating these handmade items to those in need.
It all started in 2007, when a few Walt Disney World Resort cast members wanted to figure out a way to make use of their old VoluntEARS shirts after they received a new batch, and got creative with it. In case you didn’t know, Disney VoluntEARS is a program that organizes a wide array of volunteer activities across the company for cast members to participate in.
Following in the footsteps of fellow Disneyland Resort Blanketeers, a group of crafty VoluntEARS grew by word-of-mouth at Walt Disney World. They continued knitting, crocheting, sewing, and quilting using recycled materials, then they donate the items to hospitals, animal shelters, and other community agencies in need. Take a look at some of the Blanketeers’ works of art:
And their passion was contagious—so much so that over the past year, there has been over 200 cast members contributing to the team! Debbie Weber, an assistant operations manager with the Animal Nutrition Center team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, is one of the active members at Walt Disney World. Describing the inclusivity of the group, Weber said:
“There are folks who say, ‘Ooh, I could probably do that.’ If you don’t crochet or knit, maybe you can braid. Or if you can’t braid, maybe you can cut up shirts—it’s nice that there are opportunities for anyone.”
Here are some braided toys and knotted pillows for pets that are quick and easy to make:
The Blanketeers are a classic example of how teamwork makes the dream work. Sabine Jeunette, an assistant on the administrative team at Walt Disney World and one of the coordinators of the Walt Disney World Blanketeers, mentioned that there isn’t necessarily an annual quota that they set. But if there was, we bet they would have no problem meeting it! Collectively, the Blanketeers donated over 7,600 items in 2016, over 8,500 items in 2017, and Jeunette said she is confident that they’ll break the record once again by the end of this year. Wow, this deserves a round of applause!
But that accomplishment doesn’t come without many hours of dedication from the Blanketeers. And with the Ears to You Grant program, VoluntEARS can receive a grant when hitting various milestones of hours and choose an eligible non-profit to give it to! On top of working on projects during their spare time at home and on lunch breaks, there are weekly crafting meetings that take place in various locations across the Parks, as well as monthly meetings during which VoluntEARS help pack the items to ship off to different community agencies. Jeunette said of their crafting sessions:
“It’s not like an official meeting. We call it a meeting … but it’s just a very fun and relaxing time for us.”
Those are our favorite type of meetings, too.
Albert Intenzo, a project manager working in technology who attends the same weekly meetings as Jeunette, added:
“Our group has actually been together for quite some time, and a lot of the conversation isn’t even about our projects … a lot of the time it’s talking about personal things, catching up with how the kids are doing, what’s going on at work.”
Clearly the Blanketeers are phenomenal multi-taskers, and their results show at the monthly meetings. Weber said:
“The flurry of productivity is amazing … it’s almost this common language of crafting that we have on how to get things done quickly. We have two huge conference room tables that are mounded so high that sometimes you can barely see across the table.”
The best part is that each and every crafted item is unique and made with love by a Blanketeer! If you spot a Hidden Mickey in a blanket, it’s likely to be Intenzo’s work of art. He admitted:
“I see Hidden Mickeys in raindrops, so it’s probably in most of my work.”
We love a good Hidden Mickey! Oftentimes, the talented crafters come up with their own patterns and special finishing touches that they can’t wait to share with the recipients. Weber looks forward to seeing her fellow Blanketeers and what they’ve done at the monthly meetings. She said:
“I could literally spend the whole two hours just going over each individual item and how the person makes it … I think that’s just so inspiring that I leave more motivated than when I showed up.”
After seeing pictures of their wonderful work, we would totally feel the same way. Thank you so much to Sabine Jeunette, Albert Intenzo, and Debbie Weber for sharing their inspiring story with us! Take at look at them in action:
We have to admit, we’re feeling pretty motivated to join the Blanketeers right about now.