ORLANDO, Fla. — (TODAY) - When Tom and Sarah Bricker, a couple who runs the Disney Tourist Blog, discovered the folks who run their favorite theme park were in need, they couldn't stand idly by.
Like many destinations that revolve around tourism, food and large crowds, the "Happiest Place on Earth" has been among businesses struggling since the pandemic. In March, Disney World parks in Orlando, Florida were forced to close for nearly four months before reopening amidst rising coronavirus cases in July. Disney Land in Anaheim, California remained shuttered. While its parks were shut down, the company temporarily furloughed thousands of workers with continued health benefits. And then, on Sept. 29, Disney laid off 28,000 employees across its parks, experiences and consumer products segment, CNBC reported.
"These are the jobs of 28,000 people. The real world impact of this is colossal on those individuals and their families, and again, I cannot fathom how devastating this must be," the Brickers wrote on their blog followed by a call to action. "Even before the latest round of Walt Disney World layoffs, there had already been a devastating and lasting impact on those who work in the travel and tourism industries."
To help, the Brickers set up a virtual fundraiser to a nearby food bank called Second Harvest, one that had been very active in the Central Florida community during the pandemic. Although the Brickers could not be reached by email for comment on Monday, they said in the post that they had made a $500 donation — and then asked readers to match it.
And then, like something straight out of a storybook, people around the country were inspired to help the many affected workers who had dedicated their lives to making people happy.
As of Monday, Erika Spence, a spokesperson for Second Harvest of Central Florida said the Brickers' fundraiser had climbed to $47,000 — and counting!
"This is the largest virtual food drive in the history of Second Harvest," Spence told TODAY Food. "Virtual food drives are an online fundraising tool that allows individuals or groups to rally together to raise funds and provide more meals to people in need in the community."
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is also based in Orlando, Florida but distributes food to theme park employees in need in six counties, including Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach and Kennedy Space Center.
According to Spence, every dollar raised allows the organization to purchase four meals for families. With the funds raised, they'll be able to provide 188,000 meals.
"So many Cast Members have made so much magic for all of us over the years, and this should help to begin to repay a little of that," the Brickers said.