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Organizations: Disney VoluntEARS helps youth in need

August 14, 2010
(Suzanne Turpin )

The Walt Disney Co. employees recently gave a group of young people — most of whom have experienced little happiness in their lives — reason to smile.

Specifically, Disney VoluntEARS — an organization membered by employees of the Walt Disney Co. (and its affiliate companies) that supports a broad range of charitable, community efforts — launched a coast-to-coast donation drive to benefit the young men and women served by Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services' Transitional Independent Living Program and its Full Service Partnership for Transitioning Age Young Adults program.

Members of Disney VoluntEARS were introduced to Hathaway-Sycamores — a provider of children and adolescent mental-health services in Los Angeles County — by John Vandemore, chief financial officer of Walt Disney Imagineering and a Hathaway-Sycamores' board member.

In a coast-to-coast video conference attended by Disney VoluntEARS' members in Burbank and Anaheim, as well as in Orlando, Fla., Vandemore — along with Hathaway-Sycamores' Executive Vice President of Development Rob Myers — provided an overview of the agency's services.

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Hathaway-Sycamores provides housing and support services for youth ages 18 to 21 who are transitioning from foster care to independent living. For those ages 16 to 26 who are struggling with mental-health challenges, Hathaway-Sycamores offers the a program designed to reduce psychiatric hospitalizations, prevent homelessness, and to help program participants secure housing, education and employment.

Disney VoluntEARS also heard from Shaquenta McDonald, who explained how Hathaway-Sycamores' program changed her life. McDonald, now 20, was in the foster-care system from the age of 14, and a longtime victim of abuse.

In her senior year of high school, McDonald moved from foster care into Hathaway-Sycamores' Transitional Independent Living Program, through which she was provided housing as well as a job at King Ranch Market in Pasadena.

Today, McDonald is employed by Hathaway-Sycamores, and is working toward a degree that will enable her to serve as one of the agency's therapeutic behavioral specialists.

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