Reina P. Cunningham
Members of ‘52 Weeks of Giving’ arrived at the Middlesboro Community Center at 5:30 a.m. on Friday. Despite the early hour, the kids were bright eyed, anticipating the celebration about to take place.
‘52 Weeks’ won a nationwide contest sponsored by Good Morning America (GMA) and Disney Parks. The small town group competed against 387 other teams in “Good Morning America’s Disney Time Hometown Celebration” contest.
Upon arrival, guests were checked off the guest list and received a Disney Park pin to wear as their ticket to main party room.
Guests also received Mickey ears to wear and a Disney gift bag containing a Disney disposable camera and a Disney photo album, complete with autograph pages so the kids could get autographs of all the Disney stars in attendance.
At 7 a.m., the doors to the event opened and a Disney wonderland was revealed. The kids could not quit grinning as they were greeted by numerous Disney characters — Cinderella, Snow White, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, Goofy, Pluto, Sophia the Great, Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Lilo and Stitch.
Co-founders Libby Edwardson and CindyWyatt were overjoyed, tearing up as they watched the children enter the room.
After having their pictures taken with Disney characters, the group celebrated on the dance floor with DJ Renee.
Popular Disney songs blasted through the speakers and the kids followed Renee’s lead as they learned new dances.
Renee shot toilet paper streamers out into the crowd, while the kids were dancing with Disney characters.
Later, she passed out toy guitars and the ‘52 Weeks’ kids held a boy verses girl band competition.
Before shooting footage for the show, GMA’s Cameron Mathison danced with the kids, posed for pictures and signed autographs.
At the end of the event, Disney Public Relations Manager Annette Gibbs presented the co-founders with gifts for the program. In addition to a brand new camera, camcorder, stand and extra batteries and supplies, the group received 52 Walmart gift cards valued at $52 a piece to buy any supplies the group may need in the future weeks of giving.
The group was also given a banner signed by GMA and Disney cast and crew.
Gibbs turned the microphone over to Edwardson and Wyatt who were again brought to tears as they addressed their kids and the community.
“You have inspired me with your dedication,”said Edwardson. “You are all wonderful kids and I hope that you never let anyone tell you different.”
“You think adults teach children, but that’s not it,” continued Wyatt. “These kids teach me everyday about kindness, compassion and love.”
The co-founders were not the only ones brought to tears at the event.
GMA producer Liz Sintay was also wiping away tears. “I have never met another group of kids so deserving,” said Sintay.
The footage from today’s party has been delayed for airing due to the ongoing situation concerning the Boston bombings. The coverage will air on Monday.
Reach Reina P. Cunningham at 606-248-1010, ext. 205, firstname.lastname@example.org.