They could have met Mickey, but chose to help others

Hazen High School students spend time volunteering over fun at Disney World

Twelve Hazen students spent part of their week in Orlando, Florida volunteering their time at a resort for children with life-threatening illnesses, when they could have been at a theme park.

Students in the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) club, attended an international conference at the end of April. DECA is a club that prepares students for jobs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. Students spend about an hour each week with the club.

Some of the student’s initially didn’t want to volunteer. Hazen DECA advisor and marketing teacher Renee Crow said she overheard them wish they could go to the theme parks.

But when she approached them after volunteering, they said it was great to see all the park does to help these families, and give them something to look forward to.

“I think they got out of it what I was hoping, (that) we need to give back and help each other, that’s what makes the world a good place,” she said.

Crow knew about the resort her students volunteered at from personal experience.

In 2015, Crow’s young son was diagnosed with Leukemia. Once he finished treatment, he was contacted by Make-a-Wish Foundation, and he chose a trip to Disney World.

Then Make-a-Wish coordinated Crow and her family to stay at Give Kids the World Village, a nonprofit resort that’s free for the families. It accommodates those with critical illnesses, often in Orlando, to attend other resorts like Disney World, for week-long vacations.

The families trips are planned with the help of Give Kids the World, to ease the burden off of parents. Crow said while staying there, her son received a new present to their villa each day, and free, 24/7 pizza ordering.

Each family that attends the resort is sent a Candy Land board game, which the resort is themed after. The Hazen volunteers helped prepare the back order of these games to ship to families.

“We were there for four hours and it was exhausting,” Crow said. “If we wouldn’t have done that it would take much longer for those families to receive those gifts.”

Crow is really into volunteering, so DECA club members participate in various services like Light the Night and making pillow cases for Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Then they write papers about the event to connect it back to the marketing club, and that community service is important for modern companies.

“It’s really important a business knows they need to be part of the community,” Crow said. “By showing (the students) how important it is to give back, they transfer that knowledge to any company they go to. Additionally, (DECA) has competitions about community service.”

The annual international DECA conference rotates locations, so this was Crow’s first time taking Hazen students to Orlando. Last year they took two students to Atlanta.

Crow said the chapter is growing, which was surprising. She said she thought the switch to trimesters might make attendance shrink.

She was also previously involved with DECA at Lake Washington School District, and says she thinks the students at Hazen have a better perspective on what a gift it is to travel and learn something new.

Two students hadn’t flown before, or stayed in hotels, several had never been to a Disney theme park, which they did get to attend at one point in the week. Crow said she got to know the kids more on the trip.

“I feel really blessed I get a chance to know kids more than if they were just in my class,” Crow said.

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