May 8th was World Red Cross Day. For many years, Disney and the Red Cross have shared a special relationship. Walt Disney himself served with the Red Cross in France when he was young, and today Disneyland Paris proudly supports this famous organisation.
In 1917, in the middle of the First World War, Walt Disney was just 16 years old. Walt was too young to enlist, but decided to forge his birth year on his passport to sign up for the Red Cross Ambulance Corps in November 1918. Sailing for Le Havre, France, he was initially located near Saint-Cyr-l’École, but was then dispatched to drive ambulances in Paris. Finally, he was send to a Red Cross camp in Neufchâteau, a water transportation hub in the Vosges department. Walt never forgot his first love, drawing, and decorated his ambulances with his work.
More than 100 years have passed since Walt’s time at the Red Cross, but Disneyland Paris and the Red Cross have been working together since the resort opened in 1992. This partnership includes events co-managed by the French Red Cross and the Disney VoluntEARS from The Walt Disney Company and Disneyland Paris.
Once a year, for World First Aid Day, the Red Cross works with the Disney VoluntEARS and children invited to Disneyland Paris to raise awareness about potentially life-saving behaviours. The Corporate Citizenship team also organises Red Cross hospital visits with Disney characters, and often invites families associated with the Red Cross to the resort.
The choice of May 8 for the World Day of the Red Cross is due to the birth anniversary Henry Dunant, founder in 1864 of the Society for Relief of Wounded Soldiers in France. Since 1948, on this day, volunteers of the Red Cross go to meet the public to make known their actions and inspire vocations.