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ANN CONWAY

Bright Idea

Bulbs From Waning Disney Parade Will Have a Chance to Shine for Charity

August 05, 1996|ANN CONWAY

Only the Disneyland dream-makers would think of it: sell used lightbulbs to brighten the lives of children.

More than 300,000 bulbs from the Anaheim park's Main Street Electrical Parade--which makes its final march on Oct. 15--will be packaged and sold by mail order at $10 each, Disneyland executives announced last week.

Proceeds, projected at more than $1 million, will be divided among 18 Orange County charities "who seek to improve the quality of life for children," said Paul Pressler, president of the Disneyland Resort, during a ceremony at the park.

Pressler isn't sure who came up with the idea.

"I think we were joking around one day at a meeting and someone said we should do this--sell the bulbs for charity.

"Four people laughed and then we all said, 'Let's do it!' It really is a wonderful opportunity to reach out, give something back to the community."

Don Laffoon sure thinks so. "I am so pleased the Disney folks are once again responding to the community in such a generous way," said Laffoon, founder of STOP-GAP, a nonprofit organization that uses theater to teach schoolchildren about drug abuse, racial prejudice, alcoholism and date rape.

Laffoon was among about 50 charity leaders honored at an evening reception held in a small Disneyland restaurant, Aladdin's Oasis.

Amid jewel-toned tables set with gold genie lamps, guests sipped soft drinks and sampled pastries under silk canopies hung with incense burners.

Marilyn McCorkle, president of the Assistance League of Anaheim, had a check for $500 tucked in her pocketbook.

"I'm ordering 50 bulbs tonight," she said. "They will make wonderful Christmas gifts."

Addressing the crowd, Bill Ross, Disneyland's vice president of public affairs, said orders were already pouring in for the bulbs. "One man called and said he wanted 100 of them, but he wanted them on a string!"

Sorry, but the lightbulbs--about the size you would find on an old-fashioned Christmas tree--come only in small, commemorative boxes.

Ross will order dozens for holiday gift-giving. "What better way to celebrate Christmas than give a gift that gives back to a child?"

After the reception, the charity leaders--escorted by Disneyland volunteers--were led down the park's Main Street to a special parade viewing area.

As they walked, they passed hundreds of small children seated on curbs, in strollers and on the shoulders of their parents, waiting for the 24-year-old Electrical Parade to begin.

The special guests took their seats near the Small World ride, and were given hats commemorating the glowing spectacle's "farewell season."

"I'm going to miss this parade," McCorkle said, sadly. "It's one of the landmarks of Disneyland."

(As she spoke, a recorded announcement came from the loudspeaker, beckoning guests to come to the all new Magical Light Celebration in 1997!)

Chris VanGorder, president and CEO of Anaheim Memorial Medical Center, has seen the parade "at least a dozen times," he said. "I love the dragon; he's my children's favorite too."

The parade highlight for Chris Argubright, director of Anaheim Girls & Boys Club, are "those little snails that go twirling and whirling around," he said.

"There are four or five little bug--things that just run around--that's the neatest part for me. And for my kids."

Laffoon called parades "therapeutic."

"A parade lets us know there is a celebration," he said. "And we all, especially today, need more opportunities to celebrate.

"As a snare drum player, I've been in lots of parades. But on a hot day like today, a snare drum player would wish he played the piccolo."

The charity leaders stood transfixed as the brilliantly lit parade passed by, its towering fairy godmother and dragon ablaze with sapphire, tangerine and flame-colored lights.

Deadpanned one Disneyland spokesman: "It won't be long before this parade is "glowing, glowing, gone."

Additional charities in the Disneyland outreach include the Anaheim Community Foundation, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Orange County, Child Abuse Prevention of Orange County, Discovery Science Center, March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, Orange County Community Foundation and Orange County Special Olympics.

Also, Pediatric Adolescent Diabetes Research Education Foundation, Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, Providence Speech and Hearing Center, St. Joseph Ballet and United Way of Orange County.

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