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Change in the air for kids

Disney goes good by 'Friends'

Summertime means downtime for kids. But the Mouse House is looking to capitalize on the vacation factor by stepping up its “Friends for Change” public service campaign over the next few months.

The goal is to encourage the Disney Channel/Disney XD demo to be proactive in efforts to aid environmental causes, whether it’s a recycling program at school, a beach cleanup day or a promise to replace light bulbs in their home with compact fluorescent bulbs.

The initiative, now in its second year, involves nearly every wing of the Mouse, from the TV channels and Radio Disney to the theme parks, Disney Stores, DisneyNature docu releases and the live events division.

Disney’s kidvid cablers are running a slew of “Friends for Change” spots that point viewers to the Disney.com/projectgreen website to get info on the environment and take action. Users can enter “pledges” to be more eco-friendly; to date the site has logged more than 2 million such promises.

The site also offers kids the chance to vote every quarter on what project or cause (helping endangered sea turtles, installing solar paneling, creating communal green spaces, etc.) will get a $250,000 donation from the Mouse. And there’s a program that allows youths to apply for $500 “seed money” grants to support local projects. Those grassroots stories provide material for the “Friends for Change” interstitials. And Disney stars are enlisted to take part in selected events.

“The goal is to inspire kids and get them to mobilize,” said Adam Sanderson, senior veep of brand marketing for Disney Channels Worldwide. “We put them on the air to show our audience what is possible.”

Disney’s focus on the environment was the result of research into issues that concern kids.

“The environment is the No. 1 thing on their radar,” Sanderson said.

“Friends for Change” recently expanded to Disney’s Latin American outlets and will roll out in Europe this fall. It’s among the most ambitious campaigns the Mouse has ever mounted, said Jennifer Anopolsky, Disney’s senior veep of corporate responsibility.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this that crosses all of our businesses and leverages our best talent and assets against a pro-social cause,” she said.

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