Disney donates $20K to Florida school after fire destroys instruments

Donation leaves students speechless

CLERMONT, Fla. – It was a magical day at East Ridge High School on Friday as the school's marching band received a $20,000 donation from Walt Disney World to help them replace instruments and equipments that were destroyed in a fire.

Jack Hart, the director of the school band in Clermont, implored the community to help.

"We are in dire need of replacement instruments, and we are reaching out to our community and co-workers and fellow band directors," Hart told News 6 on Saturday.

Disney answered that call by delivering the check as students gasped, cheered and clapped. Mickey Mouse -- decked out in a vibrant red marching band ensemble -- also made an appearance at the event.

"We wanted to do something that would truly make a difference, so therefore we decided to make a $20,000 donation, in addition to all of the contributions that we've seen rolling in from the rest of the community, so we really hope that this helps," said Rena Langley, senior vice president of public affairs at Walt Disney World Resort.

It was personal for Langley. As she took the stage in an auditorium filled with young musicians, she told them Hart was the band director at Leesburg High School when she was a student there.

"You really couldn't have a better person leading you through a difficult time than Mr. Hart," Langley said.

Members of the school's band program said they were genuinely shocked by Disney's generous surprise.

"I'm a little speechless. I wasn't really expecting such a huge donation," East Ridge senior Winona Scott said. "I know for a fact our band has become stronger together, and it's really great to see that everyone in the band community is helping out as well."

The fire, which was ruled accidental, caused about $200,000 in damages. A  GoFundMe page set up in the aftermath of the blaze raised more than $16,000, although the campaign has since ended.

Hart said he's stunned by the outpouring of support.

"We had no idea this was going to be going on and we're just so appreciative. I can assure you that my students, my parents is very grateful and my principal, the Lake County school board, we're extremely appreciative of what Disney's doing for us," he said.


About the Author:

Adrienne Cutway

Adrienne Cutway joined News 6's digital team in October 2016 to cover breaking news, crime and community interest stories. She graduated from the University of Central Florida and began her journalism career at the Orlando Sentinel.

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