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Disney is Cape Elizabeth family's reward for volunteer efforts

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Disney is Cape Elizabeth family's reward for volunteer efforts

CAPE ELIZABETH — Kim and Chris Gillies have made a point to give back to their community, and with the help of their two daughters, have made it a family routine. 

Chris, Kim and daughters Zoe, 13, and Christie, 10, volunteer in Cape Elizabeth and were recently recognized for their efforts.

Kim Gillies said her family was nominated by their friends Sue and Joe Guerette, who are part of the HandsOn Network, an organization with the largest volunteer network in the nation. It is the volunteer-based arm of the Points of Light Institute.

Gillies said they were selected to be the Maine's representatives in the Give a Day, Get a Disney Day program in Orlando, Fla., where they were recognized for their commitment to volunteerism.

As a way to thank and honor the families who give back to their communities, Disney Parks and the HandsOn Network gathered more than 100 families from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Canada, and gave them a pass to the Disney theme park for a day. The family's flight, lodging and food were included, too.

"In return, we were asked to give one day to volunteer," Gillies said.

She said they witnessed the unveiling of the largest canned food sculpture, and then volunteers were asked to dismantle the 115,000 cans and box them for delivery to local food pantries. Volunteers also filled bags of toiletries for people in Haiti, and trees were planted throughout central Florida.

"It was a chance of a lifetime," Gillies said. "We were so happy to be able to contribute, and we all felt grateful we could participate."

For several years the family has organized ways to reach out and help animals, senior citizens, fire and police officers, the homeless, sick and hungry.

When then 6-year-old Zoe wanted to participate in a service club, but there was nothing available, the family created their own group and invited friends and neighbors to join. As the children grew, so did the club, turning into a neighborhood tradition.

"Our girls really embrace volunteering," Gillies said. "Christie comes up with these sweet ideas to help animals. She has such a huge heart."

Some of the community projects sparked by the Gillies family include a Christmas Caroling Wagon Ride to benefit the Wayside Soup Kitchen, Thanksgiving baskets for Pond Cove families and May Day baskets for seniors, a bake sale for the Make a Wish Foundation, and blankets for the Humane Society.

"I think teaching kids the benefits of giving to others is healthy for them," Gillies said. "They realize after they do things for others that the real, true gift is in the giving."

She said after their day of volunteering in Florida, Zoe and Christie said were thankful they were able to give back to others and were taught to help those in need.

"Hearing that was my gift," Gillies said. "My hope is that they take these lessons and spread it to their friends."

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net