It was hard to be a Grinch (really!) during several recent visits to Universal Studios Hollywood. The spirit of the season is all around there, and was especially evident with the theme park’s eighth annual “Day of Giving” community outreach program. Hundreds of USH employees volunteered to help out at four charitable projects across Los Angeles, and the “Operation School Bell” project took place in front of the Universal Globe at the entrance to the tour center.
Wearing “Giving is Universal” t-shirts that captured the spirit of the event, the volunteers helped to outfit about 200 homeless LAUSD children with clothing, sneakers, and school supplies. Plus, the kids and their teachers, bussed in from five area schools, met the fun-loving characters Curious George and Beetlejuice, and enjoyed lunch and a day of adventure at the theme park.
“‘Giving is Universal’ is more than just a phrase on a t-shirt, it’s what fills the hearts of all our Universal volunteers. They all take joy in helping the kids,” explained Larry Kurzweil, president of USH. “We unite as a company to demonstrate our commitment to our core value of ‘doing the right thing.’ It’s incredibly rewarding to help make a difference, and I applaud all the employees for their compassion and dedication.”
As Kurzweil was putting socks and shoes on some little feet, he said, “There’s a bigger impact going on here than just getting new shoes, jackets, and backpacks. It’s giving them something to smile about, and letting them know that dreams can come true.”
Participating schools included Woodcrest Elementary and 95th Street Elementary from South L.A; Florence Elementary and Sheridan Street Elementary from Southeast and East L.A.; and Arminta Elementary from the San Fernando Valley. Other Universal Studios Hollywood “Day of Giving” events took place at AIDS Project L.A., Pacific Lodge Boys’ Home, and L.A. Family Housing, all helped by USH’s “Discover A Star” Foundation.
The kids from L.A. Family Housing came back a couple of weeks later to help jolly old Santa Claus kick off the annual tree lighting ceremony at Universal CityWalk. The event at the “5 Towers” venue, next to the Universal Cinemas multiplex, included a concert by singing sensations Drake Bell, Pentatonix, and Human Nature, among others. They performed with the backdrop of a dazzling new, multimedia light display and the illumination of a gigantic custom-built Christmas tree — the first of its kind built in North America — for a segment that aired as part of the Hollywood Christmas Parade broadcast.
More entertainment at “5 Towers” will be showcased leading up to Christmas. Scheduled performances (starting at 6 p.m.) include YouTube’s rising star Ryan Beatty, Dec. 1; the Grammy-winning group Mariachi Divas, Dec. 2; The Voice rocker Juliet Simms, Dec. 8; The Voice’s Jamar Rogers, with Petree & Friends, also featuring Paige Bryan, Dec. 15; the family band Cimorelli, Dec. 16; and the Latin American sounds of Sajama, performing on Dec. 25, Christmas Day.
Now for all my fellow Grinches: the Grinchmas celebration is back for Universal’s tour center visitors starting Dec. 8, with 19 snow-filled days of Wholidays celebrations.
The Grinch and his faithful dog, Max, will be on hand to help visitors ring in the holiday season as they enjoy tons of real, fresh snow and vibrant “Whobilation” tree lighting celebrations. Prior to all Whobilations, stars from TV, movies, and music will be on hand to read their own interpretations of the Dr. Seuss classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Grinchmas will also offer visitors the chance to tour the original Whoville film sets from the movie adaptation aboard the world-famous Studio Tour, where they just may see some real Whos and a Grinch in action.