Big Changes in Anaheim as runDisney Drops Volunteers in Favor of Paid Temps

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

runDisney has contracted with two staffing agencies to recruit and hire the hundreds of temporary workers needed to staff events at the Disneyland Resort, starting with the upcoming Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend in May. This ends a decade-long practice of using unpaid volunteers to staff the West Coast events. runDisney will continue to use volunteers to staff races at the Walt Disney World in Florida.

Disney says the change was made, "in order to continue to provide the world-class experience our race participants have come to expect." A Disney spokesperson tells MousePlanet that that the staffing agencies were brought on to help handle the specific challenges faced by organizers of the Anaheim-based races, which take place on both Disney property and city streets, and require a greater level of coordination with surrounding cities and outside agencies.

These temporary workers will receive $13 per hour, about 20 percent more than the current minimum wage in California. Because these workers will be compensated monetarily, they will not receive complimentary park admission, a benefit given to volunteers in recognition of their time.

In the past, runDisney used hundreds of people to volunteer at the events. Officially, they volunteered their time to a designated charity, which received a donation from the Disneyland Resort. In turn, the charity organization assigned the volunteers to staff the runDisney event, doing everything from checking in runners at the pre-race expo, to handing out water on the race course or medals at the finish line. Local schools and community organizations with enough members could apply to run a specific station as a group.

In lieu of payment, volunteers received "appreciation" from the charity organization in the form of event shirts, snack boxes, and even complementary admission tickets to Disneyland if they worked a specified number of shifts during the event weekend. In recent years—especially with the lure of a free park ticket—it had become almost as competitive to register for a volunteer spot as it was to register for a popular race category, with slots filling up as soon as online volunteer registration opened.

Disney says they will continue to make a donation to local charities in association with the Anaheim-based events, although as of this writing, no charity has been announced as the designated beneficiary with any of the currently scheduled runDisney events on California.

We reported in February that runDisney had delayed the scheduled start of registration of volunteers for the 2017 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at the Disneyland Resort. At that time, sources at runDisney and at the Disneyland Resort would confirm only that volunteer registration had been delayed for the Tinker Bell event, but did not provide any additional details.

Now the race support website has been updated with information directing interested recruits to contact one of the two staffing companies, Apple One ( and Volt ( Past volunteers who want to continue to staff the runDisney races can contact one of the two companies to begin the application form.

Applicants must complete an online application, and then complete a packet of new-hire paperwork, including a W-4 and I-9. Applicants must also agree to pre-employment screening including a seven-year criminal background check, and sign a non-disclosure agreement. Some forms can be completed online, but others must be completed either in person at a local office of the temp agency, or completed at home and returned to the hiring company by carrier.

Once the application is complete, volunteers pick their shifts. Based on a schedule received from one of the hiring companies, a worker could opt to work as many as 40 hours over the course of the event weekend, or five eight-hour shifts.

Having experienced runDisney events as both a participant and as a volunteer, I wonder how this change will impact the runDisney experience.

As a participant, I question how much this move will cost me—either in the form of increased entry fees at future events, or in terms of fewer support staffers on the course. With Disney paying $13 an hour, plus staffing agency fees, will the $185 half marathon fee jump to $300 to cover the added staffing costs, and/or will Disney cut the number of people assigned to things like registration tables and water stations?

When I voiced this concern to a Disney spokesperson, they said the events will be staffed to the same level as in prior years, and that runners should enjoy the same race experience as always. Still, it feels like there has to be a change somewhere. With runDisney races selling at a slower pace than in past years, and fewer races selling out, it seems Disney has reached the upper limit for race entry fees, at least for now. Perhaps we'll see Disney cull the four-events-per-year schedule to just two or three events in Anaheim, especially if the profit margin dips dramatically.

As a frequent volunteer, I'm somehow less excited about working the event now that it's a job with a time clock and a non-disclosure agreement. As I examined the packet of forms I need to return, I began to question if it's worth the hassle for $13 per hour. Working the runDisney events was never about the money (obviously, since it was a volunteer gig), but about the opportunity to come out and support other participants in this wacky community of runners and walkers.

For the most part, at least in the roles I had at past events, my fellow volunteers were also either race participants themselves, or the friends and family of runners and walkers. We had a shared sense of purpose in supporting "our" sport and "our" community. Sure, there were a few people who were in it just for the free ticket, but even those folks had a shared love for Disney, and a sense of what makes runDisney events unique.

Now I wonder about the person I'll fold shirts with, or who will hang the medal around my neck at the finish line - is this someone who loves running and wants to support the participants, or someone who took the assignment because it paid better than the local McDonalds? Will there be a change in the runDisney experience when the race isn't staffed by a bunch of Disney fans?

Disney tells MousePlanet this change has nothing to do with a 2014 lawsuit against Competitor Group, the parent of the Rock and Roll Marathon Series. The plaintiff in that suit alleged that Competitor Group violated Federal law by failing to pay race crew at least minimum wage. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2016 due to standing, jurisdiction, and statue of limitation issues, but the merits of the case were not adjudicated. Runner's World published an interesting article on the case and implications for the race industry had it gone to trial.



  1. By Disneyphile

    Well, this is certainly a change. I always loved seeing volunteers, especially those along the course at the water stations.

  2. By SteveMartin

    I bet the paid staff won't be as encouraging to the runners (specifically at the water stations). The events I volunteered at always made it a point to shout encouragement to everyone passing through our station.

  3. By robynd

    I had become interested in volunteering since I'm a participant and I wantd to cheer on my fellow runners. Now, I'm more than excited about volunteering with MousePlanet to pass out candy. :-)

  4. By AnotherJenny

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMartin View Post
    I bet the paid staff won't be as encouraging to the runners (specifically at the water stations). The events I volunteered at always made it a point to shout encouragement to everyone passing through our station.

    Disney water stations do seem pretty well staffed, but with local 5Ks that I've done, they're just struggling to get the water poured into cups and distributed to say much else. So I'm not sure I'd notice much difference as long as I get handed a cup. You'd hope that when they hire the temps they'll assess their personality a little bit and put some outgoing ones at the water stations. But can you imagine if they use the same temps for all three races? By Sunday they may have been there at 2am for their third consecutive day.

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