SeaWorld Orlando's legacy of giving back to the community began within days of the park opening in December 1973 when disadvantaged children were invited to the park for a special Shamu show. Today the Orlando park works with more than 250 community organizations like Canine Companion of Independence, Heart of Florida, and Make M' Smile to spread waves of sharing throughout the community.
The Make M' Smile event is an annual community festival that celebrates kids with special needs and their families. The event features a Buddy Stroll where VIP families are “buddied up” with people from around the community for a stroll around Lake Eola. This year's 8th annual Make M' Smile event is on June 5th from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in downtown Orlando.
This inspirational event was started in 2003 by Tim and Marie Kuck after they lost their VIP kid, Nathaniel. It is designed to commemorate Nathaniel's birthday by celebrating his life while building bridges between the community and kids with special needs and their families.
SeaWorld Orlando has been a proud exhibitor at the event since the beginning. Each year the park participates in the festivities by giving away hats, whale tails and stickers and by providing amazing gift baskets for the event raffle. Plus, Shamu and Dolly the Dolphin splash into the event in the Shamu cruiser to show their support and to meet VIP kids and their families.
The most memorable moment SeaWorld helped create was in 2008. Marie, Nathaniel's mother, always wore a bracelet with an Elmo charm in honor of her beloved son. Sadly, some time in 2008 the charm fell off and was lost. SeaWorld arranged for Elmo to attend Make M' Smile and present Marie with a new charm for her bracelet so she would always have a piece of Nathaniel with her.