February 2024 | Herschend Enterprise Newsletter February 2024 | Herschend Enterprise Newsletter

Dear Herschend


This month’s newsletter is dedicated to the core element of our company culture – love. Now, we’re not talking about brotherly love, emotional love, or parental love, which are nouns (feeling words). At Herschend, we practice AGAPE love, which is a verb (an action word). It’s about our behaviors and making a conscious choice to love one another through our actions, regardless of how we feel. The key behaviors of AGAPE love are being patient, kind, humble, respectful, trusting, unselfish, forgiving, truthful, and dedicated.

It’s not always easy, but choosing to love everyone unconditionally is the key to achieving our purpose of Bringing Families Closer Together by Creating Memories Worth Repeating®.

Each Herschend property is unique, but what's always constant is our love for one another, our guests, and our communities. So, this month, we’re celebrating some of the ways we show love through our actions. Enjoy!

-Andrew Wexler, CEO

Because of the generosity of donors, Share It Forward helped more than 1,200 hosts in 2023 through emergencies and natural disasters and necessities like childcare and rent. View the 2023 Annual Report:

  • Hardship - 409 basic needs met.
  • Child Assistance - 87 families received monthly support benefiting over 180 children.
  • Emergency Needs – Over 300 emergency needs met.
  • Life Skills – More than 85 hosts participated in Ramsey+, our financial counseling program.
  • Natural Disaster Relief – Assisted 322 people impacted by Hurricane Idalia

These results are made possible by the kindness of Herschend hosts, who fund our programs through one-time donations and reoccurring paycheck giving. Just one dollar goes a long way because every dollar is matched by Herschend!

*All 2023 donors should have received their donation details for tax purposes. If you have questions, please contact Jennifer Brown



Herschend’s free tuition program, GROW U., is celebrating its two-year anniversary! Help us celebrate by clicking the link below to learn more about all the opportunities available to you.

Explore GROW U Programs
Herschend Grow U Herschend Grow U
Grow U Graduate | Renee Weidow Grow U Graduate | Renee Weidow

“As a recent graduate of Grow U., I have achieved my Certificate in Accounting at E-Cornell University and am currently attending Southern New Hampshire University to acquire my Associate in Accounting. Since I have chosen to take advantage of this program, it has helped me to advance my career in the Finance Department at Wild Adventures. This 100% free tuition program has finally given me an opportunity to fulfill one of my life goals of achieving a college degree without the burden of debt and has given me a sense of value in myself again since I became disabled in 2010. My future plans are to use my degree to further my growth with Wild Adventures as opportunities become available. If I need to continue my education to earn a higher degree, then that's what I'm willing to do.”

- Renee Weidow, Accounting Coordinator.

Volunteer Diver Pops the Question

A volunteer diver with the WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium worked with the rest of the dive team on an elaborate proposal just in time for Valentine’s Day! Joe White proposed to his girlfriend Lindy Eckle with help from his daughter McKenna! Newport Aquarium has always had a special place in their hearts since it is where they had their first date. Joe proposed while he was diving with the sharks, and when Lindy said, “Yes!” His daughter presented her with the ring. Congratulations, Joe and Lindy!

Watch The Proposal
Newport Aquarium | Volunteer Diver Pops the Question Newport Aquarium | Volunteer Diver Pops the Question
JoDee Herschend Shining Light Grant Recipient | Isaiah Duncan JoDee Herschend Shining Light Grant Recipient | Isaiah Duncan

A Shining Light

Isaiah Duncan, the Food and Beverage Manager at Kentucky Kingdom, was recently selected as the recipient of the inaugural JoDee Herschend Shining Light Grant for his volunteer work with the YMCA at Safe Place Services. Isaiah Duncan became involved in 2014 as a youth participant in the Y-NOW program. Isaiah continues to return every year as a volunteer Youth Leader. In 2022, Isaiah was promoted to Participation Manager. In this role, Isaiah monitors the social and emotional well-being of Y-NOW participants and directs the group meetings and retreats. Isaiah leads with a positive and caring attitude. When youth need extra support during a group meeting, Isaiah provides individualized coaching. Isaiah is currently a college student and is in upper management at Kentucky Kingdom. He regularly shares his life story with Y-NOW youth. Isaiah’s influence has spanned outside of the Y-NOW program. Isaiah was a speaker at a YMCA Safe Place Services fundraising event, which assisted Safe Place in raising funds to serve more youth. The Y-NOW program promotes positive youth development and Isaiah allows this model to become tangible as youth participants witness Isaiah make positive strides toward his future while helping others.<br><br>Kentucky Kingdom congratulates Isaiah on this well-deserved honor and for being a shining example of a servant leader whose kindness and generosity span both his professional and personal life.

Better Together

On Feb. 14, 400 leaders from Dollywood Parks & Resorts gathered together for Leadership U 2024 to kick off preparations for the upcoming season. Jon Acuff, the New York Times bestselling author of nine books, served as our keynote speaker, delivering insightful perspectives to inspire and equip our leaders for the year ahead. Embracing the theme "Better Together,” the event emphasized the importance of collaboration across Teams and properties.

At Dollywood Parks & Resorts, a heart for collaboration, service, and care for both our Guests and each other unites every team. Providing leaders with a preview of the upcoming year has primed them for the season launch on March 8 for Season Passholder Day. As a Team, we are set to achieve outstanding accomplishments because we are better together.

Dollywood | Better Together Dollywood | Better Together
Silver Dollar City Foundation | Building a Little Eaglets Nest Silver Dollar City Foundation | Building a Little Eaglets Nest

Building a Little Eaglets Nest

75 of the 115 counties in Missouri are considered “child care deserts,” including Stone and Taney counties, which are served by the Silver Dollar City Foundation. Child Care Deserts are defined as counties with 50+ children under 5 that contain either no childcare providers or so few that there are more than three times as many children as licensed spots.

Bradleyville Superintendent Kendra Stuart knows the value of early childhood education and what it means to families to have a safe, loving place to take their children while they work. “We had teachers and staff who needed childcare, which is not readily available in the area,” explained Stuart.

With help from a Silver Dollar City Foundation Hope Grant, the district is meeting more childcare needs. Hope Grant funds were used to renovate a building to launch a new daycare and purchase initial supplies. Little Eaglets Daycare recently opened its doors to eight children from seven families in need. It’s conveniently located right on campus and is the first daycare center in the district.

Learn More

A Valentine’s Day Surprise

Staff at a Branson nursing home will never forget the residents’ smiles when a Silver Dollar Saloon girl twirled through the door with flowers.

“I don’t get many visitors and haven’t had a Valentine since I lost my husband many years ago,” says 98-year-old Maggie Schlichting. “This little carnation made me so happy today.”

Silver Dollar City Silver Dollar City
Harlem Globetrotters | A Visit to Walter Reed Harlem Globetrotters | A Visit to Walter Reed

A Visit to Walter Reed

With the faint sound of “Sweet Georgia Brown” playing in the background, a couple of Harlem Globetrotters stopped by Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB), home to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, on Feb. 12 to spread some cheer and share a little bit of their basketball prowess with patients, their families, and staff on base.

Harlem Globetrotters Justin “X-Over” Tompkins and Joey “Hot Rod” De La Rosa signed autographs, gave out souvenirs, and showed off their ballhandling skills. Those who attended expressed their appreciation to them for making a stop on base, which was made possible with assistance from Operation Homefront.

A New Home for Conservation Education

After 25 years of being housed inside Newport Aquarium, WAVE Foundation has acquired its own space next door at Newport on the Levee, and buildout will begin soon. The Education Center will feature three classrooms/multipurpose rooms, meeting space, and team offices.

“Throughout its existence, WAVE has hosted its programs offsite, taking animals to schools, libraries, and community events to ensure everyone – regardless of their ability to pay – can experience the aquarium’s wonder. Now that we have our own space, we can continue growing and expanding our offerings to increase our impact. We could not be more thankful to our Board of Directors for recognizing this need and seeing it through. We also owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation for helping us realize this dream.”

Newport Aquarium | WAVE Foundation Newport Aquarium | WAVE Foundation
Vancouver Aquarium | A Turtle Tale Vancouver Aquarium | A Turtle Tale

A Turtle Tale

Earlier this month, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Society admitted a loggerhead sea turtle, who was found cold-shocked and hypothermic in Pedder Bay near Sooke, BC. This is only the second recorded case of a loggerhead sea turtle in BC waters, so Moira is far from home! The team at the rescue centre has been hard at work aiding Moira in her recovery.

Watch Video

The Dolly Parton Experience

For Dollywood guests, there’s more in store in ’24, including a busy operating calendar that brings even more fun to the Great Smoky Mountains. In addition to being able to enjoy the largest number of days ever during a season at Dollywood, guests will also be welcomed by the brand-new Dolly Parton Experience beginning in May 2024.

It will have a number of interactive elements to make guests feel as if they were alongside Dolly as she journeyed from Locust Ridge to stages around the world. The multi-faceted experience includes exhibits that span her iconic career, a look at the inspiration for and results of her biggest dreams, the importance of her family, and even a curated exhibit that highlights Dolly’s signature style through the years. The Dolly Parton Experience provides guests with more Dolly than ever, as it is three times the size of the former Chasing Rainbows Museum.

Learn More
Dollywood Theme Park | The Dolly Parton Experience Dollywood Theme Park | The Dolly Parton Experience

Elevating the Guest Experience

Over the next five years, Silver Dollar City is investing in a variety of new guest experiences and park improvements. This season, guests will have the opportunity to experience the Midwest’s largest indoor coaster – Fire In the Hole, shop for great keepsakes at Flanders Dry Goods on the outskirts of The City’s newly incorporated Fire District, visit Sadie’s Pretzel Café for a handmade World-Famous Pretzel Dog, and peruse the local, handmade home goods at Heartland Home Furnishings.

“Spurring the creation of The Fire District, the custom-designed FIRE IN THE HOLE makes history as the Heartland’s largest indoor coaster. As the District’s anchor attraction, it will be a favorite rite of passage for families where one generation introduces the next generation to this adventure and where the heroes of today spark the heroes of tomorrow.”

Silver Dollar City Silver Dollar City
Callaway Resort and Gardens | New Adventures Ahead Callaway Resort and Gardens | New Adventures Ahead

New Adventures Ahead

In January, Callaway Resort & Gardens unveiled plans for several guest experience improvements, including a new central activities hub located at Robin Lake Beach. Serving as the perfect place for visitors to start their adventures, this welcoming plaza also includes new creature comfort facilities. At Callaway’s Lodge & Spa, the new Azalea Market grab-n-go restaurant aims to add convenient dining and shopping options.

Callaway also announced its robust roster of year-round special events, including Celebrate SPRING!, a new two-month-long festival opening March 1 showcasing music and arts, and the June return of its guest-favorite summer family camp program begun in 1960, Callaway Summer Family Adventure.

Read More