Disney Channel's Friends for Change eco-initiative takes a competitively fun turn with the "Friends for Change Games," in which young stars from the network's U.S. and international editions, divided into four teams, play on behalf of Fauna & Flora International, World Wildlife Fund, Ocean Conservancy and UNICEF. Each charity will receive $125,000 from Disney, and the winning team's charity will get an extra $100,000 at the end of the five-week competition, which begins airing on Disney Channel June 24 and Disney XD on June 27. All the game components have an eco-theme.
"The first game was a high energy dance battle where the dance floor lights were powered by us moving on it," begins Bridgit Mendler ("Good Luck Charlie"), the captain of the UNICEF team who co-wrote and performs Friends For Change's new anthem, "We Can Change the World," all proceeds from which go to environmental charities. "Then there was the Washout, which showed us how we could wash clothes in a more eco-friendly way, like running them through a manual washer and hanging them to dry. Then we did the Recycler challenge, which shows you how to recycle."
The point is to raise awareness and inspire young viewers involved by pledging to go green. "Kids can go online and pick their favorite team, and an extra $100,000 goes to that charity," adds Tiffany Thornton ("So Random"), who co-hosts the games with Jason Earles ("Kickin It"). "We've had millions of kids pledge online to be a part of helping the environment and going green. And now we combine that with Disney Channel games to showcase how fun and easy it is to recycle and reuse and that kind of thing."
"Awareness is the ultimate goal, to show kids how easy it is just to do the littlest things to make the biggest difference," adds Adam Hicks ("Zeke & Luther"). For Mendler, "awareness of the environment was already part of my lifestyle, so it's been especially awesome to be a part of Friends for Change and spread that awareness to kids. They're the next generation of people who are really going to have to make a difference. It’s a really positive thing to get involved in," says Mendler, whose series’ second season is now running. "There will be a full-length 'Good Luck Charlie' movie by the end of the year," she notes.
Hicks' "Zeke & Luther" is in its second season on Disney XD, and Thornton's "So Random" is Disney Channel's answer to "Saturday Night Live," a sketch comedy show with musical guests like Colbie Caillat, Far East Movement and Cody Simpson. Originally the show-within-a-show portion of "Sonny With a Chance," it morphed from showbiz sitcom into its current format after the departure of star Demi Lovato. "We miss her of course, every day, but we are just as excited that we still get to be a family," says Thornton, who remains close to Lovato. "She'll be one of my bridesmaids when I get married November 12," says the actress, who is engaged to Chris Carney, a court officer.