I don’t ever remember a time NOT loving Mickey Mouse. My earliest memory was
of me sprawled out on my parents’ bed as my dad cleaned out his top dresser drawer. That drawer was too high for me to reach, yet seemed filled with treasures, including a small-faced Mickey Mouse watch with a thin, black leather band. That watch stayed safe in that top drawer until my wedding day, when my dad gifted it to me just before he led me down the long aisle of St. Francis Xavier Church.
My love for this icon never wavered; it only grew. That love led me down a road of continual learning; learning about the creator, his family, the goals that were set by himself and his team and his why. There was an overwhelming urge to learn the ins and outs of an empire he created and where his ideas would take him. The more I learned and understood about the businessman, the entrepreneur, the more I craved the process and end results. It was EXTRAORDINARY. It was challenging. It was successful. And it was a way of life I found myself admiring and yearning to be a part of one day.
A little over 5 years ago, I was made aware of an injustice, and I set forth to make it right. Not realizing at the time, it would reveal itself as a calling. I saw this injustice as a challenge, and as I do with most challenges, I accepted it. The challenge was sparked by a typical playdate that took place in March 2011. A fellow kindergarten mom of 3, the oldest 2 the same age as my 2, expressed that she wouldn’t be taking her family to Disney World. Perplexed, I asked why. Her middle daughter, born with Down syndrome accompanied by Celiac disease, which is extremely common, was limiting to so much in life. She continued expressing that it was entirely too costly for their family of 5 to travel and experience this vacation destination when only 3 of them could fully partake in the experiences at the Disney properties. I was dumbfounded, then infuriated, and became truly sad.
After all the years of reading, researching, learning, and experiencing the joy of this amusement park with fellow Disney cast members, it never ONCE occurred to me that Walt Disney's original dream became THE conglomerate of conglomerates. It was no longer about making family memories. It had instead grown into an industry about making money and for the first time ever, Disney disappointed me. My rosy-colored Disney glasses were shattered because of blatant disregard of a busy 4-year-old, who had been climbing all over my lap, showering me with unconditional hugs and kisses, holding my face in her tiny hands as she told me her stories. Looking back on that encounter, I realized, although crushed and devastated by the hard truth and realization of genuine exclusion, it was the BEST blessing I could have ever received, as most truths are!
My eyes were opened that afternoon, as was my heart. I am truly appreciative to have been made aware of such injustice in society and to know that ONE ultra-accessible amusement park was out there for this family and millions of others. Once I realized I could mirror what was already built, with years of proven success, Spirit of Discovery Park emerged. This amusement park project did not start out as a calling, it was a challenge which grew into a passion, dreamed, developed and designed to wrong a right. A belief that is part of my core being.
Although cradle Catholic, I did not genuinely understand or know what a calling would look or feel like. Over my 12-year, Catholic education, I’d heard from several School Sisters of Notre Dame regarding how they “felt the call” or listening to several priests and deacons say, “they just knew this was their calling.” Though,
no definitive reasoning, nor explanation of specific encounters were shared that could ease my curiosity. All the Leaders repeated the same words, “I just knew.” It wasn’t until a professional transaction turned personal, did I “know.”
There was a pivotal moment in my career that had me truly questioning who I was as a person and why I took on this endeavor. Was this project for those who are marginalized, underserved, and discriminated against because of their differences? Or was the project about me, my greed, and my own selfishness, and notoriety? It was a moment in time that I have never soul searched and prayed so deeply in all my life. I knew that whatever I discovered would change the trajectory of not only my life, but my family’s lives as well. Yet, I owed it to myself and this potential project to DIG DEEP for the truth. Hard questions were asked of me, and I was asking them of myself too.
After several days of self-reflection, intense prayer, and silence to listen for an answer, the sorrow from the fallout was still very raw, yet fire inside my soul was hotter than ever. The tears shed and the prayers heard allowed me to see through a new lens and I felt it! I just “knew” that feeling was REAL. It was PRESENT. And it was all consuming. THIS was God’s plan for me! His purpose for my being.
The phrase “hindsight is 20/20” is one that is used in so many various situations, yet when reflecting on the 45 years of my life, it seems so very clear. Never in a million years did the path I am currently on EVER enter my mind or heart. But, when seeing the timeline on my resume, my calling for others is clearly displayed in black and white. The experiences, the people, the environments; all placed perfectly in my life to mold me into the human I needed to be to fulfill the mission I firmly believe I was born to do. There is NO DOUBT the opportunities I participated in and the jobs I held, were all molding me into the person God needed me to be when He presented my calling.
My core belief was ignited during a playdate. My passion revealed itself in times of true reflection and my calling shone brightly! I accepted my calling with my whole heart; to bring great value and create equality, fairness, and inclusion to others. It hasn’t been an easy path, but with God all things ARE possible. I didn’t realize the three God-given gifts I was born with: creativity, persistence, and grit, would keep this monumental project moving forward, day after day, year after year. Through prayer and with a solid team, reality is upon us. My daily goals consist of giving the gift of "ordinary" to the extra-ordinary by providing memories through an experience of joy, laughter, and love for people with all abilities. Never easy. Never the same. ALWAYS worth it!
Let go. Let God.
Your gifts, both large and small, will help me fulfill my calling to provide an inclusive environment for EVERY body. From the mouth of Walt Disney, “all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Thank you, in advance, for your support that will allow me the courage to continue this DREAM.