Boston Marathon, Sandy Hook, and Disney’s 3:00 Parade

by J. Jeff Kober

Events yesterday at the Boston Marathon, along with events only a few months ago in Newtown, Connecticut, have caused all of us to stop and consider the good and bad of the world we live in. There has been much comment and even debate in the social media networks. But sometimes, what it really takes is action. To that extent, I provide you the following story. I wasn’t sure I wanted to share it out of respect for the privacy of the family. That’s why I don’t use the names in the story. But I think the message is powerful, and can be used to invite us to consider what each of us can do to serve another.

Over the last couple of years, a manager at the Coronado Springs hotel made friends with a family from Newtown, Connecticut. The Disney Cast Member especially came to know the family’s little girls, who would seek out the Cast Member and share their experiences visiting Walt Disney World. They would talk about being princesses and the girls were so excited when the Cast Member asked for their autographs. They emailed the Cast Member when they returned back home to Newtown and sent her pictures they had drawn (which sit proudly on the desk of the Cast Member).

So when the family returned this year, the girls ran up and gave the Cast Member hugs and kisses. The Cast Member inquired about their vacation this year. At one point, the grandmother pulled the Cast Member to the side to say that the 7 year old, who attends Sandy Hook Elementary School, was in one of the classrooms on that fateful day. In fact, it was her second-grade class seen in the photo running away from the school. She was okay, but she lost 3 of her best friends and the past few months had been very hard on their family. Afterwards, the family walked away promising to come back the next day to tell the Cast Member about their experiences at Epcot.

The Cast Member immediately called her partners at the Yacht and Beach and asked if they could get them special fireworks viewing for Illuminations. They were able to get the family on a fireworks cruise from the Yacht and Beach Club that night! The family could not have been more excited, and the girls loved that they each got 5 balloons along with it.

Still, the Cast Member wanted to do more. Brainstorming with an entertainment manager at the Magic Kingdom, they planned a private meet and greet prior to the next day’s parade.

This is one of the few times ever an entire character group photo was taken of those in the parade.
This is one of the few times ever an entire character group photo has been taken of those in the parade.

Normally, for a meet and greet, a few Disney characters volunteer for a photo opportunity. But today would be different. Every single character from that parade was there to greet them. The princesses presented the girls with baskets full of princess paraphernalia and handed them a giant poster with everyone’s autographs. They then walked them to their roped off viewing section and each Disney character who they had just met backstage walked up and hugged them again during the parade. The entertainment manager shared with the Cast Member from Disney’s Coronado Springs how much this family touched the entire Cast of the parade and how they were still taking about how much they loved the girls.

The mother later told the Cast Member how grateful they were for the memories they made on this trip. While they could not replace the ones made that fateful day, they were still memories that would last a lifetime. The mother said it was the first time they were able to relax and could give some innocence back to the children.

The Disney Cast Member remarked, “It is amazing to me the power of our brand, the world we can create, and the amazing partnership I received across the property to help make a magical trip for this family was overwhelming.”

Indeed, it is overwhelming what the power of a few people coming together to serve others–to bring light and happiness–and to make the world a better place. That’s the message here. If you want to make a difference, then you simply have to serve others. To that end, several on Facebook have recently posted this quotation from Mister Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

If we want to do something more than post, than we must help. We must proclaim love and peace through our actions. The rising generation will not embrace a kinder, gentler world because they tire of viewing so much gore and violence, as much as they are really shown by us how much greater a world filled with love and understanding is.

To the Cast of the 3:00 parade, thanks for showing us how.

J. Jeff Kober

2 thoughts on “Boston Marathon, Sandy Hook, and Disney’s 3:00 Parade

  1. I am the mother of the family in this photo and may I say that the experience was astounding, overwhelming and wonderful. Ms. Schipp is a wonderful manager and our favorite Disney cast member. To the cast who made that meet and greet possible I am EVER grateful!!! That was a once in a life time event and one we still talk about and share with friends. Thank you Disney and Happy Holidays,
    Catherine Galda

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