Reflecting on the Magic a Year Later… With a Special Thanks to Disney Institute Cast Members

A year ago I was gathered at a breakfast table with friends and kiddos, surrounded with Disney characters, looking out the restaurant window that overlooks the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. I knew it would be a magical week!

This trip was different. I was with friends and kiddos who have never been there before, so I got to play Disney uncle and tour guide. For the first time though I got to enjoy Walt Disney World through the eyes of children. There were many laughs, a couple kid tears, and so many smiles I could never count. I rode rides that I never did before, seen parts of the parks that I took for granted that I used to rush by, and meet many Cast Members like Tom who made us laugh and smile. It was a different Disney vacation experience that I really enjoyed. I truly got to enjoy and experience this magical world with 3 special kids and enjoyed helping to make magic moments for them too. 

Also a year ago this week I was having a lovely lunch with Disney Institute Cast Member Paula, talking about the next plans for Disney Institute events in Hawaii in the coming months and years. The outlook was great and many plans were in the works, then March hit and slowly plans started changing due to COVID-19.

I have always enjoyed Disney Parks and Resorts, but thanks to Disney Institute, I have enjoyed the last several years it through a different view – a view of admiration, respect and appreciation for the Cast Members. So I thought I’d also take the time to put out a more detailed thank you to those from Disney Institute who have made an impact on me.

To those I would call my “magic mentors”: Ryan, Bruce, Rene, Julianna, Ernesto, Natasha, Diana, and Tom: Thank you for what you have taught me over the years and what you continue to do to teach and inspire me. From facilitators to friends, I can’t help but thank and appreciate all of you.

To those DI Cast Members from the CX Summit:  Jeff, Bruce, Stephen, Patrick, Bryan, Jay, Monica, Rob, Judy, Brent, Cici, Chuck, and Lauren along with keynoters Maribeth, Thomas, Marylouise, Bruce and more: Thank you for creating an experience that I’m so happy to have invested in and attended. It was a truly magical 3 days that left me inspired, motivated and appreciative that I continue to reference to today. One of the best PD conference experiences I’ve ever had.

To the behind the scenes folks: Maria, Jay and Krista: Thank you for your help and support to make the courses in Hawaii possible, especially when I would come home to 20 boxes sitting outside my door with all of the course handouts. haha!

To Peter (and Jessica): Thank you for the meals and conversations. It was always great to connect to talk and to have a new Disneyland brunch spot (and have the Hawaii connection to talk about too Peter.) I look forward to a day we can chat over a meal again.

To my Aulani Ohana: Kim, Candice, Shawny, Curtis and Randy: Mahalo for all that you’ve done and to do make me look so good at any Disney Institute event at Aulani. From the multiple phone calls and ideas to all the  attention to detail, I couldn’t make things happen without you.

And lastly to my “Disney believer” Paula: Thank you so much for believing in me. You took a chance on me to help make me hosting Disney Institute courses in Hawaii possible. I still don’t know how you did it for the higher ups to agree, but I’m so grateful you did. From the dozens of planning and question phone calls to the informal calls like when Disney+ came out, you always made time to connect. On our last phone almost a year ago call you told me “I can’t wait to call you to tell you when we’re back” and I truly do still hope that day and conversation will happen.

There are many other Cast Members at the parks and resorts that I could thank that have made trips magical, but all of you from Disney Institute have helped me in more ways than you realize. As I see many of you part ways an move on to other organizations, I felt it’s only right to say – Thank you. Thank you for validating my personality. Disney Institute was the missing link to bridge my personality on being a Disney fan while also appreciative of quality professional development and having a commitment to leadership, engagement and service, with a touch of Disney magic. But in all honesty, it was all of you Disney Institute Cast Members who I’ve connected with to help me realize this and truly appreciate it. All of you have helped me share the story of Disney with others in Hawaii that Disney is not about parks or movies, its about the people, the power of storytelling and the importance of creating happiness in any role or organization. Mahalo for helping me become a better leader, a better public servant and honestly, a better person.

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