At the 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Conference, we unexpectedly discovered the REAL magic of Disney. There is magic in every Disney movie, there is magic in each of the Disney Parks, there is magic on every Disney cruise, but what exactly is the Disney magic?
What is Disney Magic?
We had the pleasure of hearing from Bob Chapek, the Chairmen of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts at the Disney Social Media Moms Conference. He said, “There is an intangible and real feeling that sets Disney apart from everyone else.” Anyone that has been to one of the Disney Parks can understand what he is talking about. There truly is a real and magical feeling when you step into one of the Disney Parks. When Walt Disney created Disneyland, he said, “Disneyland has that thing – the imagination and the feeling of happy excitement – I knew when I was a kid.”
That intangible and real feeling, and the imagination and the feeling of happy excitement, could easily define the magic of Disney. But, there is more. Much more.
Walt Disney wanted to bring the “imagination and the feeling of happy excitement” he knew as a kid going to a place called Electric Park in Kansas City to his own two daughters. Electric Park was known as the Coney Island of Kansas City. It had a roller coaster, arcade games, ice cream shops, a swimming pool, a carousel, boating, and more. During the summer evenings there were fireworks. There wasn’t a place in California, other than a park with a carousel, where he felt families could enjoy time together. This is where the idea for Disneyland was born. People close to Walt Disney during the construction of Disneyland say how passionate he was about his dream of creating a place where parents and children could have fun together.
That gift of imagination and the feeling of happy excitement Walt Disney gave to his daughters at Disneyland, has been a gift to children and families since July 17, 1955.
The REAL Magic of Disney
The gift of giving magic did not stop with Disneyland. The Walt Disney Company continues to give the gift of imagination and the feeling of happy excitement to children all over the world. This gift is especially powerful and meaningful when it is given to children with life-threatening medical conditions. At the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, we had the amazing privilege of meeting John Breckow, Director of Corporate Citizenship for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. He claims to have the best job in the world, and after listening to him speak, we agree. John oversees the philanthropic and giving efforts across Disney Parks worldwide.
We have experienced the magic of Disney at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and on the Disney Cruise Line. We have experienced the magic of Disney going to Disney movies as children, and now as parents taking our children. We are believers in the magic of Disney, but John Breckow’s presentation opened our eyes to the REAL magic of Disney.
The REAL magic of Disney is in what they give back to communities around the world. It is in the wishes they fulfill for thousands of children with life-threatening illnesses and their families each year. It is in Disney’s commitment to provide comfort, happiness, and inspiration to kids and families around the globe.
Here is just a glimpse of what we learned about the REAL magic of Disney:
Disney Play Rooms in children’s hospitals across China
Did you know that The Walt Disney Company’s support of children’s hospitals dates back to the 1930’s? Walt Disney himself would visit children in hospitals often taking Disney characters and animators with him.
When the Shanghai Disney Resort was scheduled to open in June of 2016, John Breckow along with others from Corporate Citizenship for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts looked to find a way to give back to the community in Shanghai. Maybe it was Walt Disney’s support of children’s hospitals that inspired them to look at children’s hospitals in the area.
When visiting a children’s hospital in Shanghai, they noticed there was not a place for children facing serious illnesses and their families to play. With their focus of bringing comfort, happiness, and inspiration to kids and families around the globe came the vision of creating a Disney-themed play area for patients. At the grand opening of the Shanghai Disney Resort, The Walt Disney Company donated $3.1 million dollars to fund a five-year program that will provide more than 50 Disney Play Rooms in children’s hospitals across China. There are now Disney Play Rooms in children’s hospitals in Nanjing, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chengdu.
The Disney Play Rooms create a Disney environment for children and their families. The rooms are colorful and bright. They are designed with a focus on the mind-spirit-body connection through play therapy and play curriculum. Shanghai Disney Resort VoluntEARS (Disney cast members and their families) will donate their time to bring smiles to children and families during their hospital stays.
Disney and The Make-A-Wish Foundation
The Walt Disney Company has partnered with The Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant over 120,000 wishes to date. John Breckow shared several incredible stories with us at the conference. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these were the stories we were hearing on the news each night? It is not simply a wish that is granted to a child. It is estimated that 200 hours goes into making sure each wish is a personalized and special experience for each child and his or her family. From what we learned, it is clear that it takes a Disney village to grant each and every child’s wish.
This is the REAL magic of wishes being granted to children with medical conditions – studies are showing that their medical conditions improve after receiving their wish! Isn’t that miraculous! The break from the stress of the medical condition for the whole family, the fun time together as a family, and the extraordinary support and encouragement the child and the family receives is rejuvenating and refreshing. The child and the family return home filled with hope and optimism.
Disney has put together some amazing campaigns to get the community involved in helping more children have their wishes come true. Do you remember the #ShareYourEars campaign? Disney encouraged everyone on social media to share pictures of themselves with Mickey ears using the hashtag, and donated $5 for every photo shared. They had an incredible response with almost 1.8 million photos posted across social platforms! It is truly amazing how much goodness can be spread by people willing to share.
John Breckow was given permission to share a sweet and tender story with us of a wish granted to a young man named Richie. We share it with you as an example of the compassion and kindness, as well as the willingness to go the extra mile, that epitomizes The Walt Disney Company. Richie had Down syndrome and leukemia. Richie’s wish was to dance with Belle, the princess from Beauty and the Beast. Richie was not able to leave the hospital, so John Breckow and “Belle” went to him. Before they arrived at the hospital, they were notified that Richie had a seizure that morning and would not be able to leave his bed. John asked “Belle” what she wanted to do. They both decided to grant Richie his wish.
We were able to see the video recording of what happened. There was not a dry eye in the conference. The darling “Belle” held Richie’s hand as she danced next to his hospital bed with the Beauty and the Beast “Tale As Old As Time” song playing in the background. The nurses in the room watched Richie with pure delight as his wish came true. It was magic.
At the time Richie’s wish was granted, he had been given six weeks to live. Miraculously, he rebounded and lived for another year and had another wish granted – to work at Disneyland for a day.
The photo below is from John Breckow’s personal files. It is a photo taken of him with Richie on the day he worked at Disneyland. Richie passed away just a few days after this photo was taken. His family shared how grateful they are for the memories of Richie being so happy.
Mickey and Minnie bringing hope and encouragement
It was touching to learn that Corporate Citizenship for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts often sends Mickey and Minnie to bring hope and encouragement to people that have been hit with a natural disaster or tragedy. These are not stories we hear on the news. These are behind-the-scenes efforts to do what Disney does best – bringing magic to children and families.
Help for the victims of Hurricane Harvey
When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas, Mickey and Minnie visited schools, shelters, and families. Disney raised more than $15 million dollars to support relief efforts.
Hospital visits after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting
Two weeks after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival that left 58 people dead and 851 injured, Mickey and Minnie visited six Las Vegas hospitals. By this time many of the injured had left the hospitals, but the heroes of that night – the doctors, nurses, and medical staff – had been through so much. You can see in the photos how it brightened the day of these wonderful people as Mickey and Minnie came to their work stations.
Mickey, Minnie, and the team from Corporate Citizenship for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts listened to stories from that horrific night. A man that was over triage at one of the hospitals the night of the shooting hugged Mickey for a solid minute. He told John that he needed a reminder that there was still good left in the world. It was a gift of comfort and happiness to well-deserving people who worked tirelessly to save lives.
Two Favorite Quotes from John Breckow
John Breckow summed up why he and the team from Corporate Citizenship for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts do what they do. These are inspiring words from an inspiring man with an inspiring vision!
“This is when the magic means a little more. We share hope and the world is filled with happiness and love.”
“There is so much that divides the world right now,
let’s unite and give hope.”
If you need some inspiration and a reason to believe that dreams really do come true, grab a box of tissues and read these wish stories. What we’ve shared here is not even the tip of the iceberg.
To learn more about the charitable giving of The Walt Disney Company, click here.