I will be sitting in the airport, waiting for my flight from Philadelphia to board and take me to Orlando. As you all know, I’ve been to Orlando too many times to count. We lived there for 5 years, and we still consider the area a second home even though it’s more than 10 years since we left. So it seems odd that I am so nervous and anxious about going to a place that I have loved most of my adult life – a place I look forward to going back to as much as a child looks forward to visiting their favorite grandmom.
The difference this time is that my flight to Orlando is taking me on a different journey. I am embarking on a trip like none I have taken before. I will link arms with 14 other women and one man, chosen out of a pool of 10,000 people, and head into this new adventure with enthusiasm, excitement, and just a little bit of anxiety.
Disney World is my happy place. It’s a lot of people’s happy place, but so many of my happiest memories are tied to Walt Disney World. The first time I ever flew on an airplane was to Disney World, with my dad, my grandmother, and my sister. They are all gone now, but that happy memory lives on and sustains me when I get saddened by their passings. Jim and I took our first big vacation as a couple to Disney World, and it was such a wonderful time, we took our first big vacation as husband and wife there when we honeymooned at Disney. Our middle daughter learned to walk at Disney World, and we have quite a few photos of her trying out the new skill at EPCOT. I have photos of the oldest in various hotels and restaurants and photos of the youngest gazing up at the castle with infant eyes. We have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, loose teeth, learning to read, and new shoes at Walt Disney World; and we have spent Christmases, Thanksgivings, Easters, and Arbor Days in one of the Disney theme parks. We’ve had first haircuts done there, first Christmas ornaments purchased there, and first hot dogs eaten there.
It is my honor and privilege to be able to give back. It sounds corny, I know. After all, we’ve paid for annual passes for nearly 15 years; and we’ve spent thousands on meals, hard ticket events and souvenirs. But the price we’ve paid could never come close to the priceless memories we’ve made. To be chosen to serve a year on this panel – with 15 of the nicest people I think I’ll ever meet – is my pleasure. I look forward to the weekend ahead, and to the year that stretches out after that. As I said, I’m excited, enthusiastic, and a little bit anxious. I owe a lot of happy moments to Walt Disney World, and I hope I do them proud!