Having just spent fifteen solid minutes with Snow White, you might think that Benjamin would need to take a few minutes to digest what had just happened, or even that he might try to follow her to the door she disappeared through. No, Ben just let out another laugh and then led us all back for another round on Snow White's Scary Adventures. His mother and I were still reeling from how amazing the visit was, but Ben was ready to keep going full steam ahead. As he took both our hands and pulled us back to his ride, the best we could do was turn back and mouth "thank you so much!" to Stacey while being dragged away. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, the Twittersphere was lighting up.
My Day In Disney
Ben is riding #SWSA with Snow White herself. pic.twitter.com/OQWnV7YO
Earlier in the week, a few days before the final night of Snow White's Scary Adventures, I had a telephone conversation with Disney cast member Stacey Patrone. We were discussing what might be possible for creating a Magical Moment for Benjamin on the last evening, and coordinating times and such. She couldn't give me any specifics, but we did arrange that whatever happened would be at 7pm. I was very careful to stress to her that my family did not expect Disney to do anything for Ben, and that we were extremely grateful for anything that they did do. My one concern had to do with expectations - I was a little worried that whatever they did, Ben might not seem like he was enjoying it. If you don't know Ben it can be kind of hard to read him, and he can also get overwhelmed if too many people are focused on him. I warned her not to necessarily expect anything like a Kodak moment, but reassured her that whatever she put together I was sure that Ben would enjoy in his own way.
I remember vividly the day, a couple of years ago, that the Fantasyland Expansion was announced at D23. Ben and I were in the park when the news broke, in fact we were standing in the alternate/wheelchair entrance for Snow White's Scary Adventures. I had known the announcement was coming, it was a very poorly kept secret, but the real question was what exactly the expansion would entail. I was so relieved when the detailed announcement did not include any changes to SWSA - I figured that if Disney was spending that much money in Fantasyland and not touching Ben's ride, then she would be safe for at least a decade. I remember having a conversation with the area manager for Fantasyland that afternoon, talking about the big plans and what a relief it was that SWSA was safe. You can imagine my family's distress when, several months later, the expansion plans were radically modified. The space that was going to contain a big Princess meet & greet was scrapped and replaced with the Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride, and SWSA was going to be gutted and turned into a smaller scale Princess meet & greet instead. There were other changes, but that was the only one I cared about. We didn't have a closing date (and wouldn't have one for over a year), but we knew that the end was coming. Ben was losing his favorite place on Earth, the place for which our family had moved cross-country from Seattle to Orlando back in '03.
Before I start telling the story of Ben's final farewell to Snow White's Scary Adventures, I have a long list of people that need to be thanked. Without the efforts of these folks, Ben's last hours with SWSA would have been mostly sad and disappointing. Instead it became one of the most remarkably joyful events that I have ever experienced.
First on the list is Disney cast member Carl Bond. I have known Carl for several years now, having sung with him in the Garden Community Choir. He is a great singer, a great father, and an all around stand-up kind of guy. He also happens to work as an area manager over at Epcot. It was Carl who got the ball rolling on making the 31st a special day for Ben. He might try to say that he didn't do much, he's that sort of person, but he was the initial spark that set things in motion. Without Carl, nothing would have happened.
My apologies, I sort of lost track with posting the tally earlier this year. I still have the raw numbers for each day, and I will try to back-post those tallies over the weekend. In any case, Ben's final ride count at the end of the night last night was:
I swear to you, we did not plan that in advance. As recently as last weekend I thought that there was no way he would ever reach that number. As the night wore on last night, and Ben remained so absolutely joyful, it became increasingly clear that we were going to come close. We were all completely astonished that he actually finished on that milestone.
It is going to take me a few days to write up a post describing the last night in detail - there is so much to say, and so many people to thank. Take the best, most perfect day of your entire life and then triple it - that is the day that Ben had yesterday.
5/08/10 - 9
Running total of the number of time Ben has ridden Snow White's Scary Adventures, as of 5/08/10:
Before I start the actual story, I need to specifically thank three people who made this all happen. Carl Bond is the Area Manager for Entertainment at Epcot, and it was his initial involvement that got the ball rolling. Without his help none of this would have ever happened. Scott Cook is Carl's counterpart at the Magic Kingdom, and he jumped into action as soon as Carl contacted him. Finally, David Storm is one of the lead Dream Team members at the Magic Kingdom. He really took this story to heart, and created an event that so far exceeded our wildest imagination that I cannot even begin to thank him enough. All three of them will be getting personal letters of thanks from us this week, both directly and to their supervisors so that they can get the recognition they deserve. Yesterday was simply an amazing day all around, a piece of magic that neither Ben nor the rest of our family will ever forget.