Around the time that Walt Disney was first presenting the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City, Mary Poppins was about to be released, and he was also trying secretly buying up land in a mosquito-ridden swamp land we now know and love, he realized he needed a little help in representing the Company at all the events where he was asked to appear. Thus the Disney Ambassador program was born and has been in place ever since, 47 years later.
Today at Epcot, a ceremony was held to choose and announce the two new Ambassadors from five finalists for the 2013-2014 season. On hand were Vice President of Epcot Erin Youngs, President of Walt Disney Parks and Operations, United States and France, Meg Crofton, current Ambassadors Norman Vossschulte and Jennifer Mason, and 65 former Walt Disney World Ambassadors to welcome the new team members.
In a twist a little like a Miss America pageant, all five finalists were called to the stage and were able to say a few words about themselves and their journey, while their fellow Cast Member friends and family cheered on. World Showcase Cast Members stood behind them with giant posters featuring their faces and names as we waited with anticipation for the announcement. Mickey and Minnie joined in, carrying the Ambassador pins and scroll featuring the Ambassador pledge. The scroll was read aloud before the names were chosen, while the Voices of Liberty sang softly in the background. Meg Crofton had the honor of announcing that Tye Arnold and Richard Tamayo were to be the newest Walt Disney World Ambassadors as confetti and applause filled the American Gardens Theater.
Often unheralded, but used every day, Walt Disney World has top of the industry support and services for accommodating guests with disabilities. So it’s nice when they get recognized for it. The most recent award has come from across the pond. The Gold Autism Award was presented to Disney on behalf of The United Kingdom Autism Foundation for Disney’s efforts supporting and accommodating autistic guests.
The Gold Autism Award, accepted by Greg Hale, Chief Safety Officer and Vice President of Worldwide Standards and Auditing, was presented by Ivan Corea, father of an autistic child, Charin Corea. The award recognizes Disney’s initiatives to help guests with disabilities navigate the Walt Disney World Resort properties in an easy and effortless way.
Charin has inspired an entire autism movement in the United Kingdom. His parents initiated 2002 as Autism Awareness Year and they founded Autism Sunday which is now a massive international event celebrated in many countries including the United States. The inspiration behind all of this is Charin, a teenager with autism spectrum disorder and a communication disorder, who has inspired world leaders to speak up for people with autism and Asperger syndrome.