A dream is a wish your heart makes….hmmmm. I’ve had a particular wish my heart has been making for at least three to four years now. Can you imagine the shock and awe I felt when I realized that my wish had become a dream and that this dream was finally becoming a reality? I’m sure you do. We’ve all had one dream or another come true in some form for us in life (if not, stay tuned. I’m sure it’s just around the corner for you). When a friend notified our group that pixie dust could be sitting in some of our inboxes, I went to my email expecting another “not this time.” To my surprise, there staring right at me was an email containing an invite to the Disney Social Media Celebration On-The-Road event!!!
Huge thanks to Disney Parks, Experiences and Products for this special invitation to their Walt Disney World event and for gifting me with a bag of goodies to take home. All opinions in this post, however, are my own. This post does contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information.
The Shock and Awe
Oh, trust me. I’ve been in the position of watching dozens of my friends receive these kinds of invites without seeing one myself. It hurt a lot more in the beginning. However, the sting started to wear off in time. Instead, I chose to focus on what I COULD do and enjoying what I WAS doing. I love writing and I love exploring so that I can bring you that personal experience. It excites me when something I’ve written inspires, encourages or motivates someone. So, if I was going to get one of these coveted invitations, I wanted it to be because they recognize my work as genuine and worthy of it.
Of course, I am NOT going to lie to you. It felt AH-MAZING to see that email directed towards little ol’ me. I happened to be with a friend for lunch at that moment and I think my eyes leaked a little. I couldn’t help it! They could not be contained. I was going to be attending the Disney’s Social Media Celebration here at Walt Disney World and was elated!
Disney Social Media Celebration: What is it?
It’s hard to believe that some people still don’t know. What started off as an annual event that grew in popularity and excitement is currently a string of one day conferences in various parts of the country. This year alone, Disney Social Media Celebrations have been held in Puerto Rico, New York and now here in Orlando. During the invitation-only conference, writers, bloggers and social media influencers gather to learn the latest and greatest coming in and out of Disney. They glean tips and helpful information from some of the experts in the social media world. Somewhere in the day’s lineup, a keynote speaker with some clout shares a myriad of encouraging words, inspirational quotes and motivational challenges.
Disney goodies and edible deliciousness are typically a part of an event like this, as well. Of course, you can bet this one was no exception. No one walked away hungry and no one walked away empty-handed. It’s just a day filled with magic and pixie dust. It’s totally understandable why everyone would want to be involved. Just know this, though ~ we DO work for it.
So our day went like this….
As I was thinking through the day and how I could shape this piece, I was immediately drawn to all the pixie dust they sprinkled. Every session, every gift, every moment seemed to be dripping with it. From the beginning to the end, it was a magical day and I figured THAT was a good place to start….the beginning.
#1: They welcomed us
My typical routine is to show up VERY early to an event. I like to plan for traffic, scope out my surroundings and feel prepared before walking into the venue. I did just that for this conference and am so glad I did. The traffic apparently backed up closer to the event registration time and nobody likes to wait in a long line of traffic. It also gave me the chance to chat with some friends and get comfortable, since this was my VERY FIRST Disney Social Media event.
When it was time to register, we received pinnable buttons on which we wrote out our names and a pin to trade (if we so desired). We also received a packet that had a parking pass, our tickets (that I’ll explain later) and a letter talking about the day’s event.
Once the doors opened, we all filtered in to find our perfect seat. I cannot believe where my friends and I landed!!! Check out this view!
#2: They Fed Us
After situating ourselves, it was time to grab pictures and grub! Yummy! We’re not just talking pastries, though there were some. We are talking a full up buffet breakfast. No one walked away hungry ~ unless you were too busy taking pictures or socializing (which is a very strong possibility ~ there was a lot to see).
I’ll stay on the food train for a minute here to keep things together.
For lunch, we were treated to another full buffet with delicious options from beginning to end. There was baked chicken, potatoes, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, salad, etc.!! They knew we had to keep up our strength throughout the day, so it was nice to see such a spread!
Now, this was a nice surprise to see…
Most of you know that I’m a food allergy mama and Disney has always impressed me with how well they manage and accommodate for food allergies. While my son was not there at the conference (for obvious reasons), I did have a friend sitting at our table who does have some pretty serious dietary restrictions. When she went up to the buffet and was looking at what was available, she had the chance to speak with a Cast Member about what she could eat. The Cast Member went to the back and returned to my friend with a covered plate full of deliciousness.
BONUS NOTE: My friend had not had mac and cheese in quite some time due to the dairy and gluten content. Well, Disney sprinkled pixie dust on her plate and she was able to have some for the first time in a looong time.
T, What about the sweet treats?
Oh, I’m saving that part for another section (wink, wink)
#3: They Taught Us
The morning was filled with various speakers and experts from around the world of Disney. We were taught by some of the best in the social media and marketing field, as well as provided up to date information about new products and new additions.
We learned about the art of storytelling from Cappy Surette, an Executive Communications Manager. He shared with us the Hero’s Journey and how Walt Disney’s own story speaks of heroes, villains, challenges and a satisfying resolution. What an encouragement to hear how one man’s tragedy led to his future success ~ and a million other dreams come true.
Steve Guberman, Senior Manager in SEO with Disney Parks, shared with us some of the best SEO tips and encouraged us on how to achieve great blog writing. He broke down some of the finer points of what pushes a blog post to the top of Google’s radar and explained things in a way that was comprehensible and inspiring. I actually came away from his chat feeling a little better about some of the practices I’ve been trying to employ. I also noted a few things that I really need to fix!
John Breckow, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, came to the stage right before lunch. During his session, he shared with us Disney’s involvement in making wishes come true with and through various organizations. Disney has such connections as Make A Wish, the Children’s Miracle Network and Second Harvest Food Bank (here in Central Florida). John talked about the variety of campaigns Disney has run, such as #ShareYourEars, and the new Disney Family Volunteering Reward Program (which I plan to research even more!). The information he shared in this segment had a good deal of us in tears ~ well, at least a little eye leaking was noted. It was a good thing John prefaced his speech by telling us the tissues on the table were courtesy of him. Now we all know why.
We also had the opportunity to hear from the event sponsors, Disney Springs and runDisney. A Cast Member representative from both shared exciting information about what’s new and what’s coming, as well as what the race medals are going to look like this year!
So ~ what IS new and what IS coming to Disney Springs?
- NBA Experience (opening August 12th; did you know the NBA store is already opened?)
- Jaléo by Chef Jose Andres (opened earlier this year ~ did you catch my post on it?)
- Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill (opened earlier this year ~ I really need to try this place!)
- New Treats in and around Disney Springs (including at Amorettes, The Candy Cauldron, the Hanger Bar, Yesake, etc.)
For more information on Disney Springs happenings, check out their website at https://www.disneysprings.com/
As noted above, a Cast Member with runDisney came to the podium and shared with us the next set of medals. Boy, did it have the runDisney peeps excited!! She also shared with us various reasons why people run these events, as well as several success stories.
While some run for health, others run for fun. There are groups who run because they are franchise fans (Star Wars, for instance) and families that run together just because. Still others run for a cause to which they are trying to bring awareness. Any way you look at it, the runDisney events are an amazing opportunity to create magical memories while doing something fun and healthy. Have you ever participated in runDisney?
For more information on runDisney events, check out their website at https://www.rundisney.com/
#4 They Surprised Us
After lunch, we had the opportunity to hear from the wonderful and sweet Leanne O’Regan.
Station Break for a quick Personal story:
In February 2017, I was visiting Walt Disney World to parallel a Make A Wish trip my aunt was taking with her grandchildren (now you can see why my emotions got the best of me). It just so happened that the day I was leaving was “arrival day” for the annual Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. I was staying at a neighboring resort, so I decided to take a quick jaunt over to where I knew others were flocking before I took the Tragical Express to the airport. While I was hoping to find some of the friends with whom I had been chatting for some time on-line, instead I ran into the beautiful Ms. Leanne!
Trust me ~ I was shaking. Do I go up and say hi or do I take the safe route and leave her alone? I mean, she is a very busy person.
I began to think this could have potentially been a once in a lifetime experience. So, I put on my big girl pants and went up to her to say hi.
How did she respond?
She was honestly the sweetest person!! Not to mention, she was even ready and willing to take a selfie with me! I was very clear and told her I was not a part of the group – YET. However, I did say that I had every hope and intention to see it happen…some day.
Well ~ if this doesn’t speak to the reality that dreams come true….I don’t know what does. Here we are a little over two years ago and now, creating the same selfie!
OH, RIGHT ~ THE SURPRISE!!!
Leanne was up at the podium sharing with us all the new things happening within the Disney Parks.
- Illuminations: Reflections of Earth last display and the first day of its successor, Epcot Forever
- New fireworks display coming to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
- New fireworks display coming to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
- The Disney Skyliner
If you noticed, I left something VERY important out of there. In just a few short weeks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be welcoming its first visitors to Batuu when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens. The excitement on this side of the country has been wild and so many of us are eager to see the details, experience the Millennium Falcon and find out if Blue Milk actually tastes good!
While Leanne was sharing with us some of the details of the largest expansion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios history, we were caught off guard by the unannounced arrival of…..STORM TROOPERS!!
After taking a few moments to scour the room for rebels, they left us in peace. However, that peace did not last long as the next thing Leanne shared with us was that…
WE WERE GOING BACKSTAGE TO STAR WARS: GALAXY’S EDGE!!!
A portion of our afternoon was spent traveling by bus over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, waiting in the air conditioned PizzeRizzo’s and going by small groups backstage to catch a small glimpse of what everybody has been dying to see!!
We walked in to witness the tremendous detail and effort that has been put into this fantastic development. While in there, we learned about the various aspects of the land. Jon, our guide, talked about the Rise of the Rebellion (which opens December 5th here at Walt Disney World), the Black Spire Outpost, the dining and the merchandise (which will be completely relative to the land and its inhabitants) and the already famous Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run attraction. We only walked perhaps several hundred feet into Batuu, but we already felt like it was in a world of its own. It was a beautiful way to excite us and leave us with a pixie dusted memory of the day.
#5: They Inspired Us
Oh, but we are not done!!! When we returned, we arrived to delicious Star Wars themed treats. At our seats, we also found a beautiful book and a Wishing Star. The book (It’s Your Universe) was written by the actress, author and entrepreneur, Ashley Eckstein. Ashley is best known for lending her voice to Ahsoka Tano, as well as for her clothing company beautifully named Her Universe.
Much to our surprise (and perfectly themed), Ashley was our keynote speaker! We spent the next session listening to Ashley’s story, how she “grew up Disney” and what she believes her path to success entailed. She talked to us about having a dream, making a wish, believing in ourselves and doing what is within our control to make that dream come true. She then shared about the transformation process and determining our personal “why.”
By the way, I discovered my WHY at that exact moment!! The session ended as Ashley talked about how to trust ourselves each and every step of the way.
“Always let your conscience be your guide” ~ Jiminy Cricket.
Oh, one last thing….
#6: They Gifted Us
No Disney event is complete without walking away with something to remember what transpired. The team involved with the Disney Social Media Celebration gifted us with an adorable celebration-themed draw string bag. That bag was filled with magical goodies. We received either a plush Mickey Mouse or Minnie Mouse (I got Mickey!!). We also received a Mickey ice cream bar themed USB drive, runDisney socks, a tervis and a charger.
One special gift we received was a sample copy of the telegram Walt sent his brother, Roy, on the day he realized everything was going to be okay. Oh, this getting framed!
In addition, we took home a themed set of Mickey ears and a Disney-themed notebook and pen. We also received a signed copy of Ashley’s book and a paperback copy of an upcoming movie, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” (starring Milo Ventomiglia). Oh, right! We got a sneak peek at the movie!!!
Phew!!! We definitely experienced the magic!!!!
Dreams DO come true
Four to five years ago, I heard about the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration and began writing more. Two years ago, I met Leanne O’Regan for the very first time and began to dream bigger.
I kept wishing, dreaming and working. By God’s grace and I’m sure a little magic, the invitation I had been trying to earn came along. Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t stop doing what you love. Keep moving forward, one step at a time….day by day. When you have a down day, remember Walt Disney’s story. He lost everything when he lost Oswald. Imagine if he had given up then and there. Imagine the number of lives that would not have been impacted had he not pressed on, kept dreaming or pushing the envelope just a little more.
Dreams DO come true ~ sometimes it just takes awhile. This time, I had the pleasure of seeing one of mine blossom. Next time, I could be reading your pixie dusted story!! In the meantime, I’m excited to experience all that we learned about during the Disney Social Media Celebration. From attractions and foods to brand new restaurants and more, Walt Disney World is the place to be – #NowMoreThanEver!!!