By Diana Hoang, Communications Intern, Public Affairs
Dressed from wing to toe as Tinker Bell, six-year-old Ashley radiated with excitement when visiting Magic Kingdom Park. Her newfound pixie dust did not just come from being at the Most Magical Place on Earth – it also came from fulfilling a dream following a special interaction with a Jungle Cruise Skipper named Heather.
Ashley’s family was determined to experience the world-famous Jungle Cruise tour during their family vacation in 2006. Their excitement built as they took in the immersive décor and boats sailing by from the queue. Before embarking on their excursion, something incredible happened that would ignite a spark in Ashley – Skipper Heather designated Ashley to become her right hand as a Jr. Skipper!
Cast members occasionally award young guests with the honorary title of Jr. Skipper and enlist their help steering the boat on the “10,000-mile journey down the Mekong River.”
This experience inspired Ashley’s dream of becoming a real-life skipper and leading her own boat adventure someday. The feeling of inclusion and accomplishment as a Jr. Skipper is a core memory forever imprinted in Ashley’s heart thanks to the magic Heather created.
“I try to be inspirational every day to everyone I meet. You never know how you can affect someone’s day or touch someone’s life,” Heather shared.
The family kept in touch with Heather and would connect with her during their visits to the park, sparking a 20-year relationship as Heather grew from a cast member to a friend. As Ashley grew up, Heather introduced her to the Disney College Program and an opportunity to join the Disney family working … you guessed it, on the Jungle Cruise!
Heather coordinated a heartfelt surprise to share the news, and Ashley knew her childhood dream had come true. Their twenty-year journey together, as Heather grew from a cast member to a friend, led to the uncontainable emotions of this significant moment.
“Looking at that little girl years ago, I would be in awe of myself,” said Ashley. “I would have never known with every Disney trip, it would strengthen the impact that Heather has had on me and inspire me to desire creating that same magic for others.”
Heather’s incomparable guest service created the escape into the magical world of Disney for Ashley, as the timeless magic was reinforced with every Disney experience.
Cast members like Heather are the very heart of Disney and they go above and beyond to make ordinary days extraordinary with every smile, every interaction and every magical memory in the making.
Have you met a cast member like Heather who inspired you? If so, visit DisneyPrograms.com for ways you can make magic!