Olivia remembered the last time she’d been to Walt Disney World® Resort; in her wheelchair, her experience was limited by her restricted mobility creating both a mental and physical struggle for her during that period of her life. While her condition has since allowed her to walk on her own and dance after a summer of neuro-migraines, fatigue, and cardiac troubles, it was that memory and a desire to give back that motivated her wish to shadow the staff at Disney's Disabilities Office.
Olivia remembered the last time she’d been to Walt Disney World® Resort; in her wheelchair, her experience was limited by her restricted mobility. While her condition has since allowed her to walk on her own and dance after a summer of neuro-migraines, fatigue, and cardiac troubles, it was that memory and a desire to give back that motivated her wish.
“The first time I went to Disney after my diagnosis, it was different. It was hard,” Olivia said, noting that her wheelchair created both a mental and physical struggle for her during that period of her life. “I couldn’t stop thinking about how this was supposed to be my vacation.”
But the trip introduced her to a portion of Disney that would play into her life months down the road: the Disabilities Office.
“During that trip I met the people who helped me, and I thought what they did was interesting,” she said. “I could see myself doing that.”
Now 18-year-old Olivia was diagnosed in 2014 with an autonomic functioning disorder that has greatly impacted her ability to attend school and participate in her favorite extracurricular activities. Olivia kept her hope and kind spirit through multiple hospitalizations and treatments, remaining a cheerleader for other kids.
When her pain management doctor referred her to Make-A-Wish, and she learned she was wish-eligible, she and her family discussed something that had stuck with her since the last time she’d entered the Disney Parks – the disabilities office.
“My mom mentioned it and we talked about it. We thought it would be a good idea to go back to Disney but add that in,” Olivia said. “[I wanted] to see the process and would like to pursue that field, specifically at Disney World.”
Olivia and her family spent six days in Orlando, staying at Give Kids The World Village, and exploring Walt Disney World® Resort. She met with workers in not only Disney’s Disabilities Office, but in Give Kids The World as well. They were treated to a tour of the facilities and even an explanation of new policies and procedures Disney plans to implement to help kids like Olivia have the best Disney experience possible.
“Everything was done so well,” Olivia’s mom, Geralynn, said. “They went above and beyond – we couldn’t ask for anything more.” She added that the shadowing experience exceeded their expectations and that they loved every aspect of the trip.
But for Olivia, it was something more - a reminder that her disability didn’t define her or the path she walked in life.
“In talking to the disability workers at Disney and asking how they ended up there, I learned that everyone’s path is different,” she said. “No one follows the path they laid for themselves at the age of 15. Maybe I wouldn’t have thought of this if I hadn’t gotten sick, but I was very mad at everyone for a very long time. It wasn’t until Make-A-Wish that I realized there were still ways for me to succeed.”