DISNEY DIARIES: Magical Moments #DisneyKids

Going out with Marcus has always been a challenge.  After summer of his 2nd year and ER visits almost every other weekend, we were told by his allergist that restaurants and outside food were no longer an option for him.  We were devastated for what this meant for our family and mostly for him.  He became our boy in the bubble.  Traveling with him always began with the question, should we bring him?  Then, can we bring him?  But more than anything we wished for Marcus to have as much of a normal childhood as possible and whats more normal for a child than a visit to Disney World?  Even when reassured of the lengths Disney goes to make eating safe at their parks and resorts for Marcus, we were still apprehensive. Our first trip to Disney with Marcus resulted in an anaphylactic reaction and ER visit after just 30 minutes of stepping foot into our resort.  We were heartbroken, the amazing staff at Disney stepped up and was determined to find a safe way for Marcus to enjoy all of Disney.  From that day on, for the remainder of our trip, they made his meals from scratch, on a separate stove and counter making the rest of our meals during the trip worry-free.  That’s not to say there wasn’t some challenges.  Like his repeated wish to have one of these.

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Yes, an R2D2 bucket that only came filled with butter popcorn, a major NO-NO for him.  Every time we passed a popcorn stand he would beg for the R2D2 bucket and I would say NO.  At one point he turned to me and said, “But I don’t even want the popcorn, I just want the bucket momma.”  It broke my heart, why couldn’t he have the bucket if he really wanted just that.  So I walked up to the stand and asked if I could purchase the stand alone bucket.  I was politely told it wasn’t sold separately and while they sympathized with my plight, they didn’t have a SKU to facilitate a stand alone purchase of the bucket.  It was then a little magic happened, the people lined up behind us offered to buy the bucket if the castmember would just put their popcorn in the paper cup, I was so incredibly grateful and in return, purchased their drinks to go with their popcorn.  That was over a year ago and R2D2 still sits in his room, filled with different knick knacks each week, depending on his whims.  It is still one of his most beloved treasures from Walt Disney World.

Fast forward to our most recent trip a couple weeks ago, despite being pros at handling allergies at Disney now, we know never to let our guards down.  At every meal we consulted with the Chef, sometimes even twice.  Despite wanting to give Marcus more options as far as meal choices goes, sometimes we’d panic and opt for his safe chicken strips and fries.  Then one day we were at Hollywood Studios Backlot Express for lunch and what did they have?

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Of course Marcus wanted this Lightning McQueen Power Pack Snack Bucket filled with no-no’s for him – yogurt, goldfish crackers, apple-cinnamon snack bar, and low fat milk.  While I was sure they probably couldn’t sell the bucket separately, for Marcus, I would ask.  The first castmember I encountered said she was sure they could work something out, just see the cashier.  When I got to the cashier, she told me as expected, that they do not have a sku to sell the bucket separately and I could just buy it and throw the food out.  That sounded just a little ridiculous to me.  I explained to her all of Marcus’ allergies and the plight of the unattainable souvenir buckets filled with allergy-triggering foods.  She got me the manager right away.

IMG_20140315_151905962_HDRIMG_20140315_151921971_HDR At first he was regretful in informing me that he couldn’t sell me the Lightning McQueen bucket that Marcus so badly wanted, and I was crushed.  Some might say, what’s the big deal, its just some stupid tchotchke.  As I explained to the manager Don, Marcus doesn’t just have one allergy, rather a cluster of allergies that pretty much limits 95% of any menu.  He’s only 4 year old, and in those 4 years, he’s been through so much medically and emotionally.  While he has taken each challenge on and is very aware of his allergies and the limitations that come with them, he’s ONLY 4 years old.  He’s started to realize that he’s much different than his classmates.  At birthday celebrations, he’s always eating something else (safe) entirely and for his more severe allergy triggers, he may even have to sit completely separate from his friends.  At places like Walt Disney World, where a kid can be a kid, he’s more than conscious that he’s not an ordinary kid, especially when foods we don’t hesitate with when his sister asks for them, but do with him and the word NO is used too much with him.  I’ve seen glimmers of disappointment in his eyes, times where he has held back his tears because he knows how serious his allergies are and how much he doesn’t want to wind up in the hospital with tubes being shoved down his throat to get an airway.  At the tender age of 4, he’s experienced that more than any one person should, so he tries to be strong.  I am so proud of his strength and resilience in the face of these allergies, but how much can I ask of him?

IMG_20140315_222221405_HDRBut then Don, the amazing manager, seemingly empathized with my plight,  found a way.  He said he would put together a meal instead of the snacks and although we had just bought lunch for him, I agreed.  I didn’t want to be any more of a bother and the purchase of the bucket was going to be the price of Marcus’ happiness so I paid for it.  What happened next almost brought me to tears.  When he brought out the meal, assuring me that the breaded chicken strips and fries were cooked separately and gave me a small bottle of water instead of the milk, I noticed a package of cookies.  I thanked him profusely and quickly took them off the tray and gave them back to him with a brisk, we can’t have cookies and turned to walk away.  He called out to me, “WAIT! I’ve got you covered Mom!”  I turned around and he showed me the packaging, “Mom these cookies are completely free of all of his allergies, I promise, they’re safe for him.”  I was shocked, flabbergasted and amazed all at the same time.   I went back to our table and just stared at the cookies, could it be? I had to hold back the tears.  Don, the manager, came back to the table and told us that we could find these snacks throughout the park and resorts as well.  I thanked him again and just marveled at what just happened.  He went the extra step to create a magical moment for Marcus.  This picture to the left is Marcus having his FIRST cookie ever!  We’ve been back a week and well, that bucket is now filled with different knick knacks of his whim.  Another Magical Moment and First at the amazing Walt Disney World.

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another allergy-free find at WDW!

{ disclosure:  While this post includes mentions of Disney FAM Press trips I have gone to in the past where a PORTION of our travels were covered (we spent quite a chunk ourselves) by the Walt Disney Company, there was no editorial expectation and this post is comprised entirely of my own opinions and thoughts.  I received no compensation for this post. }