( This article was originally published in the AllEars® weekly newsletter on July 24, 2007.)
The Magic of Meets!
by Deb Wills,
ALL EARS® Editor-in-Chief
Having recently returned from MagicMeets, an incredible weekend in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, I was finding it very difficult to “put pen to paper” and get my thoughts and emotions written to share them with you. Every time I sat down to write, I found myself staring at the screen, wondering where to start. An overdose of Pixie Dust will do that to you! You know what I’m taking about, right? Like when you come home from a Disney trip and images of Mickey and Donald and the Queen of Hearts and Alice are still dancing in your head, but you don’t exactly know how to describe it?
Then, I received an email from reader Teddy Beaver that put things into perspective for me:
“I just want to tell AllEars®subscribers that if you read this newsletter or Mouseplanet or PassPorter or any of the other fine websites, books, e-newsletters, etc., do not ever hesitate to attend functions they sponsor or tell us about. I have read over the years about MouseFest, MagicMeets, trips, gatherings, whole bunches of stuff that they have invited us readers to. Well, finally, this past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending MagicMeets. WOW! What a blast! The whole day was fun and informative. But I have to say, the high point was meeting all these folks who week-after-week share and spread Disney magic. The Debs, Mike Scopa, Fred Block, the Marxes, and just too many to mention, ALL were friendly, welcoming and truly made us feel part of the experience. My warmest, sincere thanks to all of our publishing friends who bring us a little bit of magic all year round. It was great being with people who not only ‘get it,’ they make it happen!”
THAT, as my dear friend Mike Scopa said during his keynote talk at Magic Meets, is “Why We Do What We Do.”
We do it because we still believe in spreading the Magic — the Magic that we find at Walt Disney World and want to carry with us in our day-to-day lives.
So what exactly was MagicMeets? It was rather like a mini-convention, a gathering of Disney lovers who wanted to get a little “fix” without making the trip to Orlando. There were keynote speeches in the ballroom; 12 breakout sessions on everything from Home Imagineering to dining at Disney to what it’s like to be a Cast Member; Segways available for trial in the conference center area; webmasters and book authors and others on hand to discuss all manner of things Disney; a kids’ area; a wonderful luncheon — and it was all broadcast live on the web via folks who usually bring you Disney podcasts. And, for those who stayed through the weekend, let’s not forget the adventure to nearby Hershey Park on Sunday when we had our own chocolate-covered version of Extra Magic Hour.
Every person I saw on Saturday at the MagicMeets event had a huge smile on his or her face. Whenever I asked someone how the day was going, “Outstanding!” was the typical response. If we could have harnessed the energy from the laughter alone, Monster’s Inc. style, who knows what we could have accomplished.
Since I returned home, I’ve heard story after story of heartfelt joy, surprise and magic from that day. I’m sure every attendee has his or her own special memories. Here are just a few of mine:
— talking with a gentleman who came up to me and reminded me that I had met him at Walt Disney World some time ago when he was in a wheelchair. He thanked me for my kindness that day.
— hearing the giggles of Beci and Annette from MouseFanTravel after they tossed pixie dust on a woman and awarded a ticket to a private party for this December’s MouseFest.
— hugging two ladies I met several years ago in the Magic Kingdom while waiting for the Christmas parade, as they excitedly told me they would be sailing on the cruise I’m hosting along with Steve Barrett (the “Deb and Steve Cruise”) in September 2008.
— seeing the breast cancer survivor I met two years ago at this event. At the end of the day, this woman approached me and I immediately remembered her. We hugged, shared a few private words and then gleefully looked into the camera for a photographic record of our brief encounter.
— being convinced we were going to float in the air with Peter Pan and Wendy when the couple bidding on tickets to a special IllumiNations party I am co-hosting in December ran up to me to tell me they had WON!
Topping off all these memories is the one I’ve saved for last: More than 110 items were donated, packaged, and brought to the MagicMeets event this year for a silent auction, with the proceeds to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Under the guiding hands of Lou Mongello, of DisneyWorldTrivia.com, and Pat Whitson, auction coordinator for the project, “Dream Team” volunteers assembled an auction area that looked incredibly professional in the hopes of raising enough money to send one family to Walt Disney World ($6,000). Through the generosity of the 520 people gathered in that ballroom in Camp Hill that day, a grand total of $9,000 was raised! When the total was announced, there were many folks dabbing their eyes with tissues and many others were speechless.
Mike Scopa summed up what I was feeling: “I walked over to the silent auction area as Fred (Block) was doing more prize giveaways. I saw the total money raised — $9,000 — and grabbed Pat (Whitson) and started crying. Amidst all that was given the attendees during this special day they had turned around and had given back. I was so moved.”
The power of the Disney community is incredible. Lou and Pat — many of us are already thinking of creative donations for the 2008 auction so we can break five figures!
Kudos to the folks who donated items, and to all the folks who bid on items. Everyone who attended deserves a huge round of applause. And I mean everyone.
Did you know that everyone who attended MagicMeets purchased a ticket? That included each speaker — each paid all his or her own expenses. Each table holder paid a sponsor fee in support of the event. We all gave of our time freely, so that all attendees would have a day to remember. I believe we achieved that and much more.
Speaking of applause, I want to be sure to acknowledge Fred Block, the mastermind of this event — he outdid himself. Fred is supported by a loving wife and two beautiful daughters, who willingly (OK, maybe not that willingly) made their own sacrifices so that their husband/father could spend countless hours/weeks/months putting together the MagicMeets gathering. I’d like to also thank everyone who stopped by the AllEars® table to express their thanks for the website, newsletter and blogs. Team Members Deb Koma and Linda Eckwerth worked very hard all day to keep things flowing at the table. To everyone who attended my talk, “Ahoy Mateys, Disney Cruises for Adults” — we had a great time, didn’t we? Many thanks to my team and the MouseFanTravel.com folks for assisting with the presentation.
Just before the MagicMeets event, I was really tired, burning the candle at both ends. I found myself falling asleep every night on the living room couch, dragging out of bed at 5 a.m. when the alarm went off… make that 5:25 after I hit the snooze button two or three times. I’d been spending the last few weeks very busy on the final prep for MagicMeets, gathering swag to pass out, putting finishing touches on the gift baskets for giveaways (Linda Eckwerth gets special kudos for these), deciding on decorations for my “Ahoy Mateys!” break-out session, finding last-minute goodies for the Make-A-Wish silent auction, packing everything up…
And then I went to MagicMeets, and that made it all seem worthwhile. Yes, I came back from Camp Hill still physically tired (I think those late nights staying up after midnight had something to do with that), but mentally I was rejuvenated. My batteries have been totally RECHARGED and I feel the creative juices pumping again.
You see, while the umbrella under which we gathered was Disney, MagicMeets really has as its underpinning — Magic. The smiles and laughter, hugs and tears, sharing in the joys of friendship are what make MagicMeets special.
We hope you’ll consider joining in the Magic of MagicMeets along with us next year.