The happiest place on earth

July 20, 2022

I am a two-bedroom condo close to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. I am no stranger to Mickey Mouse ears, princess dresses, and Disney movie singalongs. The magic of Disney shines throughout each room, but the families who make this condo even more magical are the Karen Wellington Foundation recipient families.

These families, consisting of kings, queens, princes, and princesses, radiate a refreshing joy and a childlike appreciation of each day, no matter their age. Once they walk through my doors, time seems to stop. A grandmother and grandchild stayed here on one occasion, their suitcases stuffed to the brim with both princess dresses and KWF gear. I am not sure I've ever seen a grandparent so enamored with the idea of a week-long adventure at Walt Disney World, but yet again I've never quite met a woman like this one either. She danced, sang, and skipped around the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms with her granddaughter to the Frozen soundtrack each day, matching – if not exceeding – her young granddaughter’s energy. This woman, a KWF recipient, was powerful and proud, yet delicate and gentlehearted – some may say she closely resembled the protagonists of the Disney movies we all know and love. She did not let the difficulties of day-to-day life get to her as many people do; no August day too hot, no wake-up call too early, and no line was too long as she explored the Disney parks. Every day was a gift. This KWF recipient exuded lively energy and childlike wonder as she told stories to her granddaughter far beyond her bedtime. No matter how long their adventures at the parks were, she always saved a little extra time to debrief on the magic that had occurred that day.

Oh, how I wish every visitor carried this free-spirited mindset that all Karen Wellington Foundation recipients seem to hold. I have been lucky enough to be a part of families’ most special memories: first family vacations, first excursions to the castle, and even first steps have been taken here.

Oftentimes, tales of enchantment and awe from visits to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios are shared within these walls, but the tales of strength and determination from KWF recipients are, in my opinion, the most enchanting of all. These families soak up every second of fun that their trip has to offer, with bright pink Mickey Mouse ears in tow. Many know Walt Disney World to be the “Happiest Place on Earth,” but I strongly believe that I take that title when Karen Wellington Foundation recipient families stay here.

Ashley Fasola, Scripps Howard Communications Intern