I know, I know. You folks want news. More in-depth info about what's really going on with Disney, Comcast, Henson, Pixar, SaveDisney.com. And -- believe me, guys -- I'm working on articles about all of these issues. And a lot of these stories will be going up on the site next week.

And then -- the week after that -- You guessed it! JimHillMedia.com is going to Philadelphia. We'll be bringing you a blow-by-blow account of what happens in "The City of Brotherly Love" when Michael Eisner and Roy Disney both blow into town. I guarantee you that THAT's going be some interesting reading.

Speaking of interesting reading ... I'm genuinely pleased to see that JHM readers have been responding so enthusiastically to the stories that we've been running here lately that have been forwarded to the site by Disneyland and Walt Disney World cast members. Given that these folks so rarely get the chance to voice their opinions about what's really going on inside the Mouse House, I'm now giving some semi-serious thought to creating a special section here at JimHillMedia.com just for stories from cast members.

Would that idea appeal to you guys? If so, let me know and we'll get that section set up ASAP.

And -- speaking of stories from cast members -- Big Mike Sweeney is back with another great story that takes you deep inside the world of a WDW cast member. Just a word of warning, though: This story is just so sad and so sweet that you may want to grab a handful of Kleenex now. (Why Disney ever let a guy like Big Mike get away, I'll never know ...)

Anyway ... That's it for this week. Be sure to come on back to JHM on Monday, when we're really going to start rolling out the big guns.

Til then ... You folks have a great weekend, okay?

jrh

Now let's get to Big Mike's latest letter, shall we?


 

Dear Jim,

I know that a lot of the times I write you is to illuminate the negative side of working for Disney as well as the Disney company's insistence on running the company bass ackwards. But, I wanted to share with you a simple but heartwarming story that illustrates what, when given the right set of circumstances, a cast member can do to make a visitor's stay at Disney a magical one.

One day, I was working at Big Thunder Mountain at spur unload (first exit on left, not the overlook) when some guests with disabilities entered the spur side exit. They were "Give Kids the World" children, children who are most often terminally ill. I was relatively new with the company and followed the rules as usual. I got them their rows, loaded them on, and gave them a smile and a wave as they departed into "wildest ride in the wilderness."

Later on, I was on break and mentioned to a fellow worker the cute little "Give Kids the World" girl who just rode BTM a little while earlier. We ended up having a conversation on how sad it is these children only have so long to live and how they would be unable to enjoy a lifetime of experiences and never see or do things most people have the privilege to (and most of those take life for granted, lol). When I thought about it, it saddened me greatly to think that these kids have to suffer so much and have virtually nothing to look forward to.

After our conversation, I decided to start "breaking" the rules...to the extreme. I would allow guest with disabilities special favors, especially if they seemed down and out or had unusual situations in which it was very tough for them to get around the parks. I would give them 2 rides instead of one if I believed the situation merited giving them a little extra, especially if I had the feeling it was very tough for them to get around to all of the rides in a day. But for our "Give Kids the World" children, I gave them a little something extra...unlimited rides.

Yup, they could ride as much as they wanted. We would constantly save rows for them so when they came back they didn't have to leave their seats and they could ride again! Sometimes guests would complain "Why do they get to ride again?" I usually replied that these kids are terminally ill and I am going to give them a lifetime of Big Thunder Mountain rides in one day! It was hard to save them rows when we were running 5 trains as the train would start in one station and end up in the other station (Main Side). But, we would coordinate and put up with the simple hassle in order to see a little kid smile who didn't have much to smile about...maybe we were a little selfish and wanted to feel good about ourselves (lol), but in the end it was so stirring to me to see them smile I would sometimes shed a tear of happiness.

Finally, Jim, let me tell you what it is all about. I was having a bad day...had a root canal the day before and was in a little pain...when a young 8 year old boy with nary a hair on his head and skinny as a tomcat that hasn't eaten in many a month. It was obvious he didn't have much time. I asked him how many times do you want to ride? He lit up and said "a million!!!" He was so excited that his mom told me this is the most excited he has been all day! That kid ended up riding for over an hour!!! I'll never forget little Bradley. When he finally finished, I went outside with them and his parents took a picture of "Big Mike" to remember me by. They were so happy...we all hugged (I broke about a million Disney rules that day) and they took down my address and promised to send me a picture.

About 6 weeks later I got the picture (I'm crying as I write this) when they sent the picture of young Bradley and I together. They told me that Bradley had passed away a week and a half earlier. Inside the letter, along with the picture, was a note from Bradley personally with a little poem.

Dear Big Mike,

Thanks for my making trip there unforgettable! I had so much fun. You were so cool and so nice to us. I love you and hope that maybe we can meet again.

Your friend,
Bradley

Big Mike
He's our friend
He let us ride Big Thunder
Again and again

We'll never forget him
Neither will Brad
Neither will Mom
And neither will Dad

Thanks Big Mike!

There are many issues with the Walt Disney Company that bother me. But, when it comes to making our guests visit magical, there is nothing like it. The late and former basketball coach of North Carolina State, Jim Valvano, once said it best at the ESPY awards 7 weeks before he
passed away after a bout with cancer:

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."

Being with Bradley made me do all three...I laughed and smiled, I thought, and I cried.

Thanks Bradley...you're a wonderful little boy who I will remember for the rest of my life.

God bless you.

Big Mike