Tuesday, September 8, 2009

True Magic at MagicMeets

I was working on getting the podcast updates actually updated when I came to the one that I knew I was going to have trouble writing – Lou Mongello's August 23rd release of the WDW Radio Show (Episode #133). The material that was covered in this episode rang true to me and, if you have already listened to it, likely also rings true with you, the reader. I won't go into the entire show (see the forthcoming podcast updates, to be released sometime before 2011), but I feel that something needs to be set aside for its own post. You see, quite a bit of this show was dedicated to finding that "magic" outside of the Disney parks. Since MagicMeets had just recently occurred, and since everyone on the roundtable discussion attended the event, this was one of the primary items of discussion (and, for those who have no idea what MagicMeets is, just Google it). The experience of this year's MagicMeets can be summed up in one word:


Seriously that's all that needs to be said for an event such as this year's MagicMeets.

…and I wasn't even in attendance.

This is one of these events that shows just how much impact people who are brought together for a similar cause can do. This little story has to start out with Lou Mongello, who is well-known around the Disney online community. One of the many things that Lou does is the Dream Team Project, where he raises money to help "grant the wishes of children with serious illnesses to visit Walt Disney World." One of the larger fundraisers is the silent auction at MagicMeets. People from all around Disneyana made up packages for auction, ranging from fantastic framed pictures to lodging for an upcoming WDW trip to time in the parks with Hidden Mickey guru Steve Barrett…all sorts of things!

Several sites were broadcasting the event live, and I hopped on one of these to watch the first hour or so of the event that morning before going to work on the stuff that always gets put off to the weekend. After the keynote address, you could see some of the bidding begin for the auction. Many others stayed and watched the entire series of events online. As the bids were coming in for the auction during the event, many of those watching/listening started donating money to the project. Many online message boards (often supporting podcasts), posted a request to help donate to the cause...and donate they did! Seeing the online Disney community coming together in such a way was amazing. At the end of the day, the total raised from the auction and from pledges was an astounding $16,000 or so.

…or so they thought.

Before Justin Muchoney, known as the CMO (Chief Magic Official) to Disneyana, gave the final amount of all the donations from all the sources, he pulled out an envelope from his pocket that needed to be read to everyone. He handed it to another emcee, who read it to a stunned audience and a thoroughly surprised Lou Mongello, who had no idea what was happening. Although I do have a short piece quoted near the end, I won't post the entire letter here. Instead, I'll give you the link to it here in the hopes that you'll stay on the site, find the "Donate" button, and give a little bit to help. Sufficed to say, all accounts from those attending agree that, with one exception, there was not a dry eye in the room at the announcement of a single donation of $10,000 that accompanied the letter. Who was that one exception, you might ask? It was the person who wrote the check:

Tony Caggiano.

Tony organized a fundraiser with friends to come up with the money. I've been struggling on a "Why I like Disney" post for several months...what Tony did makes it a whole lot easier (expect that post by 2012). Examples like the above story are major reasons why us "Disney freaks" are so freaky…it's the people. I don't know if Tony will ever read this or not, but I'm really glad I accepted that friend request from him on Facebook a few months back, and I truly hope to meet him in person someday to shake his hand for what he did. Tony's actions exemplified much of what Disney is. Those who don't get it may see the parks in Orlando or Anaheim as something like Six Flags, where you go for the rides. This cannot be any further from the truth…it's the overall experience, which includes, among other things, the atmosphere, the theming around the attractions, and, maybe most importantly, the people. Paul Barrie mentioned on a recent podcast that he's gone to the Magic Kingdom and never made it past Main Street the entire day, meaning he didn't ride a single attraction, and he had a fantastic time with the people around him. I dare you to try to do something like that at a place other than a Disney theme park. I bring this up because the event that planted the seed in Tony to organize and do what he did came not from actually riding an attraction – it came from talking with someone, a complete stranger and his son, outside of an attraction.

There simply is no way to wrap up this up after writing about that. While I'm guessing that many who follow the blog (and aren't related to me) know of this, there are probably an equal amount who had no idea that something of this magnitude happened. I'll leave you with some of Tony's words, which has been in my thoughts for over a week now since I first read his note:

"We seem to float through the parks, always talking about the days when our own little ones will be able to join in and enjoy the rides we all know and love...never giving a thought to the fact that, that might not be the case for some. In reality, none of us are promised tomorrow."

Thanks for helping us remember that, Tony.


G said...

That was awesome, wasn't it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great story!

Just to clarify, there was only one site broadcasting live from Magicmeets. The guys from WDW Today had the exclusive rights to carry the event live on MouseWorld Radio. They also had video coverage on their site of the entire event.

Just want to give the boys some props over at WDW Today/MouseWorld Radio who do an amazing job covering these live broadcasts.


Mush said...

I was watching Mouseworld Radio myself (obviously). I heard another podcast talking about a stream and simply assumed it was a different one. I didn't know Mike was the only one streaming...my bad on that.

Thanks for the correction!