Last week there was a post that went viral on Facebook. It was a woman talking about her experience at the Na’vi River Journey in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. She met an amazing cast member named “Samantha” who went above and beyond to assist her (she is why I keep saying that it is the CAST MEMBERS that make Disney magical.)
The post went viral, shared 14K times and has over 72k likes. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Executives, Joe Kalla and Djuan Rivers, gave her a special memento to recognize her.
Here’s the original story that went viral on Facebook by Jessica D. Thomas:
I am asking all 2,254 of you to share this post. Because I want this young lady at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to receive the highest recognition and for other moms not to feel alone when we aren’t perfect.
I am claustrophobic. Anyone who really knows me, knows this. It’s bad. I can normally control my panic attacks with breathing and visualizations but theme parks keep me anxious from the moment we park.
My children have never been to any Disney Parks. Today was their first time. As a mom we feel a TON of pressure to create these “memories” for our children. We feel obligated to overcome our shortcomings for them. We do everything in our power to remove their worries or fears, so ours take a backseat.
I am claustrophobic. I hate rides, most all of them cause me to have severe panic attacks. This is the Avatar boat ride. I researched the ride, asked a ton of questions and even sat down. Then I looked up and I immediately was triggered from a grade school field trip to the Mariana Caverns. My heart was racing, my breathing was hard and I felt genuinely scared of being trapped. It looked like a small cave. I stood up and got off asking my friends (Yaunee Okuneye and Ken Yinka) and husband, (David Thomas) to take our 1 year old so she could ride. She cried as I got off. So, I grabbed her and headed for the exit. I was embarrassed, sad for her and sad that I also wouldn’t get to see my 3 year old enjoy yet another experience because I was scared.
That’s where this changes for me. Samantha saw me tearing up as I was walking out. She stopped me and asked if I was okay. I cried and explained all of the above. She stopped whatever she was on her way to do and 1st offered to let me sit in the ride briefly to test the actual space while explaining all the details of the ride, but that was not the ABOVE AND BEYOND part. She said “Do you want me to ride with you?” Dadgum I’m tearing up again right now in the hotel. She asked that question with such sincerity and understanding and overall compassion. All I could muster was a nod. She walked over with me and my baby to the front row. She not only held my hand the entire time but she also pointed out every single exit to me, told me about the all the ways I was safe and how the cast members could come get me out if any of my worst fears came true. *Here is where she is an out right Godsend* While she was helping me through this, she simultaneously pointed out every detail of fun for my little girl and didn’t miss a beat.
See, everyone, that’s the hard part. At 33, I don’t mind missing rides at parks. I am happy to take the stairs. I am always content to wait for the next bus or for a tight spot to pass for a more open option. But I am a mom now. And I don’t want my children to miss out on anything or me to miss moments of their childhood. So as I was trying to breathe and get through this, my baby didn’t miss a beat. Because Samantha was gripping my hand and using her other hand to point at fun things for my daughter and making her laugh and smile the whole ride.
I just can’t thank her enough. Your friends and family love you and try to understand; but after years, sometimes even they get worn down with accommodations or inconveniences associated your “issue”. But a perfect stranger immediately knew what to say and do. Today, I didn’t feel like less of a mom or less than at all. She made me feel…well.. just magical at Disney today.
Thank you so much Samantha.
Of course the story spread like wild fire all over social media and the actual media. It should. Samantha’s kindness went above and beyond and I’m so glad she is getting recognized for it. She is an example of why I keep saying that even thought I don’t always like the choices management at Disney always makes (increased costs, overly crowding things, Star Wars, etc.) the cast members are who truly make the visits worth it. They are the magic in the parks and I appreciate all of you! You are why we go back so much! Thank you.
Thank you Samantha and Thank you Ms. Thomas for letting us all know about your experience.
Have you had a magical moment at a Disney park thanks to an amazing cast member? I would love to hear your stories! Comment and let us know!
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.