There are all kinds of contests that give people an opportunity to win a trip to Walt Disney World.
Usually we find out we’re not the winner because the phone doesn’t ring with someone delivering that amazing news on the other end. The contest comes and goes, and we (well, me. Maybe you.) spend more time envisioning a dream Disney vacation. It might cross our minds that someone else won whatever contest we last entered, but more often than not the wishes fade away until the next opportunity arises.
This is the story of one person who did get that call.
John and Melanie Swoap are former Walt Disney World cast members, and they run Blue Sky Journeys – personal travel planners specializing in Disney vacations. (Full disclosure: I work with BSJ now, which is how I got to hear about this story.)
“Back in October, we had a booth at our local Pumpkin Festival,” John said. “We had a drawing for a three night/four day Walt Disney World vacation as a way to generate some name recognition in our community.”
About 1,500 people signed up to win, and a name was chosen.
“When we called Ms. Anderson to tell her she had won, she sounded skeptical that she had actually won something and figured there was a catch. We assured her that there were no strings – three nights/four days at any Disney resort she chose with four days of park tickets for up to four people. She said thank you and we sent her the prize package.”
Pretty exciting, no?
“We never heard back from her!” John said.
The Swoaps followed up with a phone call just last week and left a message that they’d really like to speak with her about her prize and to please call back. The window for booking the vacation was closing (she had to travel before November and they wanted to make sure she got the resort she really wanted.)
“She finally called me back today saying that the whole trip was stressing her out,” John said. “Her 14-year-old daughter has been asking about the Disney trip that was pinned to the refrigerator, and Mom had been putting her off because she knew we were going to require that she purchase her airline tickets and she just couldn’t afford to do it.”
Ms. Anderson called to decline the prize.
“I explained to her that she could drive, as that is what we do when we go and to let her know again that she absolutely had to pay for nothing except getting there and whatever food she might want to eat and trinkets to bring home.
“She couldn’t believe it. She started crying and then went on to tell me that she has been a single mom for 12 years, a school teacher and had always dreamed of being able to take her kids to Walt Disney World but never had been able to save the money to do so. He two sons have grown up but her daughter was still wanting the experience. When she asked where she should stay, I told her our favorite was Animal Kingdom Lodge and I went on to describe it.
“She started crying again and told me her ex-husband was from South Africa and had always promised the kids he would take them one day, but never did. She said that maybe this could be a way to honor the promise he didn’t keep.”
This winner, who is very real and very excited, will be traveling in October to stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House.