Giving Kids a Glimpse of What Life Can Be

“It was the adventure of a lifetime and even helped me overcome a fear.”
– Caroline, 2022 Disney for Kids Trip Attendee

Dreams came true and fears were conquered on this year’s Disney for Kids trip with 100 Dorchester area kids. We sat down with Mary Scannell, Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester’s Senior Vice President and Disney for Kids trip director, to chat about the trip and the impact she witnessed.

Mary and her team of chaperones plan the trip as if it will be the one and only time the kids are able to make it down to the Orlando theme parks, so the focus is to have as much fun as they can in the one week that they’re down there. Fun is what some of these kids need the most. Mary shared that there were two little girls who were on the trip whose mom is in hospice. For this mom, knowing that her children had this trip at the end of an otherwise painful summer, meant the world. “It’s hard to put into words what this trip means to kids and families,” Mary explained.

Although the trip is focused on fun, it’s also about learning important life skills such as how to order food, making good choices about what you eat, time management, how to manage your money, how to interact with adults that aren’t chaperones or people that you know, and even how to make new friends. “They develop friendships and connect with people and that’s another important life lesson. Learning that somebody can have nothing in common with me and I can have a lot of fun with them.” She said that you can truly see kids’ confidence build and their horizons broaden over the course of the week. “I’m always impressed with how kids push themselves even just to go on a ride that maybe they’re afraid of or even trying new foods or learning simple skills.” The trip itself may not be vital to a kid’s life, but they learn vital life skills on it.

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Mary told an impactful story about a young girl helping another when she needed it most. She set the scene: it was the end of the night, pouring rain, thundering & lightning, packed with people, everyone trying to leave the park at the same time, and she and the other chaperones were trying to line up 100 kids to get back to their hotel. Pure chaos. While this was happening, a little girl had a stomachache so bad that she was doubled over from pain; she was having a panic attack. “There was another little girl who isn’t friends with her but knows her. She came over and I said, ‘Can you sit here with her, and I want you to count every balloon that is leaving the park.’ And she did. Those are the little moments – that little girl could’ve said no I want to go with my friends, I’m not nervous. But that girl stepped up.” For that girl to recognize and assist in the way that she did, and for the other girl to accept the help was truly heartwarming to witness, Mary said. The next morning, Mary noticed that the two girls ate breakfast together. A friendship was formed out of a distressing situation.

When discussing the overall impact of the trip on kids, Mary shared that it’s as simple as allowing the kids to feel listened to. “When you’re in those long lines, they talk to you, and they share so much about themselves. They come back and say that the ‘chaperones and even the other kids listened, and I got to tell my story and I gained a little bit more confidence and I did things I didn’t think I could do.’ They push through and push themselves. It’s all those little things.”

Mary said that the biggest impact that she sees kids take away from the trip, though, is being able to experience the world. “Just being able to see and know that there’s so much fun out there; that there’s a lot of fun things to do, but also yes you CAN do this, and this IS possible. It gives them a glimpse of what life can be…It’s about being a part of something that is bigger than yourself. They’re doing this and it’s fun and exciting, but it’s a part of something that’s bigger. That feels good to be a part of it.”

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