photo credit: Josh Hallett
One of the many perks of being invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration is the chance to win some fabulous prizes. Up for grabs were goodies like Disney gift baskets, runDisney gift baskets, Coppertone gift baskets, a year's supply of GoGoSqueez, Dooney & Burke bags, runDisney New Balance shoes, HP printers, and a Nikon camera. Each time a raffle ticket was drawn, I crossed my fingers and prayed that my name would be drawn.
Lo and behold, my name was drawn. I was one of five bloggers selected for an exclusive meet and greet experience after Saturday's Disney Junior character breakfast.
I will admit that when I heard my name called, I experienced a twinge of disappointment. I was out of the running for the designer bags and expensive equipment, and I didn't think I would enjoy what I had won. My kids are past the age when meeting Mickey and Minnie sends them into squeals of delight, let alone meeting the Disney Junior characters. They're too old for Jake, Sofia and Doc McStuffins. Even as I reminded myself that only a few attendees get their names called, that I should be grateful for winning, that many bloggers were wishing they had won, I was wondering whether I should give the opportunity to another family who would get much more pleasure out of the prize than my family would.
photo credit: Josh Hallett
It turns out that I couldn't have been more wrong. For one thing, the meet and greet experience wasn't for my whole family, it was just for me. Also, the meet and greet experience wasn't for Disney Junior characters -- it was for the voices behind them. Disney Junior hosted a celebrity storybook reading, featuring Genevieve Goings (from Disney's Choo Choo Soul), David Arquette (the voice of Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates), Ariel Winter (the voice of Sofia from Sofia the First), Tim Gunn (the voice of Baileywick from Sofia the First)..... and LeVar Burton, the host of Reading Rainbow. Genevieve emceed. David, Ariel, Tim, and LeVar read a story to the kids. All were there to promote Disney Junior's Give a Book, Get a Book initiative.
photo credit: Josh HallettAfter the storybook reading, they all went to a private room, where I got to meet them all.
My appreciation for the value of the prize I had won quickly went from 13 to 100. All five bloggers were quivering with excitement at the chance to chat with the faces of the Give a Book, Get a Book program in private.
David Arquette was so friendly and good-natured about our teasing comments about his trousers.
I was terrified that Tim Gunn would think my Anna-inspired outfit (blue tunic, pink belt, white leggings) was corny, but he was nothing but complimentary. He even signed an autograph for my little niece Sofia (who was thrilled that her aunt got to meet Baileywick!). Since I had scored such a coup for Sofia, I had to do something for her little sister Teresa -- fortunately Genevieve Goings came to my rescue and let me videotape her singing a few bars of "Choo Choo Soul" and a very special greeting for Teresa! I even got to meet the head of Disney Junior, Nancy Kanter. Nancy is an Executive Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager or Disney Junior Worldwide, and we spent some time discussing the specifics of the Give a Book, Get a Book program.
But it was meeting LeVar Burton that truly made the experience priceless for me. I was quite unprepared for my emotional reaction; I teared up as soon as I saw him step out on stage to talk about his early childhood experiences with reading and his passion for reading. I was too old to benefit from Reading Rainbow when it launched, but my little sister enjoyed Reading Rainbow, and so did my kids. Reading Rainbow played a huge part in helping my kids discover the joys of reading long after they actually learned how to read. I am so grateful to Reading Rainbow and LeVar Burton for showing my kids all the worlds that reading can open up for them! They didn't know any of the other celebrities I met (I had to play "All Aboard the Choo Choo Train" for them to remember Genevieve), but when I said I met the guy from Reading Rainbow, their eyes lit up.
I was an emotional mess by the time I actually got to shake LeVar's hand and pose for a photo with him. I could barely get out a "Hi" and a heartfelt "Thank You for what you do", so he kindly gave me a hug while I sobbed into his shoulder. He has done so much for my kids and for generations of kids, and it was a true privilege to meet someone who really has made the world a better place. I would have had the same reaction if I had met Jim Henson, or Mr. Rogers, or Will Lee (Mr. Hooper on Sesame Street). I'll never get the chance to meet them... but I've met LeVar Burton, and that is precious to me.
It was an experience that money couldn't buy. I guess I did end up winning the best prize of all.