From Walt Disney drawing the Toys for All logo for US Marine Corp. to the Heroes Work Here program employing veterans of our business, the Walt Disney Company has a long and proud tradition of supporting the United States military. to their families and veterans. And, in honor of National Veterans and Military Families Month, it was an honor to do magic for a U.S. Air Force family with a special connection to the Walt Disney World Resort.
Air Force Colonel Alex Fafinski remembers visiting the Contemporary Resort during a family vacation as a child, where he met Pluto over breakfast. Three days later at Magic Kingdom Park, Pluto recognized Alex, creating a moment of magic and a lifelong fan. Years later with a family of his own, Alex knew he wanted his daughters to have magical Disney moments. This began a tradition of Alex taking his family to Walt Disney World to create lifelong memories before and after each of his military deployments.
“I wanted his memories to be about when we were together at Disney, not about the times I was out in the service of my country,” Alex said.
And in 2017, Alex asked the EPCOT team to help him surprise his family after he returned home after a long separation while serving in the Middle East. Amusement owner Javier Rossy, members of the Public Affairs team Mallory Ledet and Hannah Blatt and other members of the EPCOT cast gathered at the Soarin ‘around the World attraction to orchestrate a surprise meeting when Alex suddenly got into the family photo with Mickey and Pluto that the cast had. staged carefully without leaving dry eyes in the room.
“Participating in this magical moment is considered one of my favorite memories of all time as a cast member,” Mallory said. “Our job is literally to create memories. Listening to the joy in those girls’ voices as they hugged their father and knowing that we were part of that moment for the family is really special.”
Alex’s 2017 photo with members of the EPCOT cast, including Javier Rossy, Mallory Ledet and Hannah Blatt, who coordinated a surprise meeting with his family after a long military deployment abroad.
Alex kept in touch with the EPCOT cast who helped create this enduring family memory by going to greet each other during each subsequent trip to Disney World. Now, four years later, Alex was selected for promotion to the rank of colonel and couldn’t think of a better place to hold his promotion ceremony than at EPCOT along with the cast members who helped him to do magic years before. With a little help from his EPCOT friends, it was time for another meeting, this time, between the cast members and Alex’s family.
As we recognize the exceptional service, dedication, and sacrifice of our active members of the military service, veterans, and their friends and family who support them, we also congratulate Alex on his promotion. Thank you for your service and for trusting your memories with us at Disney and letting us be a part of your family history!
Photos of US Air Force Colonel Alex Fafinski’s 2021 promotion ceremony with EPCOT cast members Javier Rossy, Mallory Ledet and Hannah Blatt