The waiting has begun for thousands of Disney freaks who aspire to be a member of the Class of 2019 of the Disney Parks Moms Panel. As the first round of applications come to a close, I can’t help but think back on my journey to the Disney Parks Moms Panel Class of 2014.
What is this Disney Parks Moms Panel thing, you ask? And why would a Team Mom want to be involved? The Disney Parks Moms Panel is a group of Disney aficionados from all walks of life… and no, they are not all moms. There are moms, dads, aunts and even grandparents. Our main job is to answer Guests’ trip planning questions. You might also see ‘Moms’ giving their favorite tricks and tips on the Disney Parks Blog and in Disney Parks videos.
For me, this magical journey to the Moms Panel actually started in 2012. In September of that year, I received an email from ESPN Wide World of Sports saying something about filling out paperwork… or so I thought. Initially, I thought I needed to fill out additional paperwork related to a recent trip we had made to AAU Volleyball Nationals at the Walt Disney World. When I read the email closer I realized it was actually promoting something called the “Disney Parks Moms Panel”.
I’ll be the first to admit I had no idea what this “Disney Parks Moms Panel” thing was. I know… I know. How could any self-respecting Disney fan not know about the Panel? I quickly rectified this with the help of Mr. Google which took me to the DPMP website. I even found some message boards relating to the search. After reading the message boards, I realized I had found MY PEOPLE. My fellow Moms Panel hopefuls were some of the most positive and encouraging Disney lovers I had ever seen. There is no way I could match up to their amazing depth of Disney knowledge. So I decided to take a day to think about applying. Was this really something I could commit to when I was already so busy with a full-time job and a daughter who was involved in EVERYTHING?
I knew I loved Disney and that I had a great deal of Disney knowledge to impart so I bit the bullet, threw caution to the wind and winged it. Shocking me more than anyone, I made Round 2! However, I didn’t make it to Round 3 that year but like any good Disney story the main character must face some adversity thereby making their ultimate triumph even sweeter. I must admit after chatting with my fellow hopefuls online I had become quite invested in the process so it stung a little bit but it definitely it gave me a taste of what it might be like to go all the way. So I started to count down the days to the search for the Class of 2014.
And So it Begins…
It started on a beautiful July day. (I honestly don’t know if it was a beautiful day but it’s my story. J) I was checking the DisBoards for my normal afternoon perusal and noticed a new thread, “Amazing Adventures of the 2014 Disney Parks Moms Panel Search”. I thought to myself, surely it couldn’t be THAT time of year already. Where had summer gone? OH MY! IT REALLY WAS THAT TIME ALREADY!!!! EEK!!! I needed to start training. Push-ups wouldn’t works. Squats only make my booty bigger (if possible). All I needed was located right inside my noggin… and my heart. Immediately, I subscribed to the thread but didn’t officially check into the waiting room until the beginning of September. Here was my first post:
Finally signing in.
I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to take part in the hoopla this year after
making it to Round 2 last year. However, I decided I would be missing out if I
didn’t ride this wave with the only people who completely understand the ups
and downs of the DPMP process.
Good luck to everyone!!!!
I know previously I said I had been so excited for the process to begin and I was, but when faced with its imminent kickoff, I wasn’t sure about taking part in the online waiting room festivities because my boot after Round 2 the previous year left a mark. I felt like I really laid myself out there emotionally and became quite vested in the process. The upside of which is the ‘friends’ I made along the way. While I never met one of these new friends in person, they were kindred spirits on a journey that few have taken and few understand so I joined the conversation.
Selfishly, the best part of the 2012 process was the creation of the MouseQuest Podcast. Shout out to Marci Smith and her husband Dave who undertook this adventure with gusto. Our rag-tag team of Disney enthusiasts became my Disney family. We started with a podcast which led to a blog and now here we are at TeamMom365.
On September 9, 2013 I submitted the Round 1 app. As is customary with any Moms Panel application there is a large amount of second guessing after the app is submit. Did I chose the right word? Darn it, I ended that sentence with a preposition!!! Is that the correct nomenclature? Did I add enough pixie dust to each answer without being too mushy? What if whozits and whatsits were better than gizmos and gadgets after all?
Then the waiting began. (FYI, there is a lot of waiting that goes on during the application period.) I tried everything to bide my time… Disney trivia games, movies, podcasts, music loops, port cams, Sorcerer Radio… Then final on October 14 social media came alive that Round 2 notifications were up on the DPMP application site. I hurried to enter the system to see if I made it to Round 2. I was devastated to see that I had not even made it to Round 2 after making it the previous year. Then suddenly, the site was brought down. The internet aficionados theorized that it was likely due to the throngs of hopefuls checking their status thereby crashing the system. In actuality, it was brought down because the site wasn’t ready.
Then, like a knight in shining armor, in rode the manager of the DPMP search process to save the day and let us know that while the yeses were yeses, the nos might actually be yeses too!!! There was momentary relief… then more waiting. Four days later there was a tweet forewarning the REAL notifications would be posted soon. I knew not to get too excited. Been there, done that, had the scars to prove it. Then… I MADE IT! Round 2, here I come!
Round 2 required me to again answer a few questions and do a 60 second video related to my favorite memory of my daughter competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. After nearly 50 takes, I submitted my Round 2 video and application. Yes, I said 50 takes (maybe even more). If I didn’t flub the words, my daughter (and cinematographer) or I got the giggles. In one of my better takes our dog farted… VERY LOUDLY. Around take 35 I tried to knuckle down and get serious. My daughter said in those takes I looked mean because I was trying to concentrate too much on the words instead of the feelings that wonderful memory evoked. To help me remember the fun, she ran into the other room to make a sign which she taped to her shirt. It read, “Remember to smile”. Just another reason I love this kid to infinity and beyond.
About a week after Round 2 submissions, I had the opportunity to meet one of the fellow hopefuls, and kindred spirits, in person at the Chocolate Café (Don’t you love that? There is a CAFÉ for CHOCOLATE!!!!). Kate M was one of the waiting room participants who lived about 20 miles from me. We spent TWO HOURS chatting about our lives and our mutual love for Disney. I was absolutely struck by her passion for Disney and after leaving that night, I thought to myself, “this girl is going all the way!” (SPOILER: She did actually go all the way in 2015 when she was named to the Panel representing Disney Vacation Club.)
After this, things really started to get crazy. On November 14, I received the email saying I had made it to Round 3 – the phone interview round!! After picking my jaw up off the floor, logged into the DisBoards thread to share my good news. It was actually quite difficult to type my news because I was so excited for myself that I get to move on in this magical journey, yet there are so many broken-hearted hopefuls, and friends, who didn’t. However, the amount of positivity I received, especially from those who weren’t moving on, was incredibly heartwarming.
The next day I received a call from Jennifer, who had the absolute SWEETEST Southern accent EVER, setting up my interview time. This was originally scheduled for Monday but due to some scheduling issues it was moved back to Wednesday. However, as they say, there is no rest for the weary. Like Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise”, there was an email asking us to answer a sample Moms Panel question. Oh boy, you think the application questions are emotionally draining? This was make it or break it!
To say I was nervous for the phone interview would be an understatement. My heart was racing, I had broken out in a cold sweat and my tongue felt like it was three feet thick. However, the Cast Members on the call were incredibly nice and made me feel so at ease. It really was like talking to old friends about your favorite topic.
After the phone interview, the wait began again in earnest. We knew the decision would be made fairly quickly after the last interview and quickly it was. Two day later, pixie dust was in the air. With “Go The Distance” (the unofficial song of the DPMP search) on repeat, at 4:30pm on the nose a Pixie Dusted email arrived. The email preview showed the word “CONGRATULATIONS”. I probably should have been more excited when I saw that word but Disney Parks Moms Panel legend has it that in a previous year the ‘Dear John’ letter went something like, “Congratulation… on making it this far but the train stops here. Get your stuff and get off. Don’t let the door hit you…” Well, maybe a little more magical than that. But in my case it was the good congratulations! I MADE IT!!! I squealed like a little girl… which was absolutely my right… causing a co-worker in the office next to me to come over and see if I was ok.
By 4:45p, after phone calls to my husband, my daughter, my parents, my current secretary and my former secretary (who dubbed themselves TEAM SUE!), the mail lady, the guy who cleans my gutters, the checkout girl at the grocery store, by doctor’s former nurse… you get the gist… I ‘announced’ my good fortune on the DisBoards, Twitter and Facebook. Within five minutes my phone was absolutely on fire, I was getting friend requests from Panelists I had never met but had looked up to for the past two years, people were following me on Twitter, I was getting texts, emails, phone calls, and slowly the 16 new moms and 1 new dad emerged on social media. These would be the people I would get to spend the next year working alongside and getting to know.
The process of transitioning from a Moms Panel hopeful to a full-fledged Panelist takes place during the required training which is held at Walt Disney World. That’s where each class learns not only the nuances of ‘working’ (if you can call it that) for Disney but gets to meet their Disney family in person for the first time. It’s 50% business and 50% magical. I won’t spill the bean on some of the incredible magic that takes place during training but know that it is well worth the emotional highs and lows which take place during the search process. As a commemoration of our training trip, my class created a video montage of our favorite moments from the training.
Something they don’t advertise as a perk of becoming a ‘Disney Mom’ is the second family you have the honor to be a part of. These 16 people, who were perfect strangers prior to this, are now some of my closest friends. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that we chat nearly every day… even five years after we made the Panel. We came together because of our love of Disney but we remain great friends because of our genuine affection for one another.
My hope for this year’s hopefuls is that you take advantage of the opportunity during these waiting periods to get to know each other. Even if you don’t make the Panel, it’s the friendships you make during the application process that are the most cherished.
Good luck and may the PIXIE DUST be with you!
Sue Nowicki is an alumna of the 2014/15 Disney Parks Moms Panel. She is a team mom extraordinaire who has filled her time serving as secretary, navigator, head cheerleader, treasurer, athletic trainer and team psychologist for her daughter’s travel sports team for 10 years before becoming a team owner in 2015. You can follow her on Twitter @TeamMom365.