Major News Station Steps in After Mother Is Forced To Cancel Disney Trip

in Syndication, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

Sunset hues cast a dramatic backdrop over the iconic cinderella castle and the statue of walt disney and mickey mouse at a bustling disney theme park.

Credit: Inside the Magic

A mother living in New Hampshire had no choice—she was forced to cancel her daughter’s dream trip to Disney World after the difficulties of the COVID pandemic made it impossible for the family to travel.

But despite her attempts to reach out to Guest Relations, she got nowhere as Disney repeatedly ignored her pleas for help. Then, a major news organization got involved, and suddenly, things took a very different turn.

Related: Top Six Not-So-Fun But Surefire Ways To DESTROY Your Dream Disney Trip

cinderella castle
Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva

The Pandemic Wreaks Havoc on Guests’ Plans

The coronavirus pandemic was a difficult season in the lives of many Americans and for people all over the world. The growing number of infected individuals and the suspected ease of transmissibility of the virus led management personnel in various roles at various companies and organizations to close up shop, or, in the case of the theme parks at Walt Disney World and at Disney Parks across the globe, to close the gates.

At the time, based on the limited knowledge and information that was available about the sometimes-deadly virus, keeping people less social–and mostly confined to their homes–seemed the obvious answer in response to the virus, which ultimately attributed to the deaths of at least three million people across the globe in 2020 alone, per the World Health Organization (WHO).

empty magic kingdom
The image of a near-empty Magic Kingdom Park is still unsettling to this day./Credit: Twitter/X/bioreconstruct

The Walt Disney Company’s theme parks in Asia, Europe, and the United States were all forced to close, creating a scenario in which, for the first time since 1955, no Disney parks were in operation worldwide.

But what neither Disney nor the World Health Organization–or any other entity for that matter–could measure, plan for, or predict was the longer-term effects that the virus would cause–or the social and psychological toll such a virus–and the ensuing isolation and preventative processes it would necessitate–would have on the general population and for individuals with developmental disabilities.

A Long-Dreamed-Of Family Vacation to Disney World

Jacky Sullivan lives in Brentwood, New Hampshire, and says that her daughter Becky has always been a fan of Disney’s films. It’s likely Becky is one of the biggest fans we’ve heard about, as her mother says that since she was two years old, Becky has enjoyed Disney films so much that they have played on a television in her room–24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 365 days each year (again, since she was two years old).

Becky is now 29 years old. 

Related: There’s ONE THING Disney Can Do to Solve The Whole DAS Pass Debacle

An image collage featuring various animated characters. On the left, Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother, Lady from Lady and the Tramp, and Alice from Alice in Wonderland. On the right, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty with birds and forest animals, including an owl and a rabbit.
Credit: Disney Dining

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Becky has autism and is also non-verbal. But her love for Disney films and the characters within the timeless stories is undeniable. As such, her mother, Jacky, finally decided to book a dream trip to Disney World for herself, Becky, and four other guests, as well as Becky’s support nurse. It was sure to be a magical experience for Becky, who would be able to meet some of her favorite Disney characters in the parks.

“Disney movies twenty-four-seven on the screen in her room since she was, like, two years old,” Jacky said. “So, we’re like, let’s do the Disney trip we always dreamed about doing with her.”

Related: A 70-Year Subscription to Disney+ Threatens a Family’s Dream Disney Vacation

A person sits on a bed with a meal tray in front of them, while another person stands next to them holding a blue tablet displaying videos. The room is decorated with various pictures on the walls, and personal items are visible on a dresser and in the background.
When Becky doesn’t watch Disney films on television, she watches on her iPad./Credit: Screenshot/NBC10 Boston

According to NBC Boston, Jacky made reservations for a trip to Disney World that would take place just before the kickoff to the 50th anniversary celebration at the parks–in September 2021. The reservation included a total of seven guests: six family members and Becky’s nurse, who would help her while she was enjoying Disney World’s four theme parks: Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Jacky also purchased a theme park ticket for each guest.

A Major Setback Leads to a Postponed Trip

But shortly after her purchase, a new coronavirus variant ramped up, leaving in its wake a massive wave of new infections across the United States. It was too risky, so Becky’s mother made the difficult decision to postpone their trip to the parks by six months, changing her reservation from September 2021 to March 2022.

woman at her laptop
Jacky sits at her laptop in her home in New Hampshire./Credit: Screenshot/NBC10 Boston

She hoped that six months might give the new variant time to run its course.

But as the time for the family’s departure to Disney World drew near, they suddenly lost their support nurse–the nurse who was to travel with Becky and her family to assist her with her needs during their dream vacation. When Jacky attempted to find another nurse, news about medical staffing shortages because of the pandemic became Jacky’s personal nightmare.

She was unable to find a new nurse for Becky–a nurse that Becky so desperately needed.

In addition to the lack of a nurse for her daughter, Jacky says she began to realize just how much of a regression Becky has experienced since the pandemic first took hold. Changes in her routine and changes all around her had caused Becky to take several steps backward from a social standpoint, and it became clear to her mother that taking her to Disney World might be too difficult at that time.

Jacky explained, saying:

[People with autism] like routine, and if you keep them in that routine, then they keep going because that’s what they do. If you take that routine away, they go back to where they are safe and comfortable. We didn’t realize how far the regression of what she’s doing and capable of doing, or willing to do, how far it regressed until we stopped and went, ‘Wait a minute; what are we doing?’

Another Letdown . . . From Disney World

As heartbroken as she must have been, Jacky felt she had no choice but to cancel the family’s Disney trip. But her heartbreak was just beginning.

Jacky started by attempting to contact Disney World Guest Relations. She wanted to explain her unique scenario and inquire about the options she had in canceling her trip altogether. Could she get a refund? Would Disney issue her a credit toward a future vacation? And would a cancelation fee apply?

But according to Jacky, her attempts to speak to someone at Guest Relations went on for weeks, but to no avail. She simply could not get anyone on the phone to speak with her. She tried to email Guest Relations, but there was no response via email either.

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“Nothing, nothing. Nobody picks up the phone,” Jacky said. “But somehow, I got through to where you could leave a message . . . no response. Emails–no response.”

Jacky said that no matter how she attempted to reach Guest Relations, she had no success, and ultimately, she didn’t know what to do, as she had no way of asking her questions and making a decision based on her options.

A woman with shoulder-length brown hair, wearing glasses and a teal sleeveless top, is talking. She has an expressive face and a slight smile. The background is softly blurred, with hints of greenery and outdoor furniture, suggesting an outdoor setting.
Jacky shares her story about her failed attempts to reach Disney World’s Guest Relations./Credit: Screenshot/NBC10 Boston

“I’m telling you, we tried every which way to get a hold of them and couldn’t get anywhere,” she said.

Finally, out of desperation, Jacky reached out to local news station NBC10 in Boston and made contact with someone with the NBC Boston Responds initiative, which encourages viewers to reach out if they find themselves in such scenarios with companies, retailers, or other organizations.

A graphical image showing the logo and text for "NBC 10 Boston Responds." The NBC peacock logo is next to the number 10, and the word "RESPONDS" is prominently displayed to the right. The background features a keyboard and geometric blue shapes.
Credit: Screenshot/NBC10 Boston

She shared her story, telling the station about her attempts to reach someone at Disney World who could explain her options and, if need be, process a refund for Jacky.

It was then that a representative from NBC Boston Responds sent an email to Disney World on Jacky’s behalf. Though Jacky had been unsuccessful in getting someone at the parks to share a bit of Disney magic with her in resolving her concerns about canceling her family’s vacation, an email from the NBC station in Boston seemed to do the trick.

Resolution at Last!

Just like (Disney) magic, Jacky received a phone call in response to her concern the next day. Not only that, but she was also able to get a full refund of the purchase price for her trip–every penny of the $2,200 she had spent.

There’s no word on why Jacky was not able to reach a cast member at Disney World Guest Relations, and Jacky still isn’t sure why no one returned her messages or responded to her emails. NBC10 Boston also attempted to determine the cause for the lack of response on Disney’s part, but representatives with the news station were unsuccessful as well.

walt disney world signs
Credit: Becky Burkett

“I can’t believe how quickly you guys managed to get everything refunded; that was amazing,” Jacky told NBC Boston. “The whole thing is sad, right? So, you know, at least we managed to get the money back. That’s a little bit of a good outcome from the whole thing. So thank you very, very much.”

Related: Disney Parks Refuse Refunds to Guests Who Can’t Visit Because They Have COVID

What is extremely clear is how relieved Jacky felt to finally get a refund—and some closure—after the heartbreak she endured when she was forced to cancel her family’s dream vacation to Disney World.

an older image of a family at disney world
An older photo of Jacky, Becky, and their family at Disney World/Credit: Screenshot/NBC10 Boston/Jacky Sullivan

Here’s hoping Jacky and Becky were finally able to make the trip back to Florida to see Mickey and all of Becky’s favorite Disney film characters!

This post originally appeared on Disney Dining

in Syndication, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

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