Disney Employee Spotlight: A Mother’s Love and Some Pixie Dust

Disneyland Resort had been a part of Jennifer Brooks’ core as far back as she can remember. Summer trips with her family beginning at a young age, annual birthday visits with her friends and dreams of one day becoming part of the magic.

In 2002, she became an official Disneyland Resort cast member. She was thrilled to have her first Disney VoluntEARS opportunity at the Shea Center, a therapeutic horseback riding facility for those with disabilities. Little did she know, eight years later she would be back at the center, not with Disney VoluntEARS, but with her son who was born with disabilities as well as a rare genetic disorder.

Providing meaningful support

There is no guidebook for navigating the extreme complexities of raising a child with disabilities, especially for a single working mom, balancing a job with the full-time demands of care. The heartbreak realized when you can’t build the same childhood memories you made with your parents. The celebrations of accomplishments that most would take for granted. The difficulties in seeking the right treatment. 

Accessing medical care was an ongoing challenge due to the types of pediatric specialists Jennifer’s son required and the medical services that were necessary over a long duration of time. Attaining this necessary care seemed like an almost insurmountable task until she gained access to a dedicated nurse case manager through her Disney benefits. This was pivotal in gaining the right access and authorizations and removed one less hardship in seeking care for her son.

“When I sit back and look at my journey in life and raising my son, Disney has been by my side the entire time.” It’s presence in each milestone, hardship and triumph – especially when it comes to her son.

Jennifer and her son in mouse ears posing for a photo in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park.
Jennifer and her son in mouse ears posing for a photo in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland park.

Transforming adversity into positive action

Growing up, one of Jennifer’s favorite pastimes was playing on swing sets. She dreamt of sharing that sweet memory of being able to swing with her own son. This was difficult since many of the local parks did not have accessible swing seats. After driving many miles and locating a park that could accommodate her son, swinging next to him for the first time became one of her most cherished memories.

Around  the same time, she learned that Disney was working to enhance and update play spaces in Anaheim and felt compelled to share her story. Disney listened, and Jennifer became part of the committee that helped build a fully accessible play space at Barton Park, including a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round and braille panels for children with vision impairments. Most importantly, the playground included an accessible swing seat so that other families could experience the joy that Jennifer and her son felt. She was presented with the Walt Disney Legacy Award for her contribution, inspiration and partnership on the Barton Park playground project as well as her dedication to her role and outstanding leadership. 

Disney’s lasting impact

There are countless other ways Jennifer credits Disney with helping her in addition to providing critical legal benefits for future planning around her son, and the support from her leadership and flexibility.

Disney benefits and support have helped her continue in a role she loves as a manager of financial accounting, while at the same time being a dedicated parent. “There is no doubt: Disneyland Resort has woven a magical, undeniable path of moments that in one way or another, in time, revealed their purpose – on not only my life, but my son’s life.”

Jennifer’s next goal is to help her son, who is currently sixteen, fulfill his life-long dream – a dream of one day selling churros at Disneyland park. There is no doubt, with her love and fierce determination – and perhaps a little extra pixie dust sprinkled along the way – she will help him achieve this.

Jennifer’s son posing with Donald Duck at Disneyland park
 Jennifer’s son posing with Donald Duck at Disneyland park