Smiles Across the Miles
WDW fan with a big heart spreads magic to kids in
Friday, August 6, 2004
by Mike Scopa, staff writer
The Disney Internet community includes some very special people. Some
of these people have found a way to use their passion and energy for Walt
Disney World and channel it to help those less fortunate. In this session,
let's look at one of those special people and the program she has created
to send some Disney magic to those in need.
The Amazing Nancy
A few years ago, I met a Walt Disney World fan unlike any other. I need
to dub her The Amazing Nancy because of how she approaches
life and how she treats everyone who comes into her life. Nancy Jeschke
is one of those special people who brings sunshine into a room on the
cloudiest of days, who has a knack for saying the right thing at the right
time, and whose love of helping others brings smiles to all who meet her.
A few years ago while navigating through WDWIG.com (now Deb Wills' AllEarsNet)
Web site, Nancy read about the Mickey SOS (Soap or Shampoo) for Children
project started by Dotti Saroufim. Dotti's program involved collecting
extra shampoo and lotion bottles and bars of soap from the Disney resorts
she visited and bringing them to Boston's Children Hospital. She mobilized
many Disney Internet communities, including the rec.arts.disney.parks
Nancy was inspired by this program and decided that she wanted to take
it one step further and share the wealth. She envisioned a
similar type of program that would focus on a different institution every
year. She felt such a program would be a great way to spread some Disney
cheer and magic.
Nancy thought, What a great idea to involve the WDW Internet community
into helping children in need who may never walk up Main Street, USA and
get to gaze at Cinderella Castle.
Nancy went to work. Two years ago, she began an effort called Smiles
Across the Miles, a program that works towards bringing smiles to
children in need. Her goal is to help as many children as possible.
The program started off in simple fashion. Nancy would first identify
an institution or organization in need, contact them to discuss the program
and whether the institution would accept the help. If the answer was yes,
Nancy would compile a list of things the institution would accept (such
as soap and toothpaste) and announce the program in several Disney Internet
communities. She would ask those visiting the WDW Resort to save such
items as spare hotel soap, shampoo, lotions and shower caps, and bring
them home to be eventually sent along with the other items.
These items would be sent to a selected organization such as a special
camp for special-needs children, an orphanage, or an institution that
was serving children in need.
Smiles Across the Miles selects a new organization every three to six
months. Why do this? So children around the U.S.and we have
even gone to Mexico!can benefit from your trip, and we can bring
a smile to their faces with Mickey! she said.
Nancy asks her network to contact her with the names of the organizations
that would benefit from this type of program and Nancy then contacts the
institution to discuss how the program might serve them.
2003: Prader-Willi Syndrome Conference
Last year, Nancy put together a special Smiles program to help the Prader-Willi
Conference held in Orlando, Florida in late June. [See the side bar for
more information about PWS.]
Nancy called upon her network to help with create goodie bags and prizes
to give out at the conference carnival, put on for the children and their
siblings. This effort allowed conference organizers to use their cost
savings to help the children in other ways, or bring a family to the conference.
That conference came to mind because a parent in one of the Disney Internet
communities Nancy frequents had mentioned that he and his daughter, who
has Prader-Willi syndrome, would be attending the conference.
Nancy worked with this parent and conference officials to introduce herself
and the program. In talking with them, she found out what sort of items
would be welcomed by the children who were attending the conference.
Nancy got her network started, and the response was overwhelming. Not
only did the conference receive soaps and lotions, but also an assortment
of beanie dolls, small toys, books, and many other items, with donors
all expressing burning desire to bring a smile or two to a child and the
One parent was very tearful in describing the generosity of the program,
and realized that the WDW Internet community is very much a generous family.
In fact, the whole conference was overwhelmed by the response.
2004: Camp Happy Times
This year, Nancy has been talking with Camp Happy Times in Maplewood,
Camp Happy Times is a non-for-profit organization that is an extension
of the Valerie Fund (link)
that offers a special camp for children who have or have had cancer. The
camp was started 22 years ago and has grown in popularity ever since.
In 2004, close to 2,000 campers are expected to attend this camp. During
the week of camp, over 100 volunteers, including doctors and nurses, offer
their time and skills to make the camp a wonderful experience for the
Camp Volunteer Director Millie Finkel said, The camp has a 'store,'
but of course, we do not charge. The store is there for the campers and
offer whatever items they forgot to bring or their family was not able
Millie provided Nancy with the following wish list for the store:
- Bath and beach towels
- Socks for both children and adult
- Bathing suits
- Underwear for adults, and boys and girls in all sizes
- Batteries all sizes from AA to D cell
- White T-shirts for tie dying, in all sizes child to adult
- Nonperishable foodstuffs, such as chips, cookies, and candy
- Bottled water
- Over-the-counter medications for the infirmary, such as Tylenol,
Neosporin, and bandages
- Pool toys, such as beach balls, goggles, and inner tubes
- Sporting equipment T-shirt with appropriate logos
- Phone cards for counselors
- Party supplies for birthdays
- Bug sprays
- Arts & crafts supplies, such as markers, crayons, and paper
- Laundry detergent
- Resealable baggies in all sizes
- Large trash bags
- Cosmetics, unused
- Storage boxes
Camp Happy Times was suggested by a parent of an autistic boy who benefited
from previous visits to Camp Happy Times. Some of the activities his son
enjoyed at the camp included fishingthey have a contest to see who
catches the most fish, as well as girls vs. boyspiñata, basketball,
softball, field hockey, crafts, campfires, camp show, karaoke, camp newspaper
and a Valentines day dance.
Some parents find that CHT becomes quite the experience for their child.
The children come back thrilled with their experience, and one parent
described CHT as a special place where his son had a wonderful
The best testimonial comes from a parent, who said of his son's experience:
I'd have to say, other than giving him a week where he could
just be a kid and not be concerned with being a leukemia patient, it
gave him self confidence. Or maybe I should say it brought it out to
where (my wife) and I could see it. Because of his difficulty with clearly
communicating his thoughts we're not always sure of what he can and
cannot do. This may have more to do with us, maybe unconsciously or
maybe not, sheltering him and trying to protect him from being hurt.
Whatever the reason, his having gone to CHT has brought out a far more
self-confident, self-assured child than the one that left to go there.
If you would like to join with fellow WDW fan Nancy in her current Smiles
Across the Miles program for Camp Happy Times, you can do so by sending
your items to:
Camp Happy Times
2101 Millburn Avenue
Maplewood, NJ 07040
Attn: Millie or Skip
All packages sent to Camp Happy Times should have Smiles Across
the Miles written clearly on the packages, or they might not be
open until after camp is over. Also, if you know of an organization
that could benefit from such a program, please feel free to contact Nancy
at NancyBJ@magicalley.com). There is always a child somewhere in need
of some Disney magic.
Thank you, Nancy, for all you do. I'm sure Walt is smiling down on you
and your program.
Now that we've talked about helping others, it's time for me to get back
to helping you. It seems there is never enough information or tools available
to help those in need of planning their WDW trip. This month will see
the launching of a Web site that takes planning to a new level.
We'll talk about it next time.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.
Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a complex
genetic disorder that typically causes low muscle tone, short stature,
incomplete sexual development, cognitive disabilities, problem behaviors,
and a chronic feeling of hunger that can lead to excessive eating and
A disorder of chromosome 15, the prevalence
of the syndrome is: 1:12,00015,000 (both sexes, all races)
Major characteristics are hypotonia, hypogonadism,
hyperphagia, cognitive impairment, difficult behaviors
Major medical concern: morbid obesity.
Information provided by the Prader-Willi
Syndrome Association (USA).
Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.
Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.
Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.
Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.
You can contact Mike here.
Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:
Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)
Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)
Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)
Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, The Trip Planner for more travel planning information.
Get the latest info about the resort at Park Update: Walt Disney World.