Disney superfan from Naperville scores worldwide trip with Ginger Zee, visiting 6 resorts in 7 days
As Chicago prepares for its 27th annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, of which Mickey and Minnie Mouse are the grand marshals, one Naperville resident is getting a unique Disney fix of her own.
Patrice Jenkins was selected by “Good Morning America” to travel to six Disney resorts in seven days.
In honor of Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday, ABC News chief meteorologist Ginger Zee traveled with Jenkins across four countries to enjoy parks like Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, Hong Kong Disneyland, California’s Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.
Zee, a former meteorologist at NBC-5, surprised Jenkins, an associate vice principal and fourth-grade teacher at Hinsdale Adventist Academy, in her classroom with news of the adventure last week. Jenkins was selected from a pool of entries.
We caught up with the self-proclaimed “Disney super fan” by phone, prior to her arriving stateside to end the trip at Walt Disney World in Orlando on Friday. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What is it about Disney you love so much?
A: As a child, my parents allowed my brother and I to watch Disney cartoons and movies, which inspired me to learn a lot of Disney songs, thus creating an everlasting element of magic that only grew in time as I experienced movies like “Fantasia” — which happens to be my favorite Mickey Mouse movie. I can remember watching the Mouseketeers and wanting to join the other kids on the TV screen. I fell in love first with the “Snow White” movie at age 7 when my aunt took me to the theater to watch it. As I grew older, those memories stuck with me, and when I finally had the opportunity to visit the Disney World park in Orlando, all my dreams as a child came back to me and still shape who I am today.
Q: And what makes you a Disney “super fan” vs. a regular fan?
A: In my mind, I demonstrate the desire to creatively incorporate (Disney) in specific areas of my life. Most people I know will tell you it’s a part of my personality to sing my favorite Disney songs and wear Disneybounding outfits in public (not just in my classroom). I love matching outfits with my husband since he’s a fan too. I have Mickey accessories: Mickey ears phone cases, Mickey ears for my classroom Echo Dot, Mickey Apple Watch accessory, custom-made Disney dresses and shoes. I got married and honeymooned at Disney Orlando. If possible I’d visit a park every year!
Q: You also incorporate Disney into your school curriculum. How?
A: During independent work time, I allow my students to listen to Disney classical music. I conduct morning meetings each day, and the students and I recite a Disney quote of the day which are displayed throughout my room. I wear custom-made Disney-themed outfits to incorporate into lessons I may be teaching about Mickey’s upcoming birthday. Students read Mickey Mouse math activity sheets, physics lessons on the operation of Disney theme-park roller coasters and book club studies on Walt Disney’s life and legacy.
Q: How much Disney memorabilia do you own?
A: I think half of my bedroom closet is Disney-themed, whether it’s stuffed animals, watches, clothing, shoes, pins or hats. The list keeps growing! Thank goodness my husband doesn’t mind!
Q: Who is your favorite Disney character?
A: Cinderella. When I was a little girl, I’d watch that movie and envision myself in her place. Finding true love, having the animals as your best friend, living in a cute cottage — and once her prince found her, she lived happily ever after. That was my fantasy for so long that my husband and I had our Cinderella-themed wedding at the Orlando park.
Q: After this experience, what’s your favorite Disney resort?
A: Shanghai Disney — it’s such a beautiful attraction. My socks were blown off when I walked onto the property, but when I went into their castle, I just couldn’t believe it!
Q: And your favorite ride at Disney?
A: Tron and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Jenkins will continue her Disney fun with a cruise this weekend.
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