Through #TheWishEffect series, we’ve met unforgettable Make-A-Wish kids such as ABC’s black-ish superfan Julius, aspiring Disney animator TJ, and road tripper Tali. With today being Random Act of Kindness Day, I’m excited to introduce you to Winter, and the unexpected kindness of a Disney cast member that sparked her wish – granted by Disney and Make-A-Wish in 2018.
A trip to Walt Disney World Resort isn’t complete without a mouthwatering meal at one of the resort’s many fine eateries. But for Make-A-Wish kid Winter, a Disney dinner – and the incredible chef who prepared the meal – changed her life.
After being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, Winter had major food and dietary restrictions that made eating out nearly impossible. Winter wasn’t able to enjoy meals with her family like other kids. However, on a family vacation to ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in 2013, a Disney cast member, Chef Jeff, went above and beyond to make a custom meal for Winter that she could enjoy. This act of kindness inspired a lifelong love of cooking and showed Winter that even with dietary restrictions, preparing tasty meals was possible and even fun.
“It’s the little things in life that you take for granted. Whether it’s opening a door, or saying hello, those moments can actually be the most memorable,” Winter said. “Chef Jeff coming over to our table, he didn’t think that that night, that meal service, he would be inspiring a girl to get online and see what substitutions she could use, how she could make things work for her.”
A few years later, Winter got referred to Make-A-Wish to have a wish granted. “We found the photo of Chef Jeff. I told my mom that I wanted to go back and thank him for the opportunities he gave me in life,” Winter explained. “He showed me that my challenges weren’t that different, I just had to find a way to get around them.”
On the day of her wish, Chef Jeff and Winter met at the Polynesian Resort and made spring rolls together. The reunion was emotional for everyone involved.
“When I found out that Winter could’ve wished for anything in the world, and she chose to come back to cook with me, it was very humbling,” remembered Chef Jeff. “It’s something that’s never happened in my career of 27 years of being a chef. I was very excited and honored to make this wish come true.”
“As a parent, you’re crying because your daughter is so excited to see somebody who made such an impact,” shared Denise, Winter’s mom. “There were tears of joy, as Chef Jeff’s meal was all she talked about. She wanted to let him know that she was able to learn from the experience he created, and it made an impact on her life forever.”
Chef Jeff took the time to listen to Winter’s needs. “He showed me that I have the power to make my own decisions, and not have to live by the restrictions the world has placed on me,” said Winter.
“Chef Jeff inspired my daughter to find a new way to eat, find a new goal in life,” Denise explained.
Winter’s now a high school senior taking college courses to become a speech therapist.
“After my wish trip, I originally wanted to go to culinary school to provide options to other kids like myself,” Winter said. “But I decided to go into speech therapy to help people advocate for the options I needed when I was little.”
Winter and Chef Jeff still stay in contact to this day. She’ll never forget the impact he had on her life, and how the wish by Disney and Make-A-Wish helped Winter discover her passion and her voice.
To learn more about how Disney is working with Make-A-Wish to provide magic to wish kids and their families when they need it most, and to see more episodes of “The Wish Effect” visit wish.org/Disney.