Straight from my heart – A glimpse into what makes my fellow Panelists so very precious to me.
When we went for our Moms Panel Training Trip in December of 2009, there were 3 Alumni Panelists who were there to guide us. Kay was one of them. She introduced herself as “the Grandma of the Panel”. While she has in fact been blessed with beautiful grand-babies and therefore offers priceless advice to others planning a Disney trip with their grandchildren, Kay has far more energy than any 20 year-old I know. Spend 5 minutes with her and she will obliterate every single stereotype you can imagine.
Kay is simply amazing and she brings so many gifts to the Panel. She is passionate, energetic, highly knowledgeable, deeply caring and quite hysterical. In addition, she just so happens to be a huge sports fan and loves the Yacht Club too…so she had me at “hello”. 😉
During one of our meals, Kay introduced all of us to one of her family traditions. She purchases Disney Dollars and seals them in envelopes to hand out. Everyone gets at least a $1 dollar bill and one person gets the “lucky envelope” with a bigger bill in it. She shared that she has been doing this for many years. It sure is a lot of fun!
I have my keepsake dollar tucked away in a special place.
I enjoyed sitting next to Kay and chatting with her at breakfast in the American Adventure Pavilion.
Laura and Kay at the California Grill. Their smiles really light up the room.
When we went to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Kay started dancing in the street to get us all pumped up. She had done this during the “Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party” too. She is so full of energy, you can’t help but have a blast when you are with her.
I really enjoyed getting to spend some time with Kay during my training weekend. She was always smiling and she added so much energy to every situation. It was such a whirlwind of a weekend though, that I was left hoping that I’d get another chance to spend more quality time with her. Lucky for me, that wish came true.
Kay and I share a very big thing in common. We are both huge football fans. Those who know me are very aware that I LOVE the New England Patriots. Our Sundays revolve around the Pats during football season. I’ve never met another woman who is as passionate about her football team as I am…until I met Kay. 😉 She is a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan (and that is putting it very mildly). Kay has 2 adorable bull-dogs, named Packer and Vince (Lombardi) and her entire basement is a Packers shrine. See this article here for more info on that. All last season I said that if my Patriots couldn’t win the Super Bowl, then I wanted the Packers to win for Kay. I was so excited for her as she got to go to the Super Bowl to watch her team win.
February 24-27, 2010 was “ESPN – The Weekend” at Walt Disney World. During that time, the “ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Grand Re-Imagining Opening Events” took place. Kay, Joel and I were invited to attend as sports fans and to represent the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. We were all incredibly excited. Some of my most treasured memories of Kay and Joel were made during that unforgettable weekend.
We had been informed a few days beforehand that we were invited to participate in a sporting experience one morning. We were given the choice of golfing, a fishing excursion or the Richard Petty Driving Experience. The 3 of us exchanged several emails. We were all under the impression that we would be getting the opportunity to experience the “Ride Along” which lets you ride shotgun with a professional driver. So we chose that and were driven there bright and early in the morning.
I don’t think I have the words to describe how surprised we were to discover that rather than riding shotgun, we would actually be driving the race cars ourselves instead! Kay’s expression may give you an idea 😉
To be fair, we were given the choice…nobody forced us to experience the thrill of a lifetime 😉 What happened was this: We approached the counter to sign on the dotted line, and we quickly discovered that the form (which was printed) was actually for, “The Rookie Experience”. The description said something along the lines of: “Ready to drive a race car? Your hands are on the wheel, your foot is on the gas, and you’re in the driver’s seat for 8 laps over 1 session around the track in a 600 horsepower NASCAR race car.” My heart skipped a few beats. I mumbled something to the instructor Derek about how I wasn’t really sure that I was going to be driving…I was thinking I’d do the Ride-Along. What he said to me next will stick with me forever. He said, “You don’t live life in the passenger seat, do you?! Come on, Kaylene, grab a hold of the wheel and drive!” Instantly I went from thinking I’d be a “Ride-Along Passenger” to knowing that I’d be behind the wheel of a 600 horsepower racing machine!
As nervous as we all were, there was definitely a thick layer of excitement in the air. Here we are all suited up and ready to attend our training class.
Joel had never driven a stick shift, I hadn’t driven one in years, and Kay prefers to drive as little as possible. 😉 To say Kay was bit apprehensive would be a major understatement. However, she agreed to sit through the very thorough instruction class and decide afterwards whether she would drive or do the ride along instead. I sat next to her as she kept telling me how nervous she was. When it was time to head outside, she turned to me and said she was going to go for it! Somehow I wasn’t surprised, it was just like Kay to seize the moment.
Here we are with Deb Wills and John Frost as we waited for our turn to drive…
Now, I’m a daredevil who loves thrill rides like Tower of Terror and all Roller Coasters. However, getting behind the wheel of a 600-horsepower NASCAR racing machine alone is an adrenaline rush unlike anything else I’ve ever known.
After I completed my 8 laps at 110 mph, I climbed out of my car and anxiously waited for Kay and Joel to have their turns.
Here’s Kay ready to roll:
After a quick pep-talk, she was off!
When she pulled back into Pit Road, I walked out to her car to greet her. Kay was shaking as she hugged me, and I was so incredibly proud of her!
What an exceptionally exciting morning this was for all 3 of us! Together we conquered our fears and we experienced an indescribable adrenaline rush.
Here we are with Derek.
After our drive, it was time to head to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for our tour.
Kay and I sat together on the golf cart. I love this photo of her.
Soon we met up with Laura on the Red Carpet and awaited the arrival of the athletes. We were all so excited!
Kay rocked her interview with LPGA Golfer Annika Sorenstam.
We spent the next morning at more events at Hollywood Studios, then we enjoyed some “free time” in The Zone.
There Kay showed her skills as she threw a touchdown!
Afterwards we went for a ride on Tower of Terror together…
…and enjoyed Toy Story Mania too.
I will always cherish the memories of our time together at ESPN – The Weekend. We embraced the opportunity to conquer our fears on Petty and we shared a bonding experience that is pretty much impossible to describe. We also enjoyed dinner with New Orleans Saints Super Bowl champion kicker Garrett Hartley. I interviewed Tedy Bruschi and Adam Vinatieri (two of my all-time favorite Patriots). I also interviewed gold medal Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and laughed while Joel and Chad Ochocinco interviewed each other. The three of us shared countless laughs and some great heart-to-hearts too.
I saw Kay again at the Moms Panel Reunion weekend in October of 2010. This photo was taken then at the Meet & Greet. I have no idea what she was talking to me about, but as usual…she made me smile 🙂
Kay was one of the alumni Panelists who I joined last December to greet the new members of our family.
Here she is with Lou Mongello at the Big River Grille.
We all had a blast at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party together
Kay is always festive. I loved her snowflakes (and love this photo of her).
On our last night, we rode Rock ‘n Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror together. Kay told ghost stories to freak me out…what a brat 😉
One of the things that I love the most about Kay is her honesty and sincerity. She speaks from the heart and doesn’t hesitate to lovingly share her opinion. Kay fills many roles with ease. She’s a dear friend and a sister, but she’s also an honorary mom. In a family as big as ours, there is always the unlikely possibility that a misunderstandings could happen. Kay is someone who I would never hesitate to ask for guidance and advice. I know that her heart is in the right place and she genuinely wants the best for everyone. I consider myself truly blessed to have Kay in my life. We’ve chatted numerous times on the phone, and through those conversations she has further solidified her place in my heart.
Our Moms Panel family has unfortunately faced a few health struggles in the past couple years. Kay is always so generous in helping to sprinkle “pixie dust” to brighten their days. Without fail, she goes above and beyond to help whenever someone needs it.
I have already made so many wonderful memories with Kay and I look forward to the opportunity to share countless more together. She is, without a doubt, one of the coolest people that I know.
You can follow Kay on Twitter: @PackerKay
Love ya, Kay!
*Want to get to know some more Walt Disney World Moms Panel Moms & Dads? I share a different Panelist with you each Monday! Here’s the link to all of them so far:
Be sure to stop back by next Monday!