Disney Dream Fulfilled

It’s hard not to smile when Minnie Mouse presses her big plastic nose to your face.

Leroy Berkhahn certainly couldn’t hold out when the famous flirtatious rodent focused her attention squarely on him for one blissful moment decades in the making.

The encounter, part of Leroy’s four-day trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando in late May, was born out of his late mother’s long-ago promise to him and ultimately honored by his uncle – with help from Bethesda.

Uncle Ken made arrangements with Bethesda to pay for two direct support professionals (DSP) from his Jefferson, Wisconsin, group home to accompany and attend to Leroy on the trip. The DSPs, Dee Otte and Sam Sivadas, stayed in a hotel on the Disney grounds with Leroy and went to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Fawn Hart, program manager for North Central Operations, says long trips like this are not the norm for her staff. Pulling off the trip took extensive planning. In addition to staffing needs, Leroy, who uses a wheelchair, also needed a Hoyer Lift, shower chair and other medical items that had to be shipped ahead of time.

But staff knew how much the trip meant to Leroy, who had listed going to Disney World as one of his personal goals on his Individualized Program Plan for the last five years.

Leroy and his travel partners report having a blast on the trip, and Fawn says the experience was incredibly beneficial for Leroy, who at 51 had never even flown in an airplane.

“He kind of feels like he can do anything or go anywhere now,” she says.

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