Wesley Chapel woman gives tips to vacationing families
By Kyle LoJacono
WESLEY CHAPEL — Most people have a special feeling about Walt Disney World, but Suzannah DiMarzio might enjoy its magic a little more than most.
“I’ve just always had a special place in my heart for everything from Disney World and everything about it,” DiMarzio, 36, said. “You just get a special feeling when you’re at the parks or watch Disney movies.”
DiMarzio worked at Disney’s Magic Kingdom park in Orlando for about one year. She worked in several merchandise shops on Main Street USA near the entrance to the park shortly after moving to Florida in 1995.
DiMarzio and her husband, Gerry, moved to Wesley Chapel three years ago, where she is a housewife for the couple’s three children: Christian, Sophia and Giovanni. Before that, she was working as a travel agent who scheduled many trips to Disney World.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve been to the parks in Orlando, but it is a lot,” DiMarzio said. “We moved from Orlando because of Gerry’s job, but we always get back to Orlando to go to the parks.”
When DiMarzio is not in Orlando visiting Mickey Mouse and the other Disney characters, she can now help other families plan their trips.
She was named as one of 43 members of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, an online forum where fellow panel members answer questions about Disney theme parks and resorts. There were 21 new panel members added in 2009, but more than 20,000 people applied.
“Following an extensive application process hailing entrants from across the country, DiMarzio’s knowledge of the parks — together with her years of professional experience planning Disney vacations — distinguished her from thousands of applicants and secured her a seat on the third-annual Walt Disney World Moms Panel,” stated a press release from Disney. “Each panelist was selected to share their vast knowledge of the resort and personal secrets with other families who are considering a trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.”
The panel had 12 members in 2008 — its first year.
“This is the largest group of panelists we’ve ever had,” said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World Resort. “Because interest in the Web site has grown so quickly, and we had so many highly qualified applicants, we started out searching for 10 knowledgeable parents, and eventually selected 21. Now we’ll be able to share even more Disney park secrets and travel tips with families visiting the Moms Panel site.”
DiMarzio said of being named to the panel, “While I was writing a blog I decided that this would be a goal for me, but it seemed impossible. I thought it would never really happen. It is a great honor to be one of so few picked.”
DiMarzio said the selection process started last September with an online question and answer process. The 20,000 applicants were reduced to less than 200, and finalists were interviewed on the phone by Disney media relations managers.
“It was a tough process actually,” DiMarzio said. “They asked as everything about our experiences at Disney and what we’ve done there.”
The new panel member said her last trip to Disney World was about a month ago when her family stayed at the Old Key West hotel and vacation club. She said her favorite hotel is the Beach Club, her favorite Disney movie is “Toy Story” and her favorite ride is the Soarin’ flight simulator at the EPCOT park.
Panel members are not employees of Disney and remain on the panel for as long as they still want to contribute. Many of the members are “part time,” which means they only answer questions for part of the year. DiMarzio is part time and will be answering questions from April to June.
“It’s amazing to me the kinds of questions that are asked and the good answers people get from the panel,” DiMarzio said. “One person asked if her visually impaired son would be able to experience the rides like everyone else. She was told he can because there are audio attraction descriptions for many rides, as well as Braille guides throughout the parks.”
While DiMarzio has been to Disney World in Orlando, she has yet to visit Disney Land in California.
“It’s been a dream of mine to go to the California parks,” DiMarzio said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to get out there this year.”
Those interested in asking the panel questions can visit www.disneyworldmoms.com.