When you work at Disney World for over 25 years, you collect a lot of stories.
Just ask Mikey Jacobs, who worked at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, from 1989 to 2015, and played the character Goofy since the late-'90s. He's seen all manner of magical and heartwarming Disney moments.
Recently, Jacobs hosted a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) where he regaled the internet with tales of backstage Disney World romance, lunchtime cliquey-ness, and of course, surviving the Florida heat while wearing a costume (apparently you just get used to it).
When one user asked him to share his best "magical" moment, he shared what he considers the "defining moment" of his Disney World career.
Jacobs recalled an encounter he had with two little girls who came to the park back in 1996. "The two girls were with their mom and dad at Epcot," wrote Jacobs in his AMA. "And on the way home they got into a horrible car accident."
According to Jacobs, both of the girls' parents were killed in the crash, and nurses at the nearby hospital had brought them back to the park to see if they could get their tickets refunded to help pay for a trip back home. "My heart absolutely sunk," Jacobs wrote. "If you had seen these girls you'd know why. They were truly traumatized."
Jacobs — who worked at Disney World's Guest Relations Department at the time and was also an experienced tour guide — helped the girls get a refund and brought them on a private tour of the park that included VIP access to the parade, free ice cream, and a seat on every ride. Unfortunately, the girls were far too shaken by what they had been through to enjoy their time. "Nothing worked," said Jacobs.
Finally, he offered to personally introduce the girls to Mickey Mouse. That's when, for the first time, the girl's faces lit up with smiles."It felt so good to be a part of that," he wrote. "It was a special day for me."
That day, Jacobs saw firsthand how powerful the work of a Disney World character can be, and he dedicated the rest of his Disney career to working as a character. "When I saw the transformation of those two little girls I immediately turned my heart over to the Character Department," explains Jacobs over email. "There was no greater thrill for me than being able to immediately and directly make a magical moment for a Guest."
Those two little girls had a profound effect on Jacobs in 1996, but in 2016, his story about them had a real-world effect on the people who saw it on Reddit.
In the comments on Jacobs' AMA, one Reddit user mentioned that he had donated to the Florida Hospital for Children — a hospital near Disney World that is home to thousands of kids battling often life-threatening illnesses. The hospital has an Amazon Wishlist full of items that aim to make a child's stay at the hospital more comfortable.
The idea caught on, and before long, the hospital was inundated with donations. Workers spent the days after Jacobs' story went viral unloading three pallets worth of toys and fielding a long string of online cash donations, according to Janna Aboodi at the Florida Hospital for Children.
Jacobs says he never expected his own life-changing encounter to have this kind of effect on others. But he's glad it did.
"To think that children may be able to have less of a difficult time in the hospital because of it really overwhelms me," he says.
Donating a couple dollars or buying a toy may seem like a small gesture, but the little things can go a long way. The toys donated to Florida Hospital will help bring smiles to kids faces, and as Jacobs knows, a smile can change everything.