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Lightning Strikes Twice
by John Magi, President - Dreams Unlimited Travel, inc.

In order to fully appreciate the story I am about to tell you I need to take you back about two and a half years ago.

I was caught up in pin trading at the Walt Disney World resort (the act of exchanging pins with others with the goal of acquiring pins to collect). It was right about the time the first set of lanyard pins were released (these were the pins you could only get by trading with a Disney Cast Member - you couldn’t buy them).

I was determined to get the whole set (64 at that time) and some were pretty hard to find. The rumor was that if you went to the resorts during the week and found a Disney Cast Member who was a manager you would have better luck finding the harder to get lanyard pins.

So one weekday, armed with my bag of trader pins, I headed to the Port Orleans Resort. I traded with Cast Members at the front desk and in the stores but no one had the really hard to get pins I was searching for. About to give up, I headed outside and saw a gentleman wearing a tie and a lanyard full of pins. Hallelujah – the mother load – a Disney Cast Member who was a manager!!!

I politely stopped the Cast Member and asked if it would be OK to see his pins. He was very nice and held out his lanyard. He was also very interested in me and how I got involved in pin trading and if I enjoyed it. I explained that I did and what I was looking for that day. He apologized that he did not have any lanyard pins. When I said there were no pins I was interested in trading for he almost seemed dejected.

I then saw he had two of the same pins on his lanyard and thought I would trade for one of his doubles and give him a new pin in exchange. The pin he had doubles of was the letter E – it was from a series of pins sold which included each letter of the alphabet with it’s corresponding Disney character – E and Eeyore were on this pin.

When I asked to trade for his E pin, he explained very nicely that he would rather not as it was part of his name and he pointed out the letters LEE altogether. I did not put that together when I first looked at his lanyard and said “no problem’.

At that moment I looked at his face and back at his Disney nametag and realized I was pin trading with Lee Cockerell, Vice President of Operations at the Walt Disney Resort.

I had recognized him from when I was Cast Member. He often spoke at company functions and he even had a CD made on the subject of Leadership.

At that point, I decided I had bothered this man long enough, thanked him for his time and started to walk away. Before I could turn to go he said ‘Wait, here is something I would like you to have’. It was a Leadership Pin.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the Leadership pin was created by Lee to give to his staff and other cast members who do an outstanding job. He does not give them away too freely and they are known to be very scarce. Usually when a Cast Member receives one they hold onto it – so it is almost impossible to trade for one.

To say I was shocked was an understatement.

I thanked him profusely and told him I would not take up any more of his time.

Fast forward to May 4 th 2005. I have been invited to Disney’s press event at the Walt Disney World Resort to kick of the 50 th Anniversary of Disneyland and the Happiest Celebration on Earth.

One of my companions at the party brought a lot of extra pins in case he saw something good. At previous events he has been known to find some really great stuff on lanyards and he wasn’t going to miss this opportunity.

Throughout the park he found many Cast Members with lanyards and some great pins – some were prototypes of pins not released yet, one or two were Cast Member exclusive pins and he even found two that no one knows anything about.

Well, as we are entering the premier of the Lights! Motors! Action! Stunt Show (which is awesome by the way) my friend spots a hard to find Cast Member “reward” pin on a lanyard. As he is trading, I notice the man he is trading with is none other than Lee Cockerell. He is friendly and generous with his time as usual and my friend turns to me and says ‘tell him your story’.

Reluctantly I tell Mr. Cockerell how I met him that day at Port Orleans and he gave me a Leadership pin. He said he remembered me (I doubt it, but it was really nice of him to say) and he asked me if I sold the pin on Ebay because his wife saw one listed. I assured him that no, I would never sell or trade that pin as it has a great history and a lot of meaning to me.

With that he reached into his pocket and said ‘Here, I would like you to have this. It’s a new pin I had made to recognize Cast Members for outstanding performance. I even signed the back.’ I was flabbergasted and thanked him very much for the generous gift and assured him it would go into my collection next to the Leadership pin.

The pin features Mickey Mouse in a Celebratory pose over the words Walt Disney World and You Created Magic on top. The back reads “Thank you for creating magic. Lee Cockerell.” His first name, Lee, appears in his own handwriting as well.

It is an awesome pin and it was an awesome experience that I wanted to share.

Oh, and if you’re reading this - thank you very much for your generosity and warmth Mr. Cockerell.

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