LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Two Disney Parks fans are working to help employees who were laid-off, furloughed or those who were let go, navigate the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and give them a bit of extra support from other fans.
Jessica Gardner and Ashleigh Bergh, native to New England, have their own podcast called “Theme Parkettes.” Both grew up going to Walt Disney World. They became fast friends after being introduced by a mutual friend.
“Ashleigh and I just talked all night and nerded out about… all of our Disney past and eventually, Ashleigh moved away, sadly, and we were talking on the phone all of the time. I was trying to convince her that she needed to become a travel agent because she is just so phenomenal,” Gardner said.
Gardner, a University of Central Florida graduate and former Disney World cast member, said during their conversations, they realized they should put their chats in a podcast form.
Both were heartbroken to hear about the recent struggles of Disney employees, including those here in Florida before Walt Disney World re-opened. That’s where the thought for a spreadsheet of cast members’ side hustles was born.
“I think Jessica and I both were just heartbroken to hear that so many cast members were being laid-off and furloughed and we both, as individuals and both as friends, and all of our… magical memories at the Disney Parks were made because of cast members,” Bergh said.
She said all of the amazing memories they have been able to experience through the years were because of Disney cast members.
“So we felt like we wanted to do something and we weren’t sure what we could do. And so I thought, ‘why don’t I make a Google form and a spreadsheet’ and as I see cast members posting their small businesses and their shops and things like that, then I’ll just add it to the spreadsheet and post it to Facebook groups and if people find it useful, great! And it just kind of blew up from there,” Bergh said. “It wasn’t intentional, it was more just to be a resource for people and a way for folks to find that information quickly.”
Both women told 8 On Your Side’s Daisy Ruth they want their podcast to be as helpful as possible, and this spreadsheet is an extension of that.
Like the rest of the world, they too are navigating the coronavirus pandemic.
“And we sort of hit a challenge during this pandemic of, are we encouraging people to go to theme parks with our podcast? So we’ve always just been trying to focus on what’s the most helpful thing, how does this help someone out?” Gardner said. “And when we heard about all of this happening, this just made sense… We said, ‘if nothing else, during this time, if you can’t go to a theme park, bring some of a theme park to you, by supporting these cast members.'”
They hope to help cast members and Disney fans who are looking to purchase things like masks or skincare from a local business.
“It was our goal to be helpful. We both have, outside of our Disney and theme-park focused worlds, we both are involved and support a variety of organizations and non-profits that are really meaningful to us,” said Bergh.