“The Magic is Not Limited to the Guests”

In 2007, Freddie Wieczorek retired after 35 years in the German navy and moved to Florida. He did not handle being retired well, and his wife told him to get either a part-time job or a divorce. He said, “We decided I’m going to get a part-time job to make me happy again.” He got a part-time job as a security guard at Walt Disney World, where two evenings each week he checks the bags of people visiting the Magic Kingdom. If the line of people is not too long, he asks young princesses and pirates for their autographs. Mr. Wieczorek said, “Their face brightens up. This is something so unbelievable for them. It gets them by surprise, and they feel special. Every time I see a princess leaving from that signature or when I just tell them, ‘You look so pretty,’ I see them skipping. Then I know I just made their day. And the pirates, the same thing. When they [say] ‘Awwwr,’ it’s very special.” Some of the children aren’t old enough to know how to write yet, so the autographs are sometimes smiley faces, hearts, or scribbles. In 2012, a photograph of him getting an autograph from a young Cinderella went viral. The girl’s grandmother took the photograph in September 2008; it shows Alli Bunchuk, then age five. Her grandmother, Barbara Bunchuk, said, “We started to walk in the park when the security guard stopped her and said, ‘Excuse me, Princess, can I have your autograph?’ She couldn’t believe it. Throughout the day, she kept saying, ‘I can’t believe he thought I was a real princess.’ She kind of floated around all day.” She added, “He kind of went out of his way to do something special for a child. It made the whole family happy.” Mr. Wieczorek estimates he’s collected over 1,400 signatures during his four and a half years at Disney World; he has eight books of autographs. Mr. Wieczorek is a non-threatening bag checker: “I wanted to have every guest that goes through my line leaving with a smile, and so far, I managed that.” On rainy days, he welcomes guests to the Magic Kingdom Water Park. He tells children that he is searching their bags because he is looking for something that Snow White is afraid of: red apples. One of his goals is to learn how to say “Have a Magical Day” in 15 languages. He said, “I’m up to nine so far, and it really makes the guests feel special.” Barbara Bunchuk said to Mr. Wieczorek, “Thank you for just being a nice guy.” He said about his interactions with young princesses and pirates, “It makes my magic, too. The magic is not limited to the guests.”

For Further Information: Lisa Flam, “The security guard who makes Disney dreams come true.” TODAY. 30 July 2012

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