I have been an engineer for a US F.I.R.S.T. team for the past five years. The whole reason that I got involved and put hundreds of hours into the program was because I believe that F.I.R.S.T. does have a positive effect on kids. Most volunteers give up their own time away from family, friends and work as well as their own personal and financial resources so that the kids can receive the opportunities that F.I.R.S.T. has to offer. My company has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the F.I.R.S.T. program. I am appalled at the willingness of F.I.R.S.T. to be a part of the extortion that Disney is putting on the teams this year. This is the first year Disney mandates to the teams that if they do not stay at a Disney hotel they have to pay Disney $75.00 per person.
From the FIRST web page (see choice 2):
All teams attending the 2002 FIRST Championship event are required to purchase one of the following two Walt Disney World package options:
- One option is the traditional hotel room package selections, which includes room nights, park tickets, meal coupons, transportation, a commemorative gift and admission into the Saturday night Team Wrap Party.
- The other option is to not purchase a hotel package from the offerings below and to instead pay a Walt Disney World Event Fee of $75.00 per team member. This fee includes access to bus transportation from resorts that are package choices, as well as admission into the Team Wrap Party on Saturday night that includes food and beverage, entertainment, and select Epcot attractions.
Yes, folks it is extortion! Our team generally has about 100 team members every year. 70 students and the rest are engineers and college mentors. The cost of staying in a Disney resort was always out of our reach and we had to decide if we would rather have more kids involved and stay at a regular hotel and go to Disney for one day (which we always do – in fact we have already purchased the tickets for this year for each person to have a 1 day pass) or spend incredible amounts of money to stay on Disney property and have the park hopper passes (which do not get used very much due to the fact that we require our kids to attend all our matches) and allow fewer kids to experience the thrill of nationals. We always chose the former because we felt that F.I.R.S.T. was about inspiring these kids and not about days at Disney. We have in the past stayed at a good hotel with no complaints from anyone. This year according to the rules set forth by Disney with F.I.R.S.T.’s full approval we will be required to send Disney a check for $7,500.00 NOT to stay in one of their hotels.
One of the parents suggested that we tell Disney that we only have 10 team members. We have been trying to teach our kids integrity and honesty and “Gracious Professionalism”. We cannot and will not lie to get out of this kind of extortion. So which kids do we tell “you can’t go because we did not budget $7,500.00 to be paid to Disney NOT to stay in their hotel.”
Our team has produced many, many engineering students over the years, several of which I’ve hired and much of the reason was their involvement in FIRST. Disney has been VERY supportive of FIRST in the past, but requiring teams to pay Disney NOT to stay in one of their hotels is crossing the line of common sense! The difference in staying at Disney and Best Western (at $59/night) is almost $28,000.00. What were they thinking!!!
As an engineer I’m having a hard time with this ransom like treatment of the kids by Disney with FIRST’s support. My company always believed that Disney was a sponsor of FIRST and the kids, not the other way around!
Engineer -Ramtech 59