Its not just a theme park… Its ‘ohana


We all have them… people around us who display that look of amused disapproval when we proudly announce – “We are going back to Disney!”.  Who can blame them really? There are thousands of amazing places to visit on this earth that are very deserving of our vacation time, attention and dollar.  Even Disney themselves gets that, or we wouldn’t have Disney Cruise Line or Adventures By Disney. But thats another blog for another time.

What many don’t truly understand about this crazy band of mouse ear wearing, dole whip sippin, fastpass coveting, pin trading mouseketeers is we  not only found a place we like to vacation-  many of us have also found our ‘ohana.

According to Wikipedia ‘ohana is a word in the Hawaiian culture, that means family (in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive or intentional). The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another.

I can’t think of a better description. Especially in the face of recent loses within my Disney inspired ohana. Wonderful human beings who have been taken from this earth way to young.  Kim Niblett, an affiliate with MEI-Travel who came to us through her love for Disney. She had so many friends in the Disney fan community and helped make magic with her skills at vacation planning. She died tragically and shook us all to the core. She is very missed by many.

And just recently we lost Ricky DjTechnoid Reed  to cancer. He was a friend to many in different corners of the Disney fan community. I often saw him in many of the chat sessions for various podcasts and live streams but I first got to really know him via WDW Radio. On Wednesdays we would often PM while Lou chats about food, spider-man, food, handshakes, hugs and yes.. did I forget food?

Anyway Ricky and I would just banter about various things happening.  And it was there I was introduced to his passion of mixing music… Disney music in particular that he selflessly shared via SoundCloud.

One day I saw a post from him entitled “The Princess Beci Mix”  — a wave of overwhelming fear swept over me that I must have said something really funny (ie embarrassing)  to warrant such an honor. Once I worked up the courage, I hit play.  I was shocked and soooo happy … that it wasn’t my stupid laugh that was repeated ad nauseam…  it was LOU’s!!!!

I quickly sent a FB message thanking him for not including my real, very awkward laugh that I am always aware of when I listen to myself.  We chatted about it a while and he had fun stories to tell me about how he came up with the concept. It still brings me to tears due to uncontrollable laughter every time I hear it.

Ive linked it below so you can hear it for yourself .
And no.. don’t ask my why Lou thinks I am blonde…  I have no logical answer for you.
And yes… He has lost his ever-lovin mind.

Anyway…. the real amazing thing about Ricky, besides just how loving he was to everyone he met, is that he was truly adored by throngs of people, many of whom he never actually met in person.

I called him friend, yet we never met face to face, and we never had to, really. That is the power of this ‘ohana. Technology and community brings people together with this shared passion, but its the tribe, clan, herd, gang, ‘ohana — whatever word you want to attach — all by itself that is the magic here.

Especially in times of loss. As one person stated, hearing the news of Ricky’s passing was a gut punch.  And we all felt it.

Its obvious from the hundreds of tributes just how many lives this one man touched. The stories from people, many he had never met, detailing how he had an impact on their lives and made them better people— its inspiring.

Ricky had planned a visit to Walt Disney World later this year to finally meet many of his ohana in person. While he openly told us he was in treatment, it wasn’t till I got the call he needed to cancel his hotel that the reality of the seriousness of his condition was driven home. Even facing the end of his life, he still managed to reach out to people to lift them up and post messages of optimism of his own condition, never wanting anyone to think he had lost one ounce of hope that he would beat this thing.

Im grateful I had the blessing of his friendship and Im thankful to this Disney ‘ohana who connect in this circle of life and lean on each other in times of triumph, happiness, crisis, need and yes… loss.

I have witnessed many friendships come together and 10 or even 15 years later, these relationships are still thriving. People who met at a dessert party, on a cruise or just in line at Space ship Earth, still make plans to travel together again,  virtually high five during a live stream or just meet at Crews Cup for an adult beverage to catch up.  (ie talk about all the new coming attractions and your fav kiosk at Food & Wine this year.)

I have had challenges and surprises in my actual family over the years… some I haven’t openly talked about… yet. But I have had the blessing of being in this amazing ohana. I have met so many people with the most beautiful and inspirational souls and some I would go so far to say they are as close to me as my actually family. I have posted some pics of people and times that represent this incredible connection…  Please forgive me if I missed anyone in particular. I simply ran out of time, but will add to it as I run across more as I organize my archives.

For now…  Rest in peace Kim & Ricky.  (And Nolan and Barrie and all the others who have parted ways with this earth ) And thank you for being part of this ‘ohana and sharing your light with the rest of us.






Beci Mahnken is Chief Magic Maker at MEI-Travel & Mouse Fan Travel. With more than 23 years in the travel biz, she is a frequent guest on many travel and Disney community podcasts including WDW Radio, and partners with other great travel creators like, and She was recognized by Travel + Leisure magazine as the Super A-List Agent for Disney travel and serves on their Earmarked Advisory Board. Beci has long worked with the Disney fan community to help support fan efforts and create high-profile events and has a passion for supporting deserving charities with a special emphasis on animal welfare efforts. She has a love for exploring history, ocean cruising, and river cruising and served on advisory boards for the prestigious GTM event and TravelAge West Magazine. Beci's dedicated to her craft of sharing the magic of travel with anyone who will listen.

Discussion4 Comments

  1. Thank you, Beci for such a touching write-up. I’ve listened to you so many times on Lou’s podcasts, that I feel I genuinely know you, and I truly believe we would get along very well based on your sense of humor and thirst for adult beverages! Hopefully, some day, we will meet face to face. Until then, cheers!

Leave A Reply