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My Conversation with Fran Stephenson from Seaworld

Discussion in 'Parents of Children with Type 1' started by Brensdad, Sep 12, 2007.

  1. Brensdad

    Brensdad Approved members

    Dec 27, 2005
    Sometime yesterday, as you all know, Fran posted a response on our thread about our experience at Seaworld. In that thread, she invited Amy or I to get in touch with her, which I did today, and here is the gist of how it went.

    First of all, the impact you all had on Seaworld was VERY clear. They have been inundated with letters and email from ticked off "D" parents, and for that I say THANK YOU. They began to receive the emails and letters and did not know exactly why because we never sent them an email of complaint; we only sent them a copy of the letter we sent to the Department of Justice.

    Yesterday, the thread came to her attention and to the attention of the Vice President of Operations and then formulated a response. She was very honest and felt she took a "beating" after her response was posted. I explained to her that it appeared to many of us to be a canned response crafted out of the need for some damage control. I also explained that the only people who understand what we go through every day are here on these forums, and we tend to stick together. I also told her how quick we all are to point out when a certain place is exceptionally friendly to diabetics as well.

    We spent about an hour on the phone detailing exactly everything that went wrong during our visit (which was a lot). She was very nice and took time to ask pertinent questions related to the visit. Here's the shocker: all the things we asked that supervisor at guest services for (special ride passes, marking the stroller as a wheelchair, being able to carry supplies with us) are all available upon reasonable request! That girl at guest services all along had the power to prevent that entire mess from even happening! Plus, when she said that no one else could help us, she was just flat-out lying. I also told her that I sent an email the week before asking about accommodations for Emma, and that it was never responded to. She told me she would find out why.

    As far as the straws issue: I may take a beating for that, too. I happen to agree that straws just aren't safe in that environment, and I told her so. But we talked for several minutes about suitable alternatives to straws and ways for families like ours to be able to retain them when necessary. I also pointed out that there wasn't a sharps box in the restaurant, and that if they were worried about straws then they'd better give people a place to dump their needles.

    As far as making things right with us, they agreed to refund all the money we spent at Seaworld that day and offered, if we came to San Antonio, to give us a day "we would never forget." To which I replied, "you already did." I also asked that I be given the complete results of any investigations and any modifications that will be made as they attempt to rectify their shortcomings with regard to children with diabetes. I also asked that, once the investigations are complete, that she post the results and any changes they are making here on this forum. I also told her that I would not be dropping our complaint against them with the Department of Justice for violating the ADA. To do so, I think, would be a disservice to all of you who so vigorously spoke up on our behalf. Her response was that they would defend themselves as necessary.

    We are considering their offer of a return trip on them, but we'll just have to see. After giving it a lot of thought, we will probably do it so that our little boy, Brenden, will get the chance to really enjoy SeaWorld. After all the sacrifices he has to make for his little sister, I think he's earned it.

    And finally, I think I might make one more request of SeaWorld when we come back. Rather than firing the "kid helper," I think she should have to stay with us the ENTIRE day at the park, waiting on us hand and foot and taking care of any need we may have. After spending a day seeing all we do to take care of Emma, she might think twice next time, don't you think?
  2. WestinsMom

    WestinsMom Approved members

    Mar 27, 2007
    Bravo!!!!! :)
  3. Carrie

    Carrie Approved members

    May 1, 2006
    Makes me chuckle that you stood your ground with her! They probably thought they might be able to get you to cave. Well done! Along with "kid helper", I think Ms. Fran should spend the day with you so SHE will get a taste of what we're talking about. :D
  4. WendyFL

    WendyFL Approved members

    Aug 6, 2007
    Keep on keeping us posted!!
  5. Mama Belle

    Mama Belle Approved members

    Jan 23, 2007
    Thanks for the update! I am glad she was willing to listen. Hopefully this will hasten the need for changes in their SOP. I am glad you stood your ground because I think it is important for corporations to know that as consumers we vote with our wallets and we do stick together. They may think that they can mess with the little guy, but quite often the little guy has lots and lots of friends. This is most definitely about how your family was treated during your trip, but it is also about how the rest of us may be treated at future visits to their park. I applaud you and Amy for vigorously speaking out about this violation of the ADA on behalf of all kids with type 1 and persons with disabilities in general.
  6. Lindy

    Lindy Approved members

    Apr 1, 2007
    YEAH! I think you and Amy really handled things well! You both seem like amazing parents - in tune not only with a child who struggles with diabetes, but with your child who has to put up with it and doesn't have it! We give a lot of attention to our children with diabetes, and rightly so - but their siblings are just as amazing and just as precious! Thanks for fighting a good fight and being such great advocates! Inspiring all the way around!

    As to Seaworld - haven't been there but would like to go someday. I know of 2 families who have had similar issues and somehow they have offended the CWD staffers so that the entire FFL conference for the next several years has been pulled from visiting Seaworld. HMMMMMM - looks like they have some work to do across the board. I too understand the animal safety issue - I also understand the issues we all face with children with T1D. There are smart enough people working at Seaworld to come up with a win-win!

    Am interested what the DOJ will have to say!
  7. Twinklet

    Twinklet Approved members

    Jun 29, 2006
    So glad you were able to speak to someone about this horrible situation.

    Is "Kid Helper" going to be fired?
  8. Flutterby

    Flutterby Approved members

    Nov 11, 2006
    I'm glad that you were able to talk to them. I think you took a great stance.. I might take them up on that offer too.. and I'd make 'kid helper' help you all day long as well, then I'd fire her! or at least take her out of that position.. maybe she should be on straw watch around the park! She was just down right rude and wrong, in so many ways. I don't see how Sea World could keep her.

    I agree straws aren't good for the environment.. but I bet each and every one of use would have kept the stupid straw on our bodies rather than throw it in the trash, let alone the creature's tank, if thats what it took to keep them from taking them away from you.

    I hope they do give you a day you won't forget, in a good way.. both your kids deserve a good time!
  9. OSUMom

    OSUMom Approved members

    Sep 10, 2006
    Thanks so much for updating us. :cwds:

    I'm still in shock after reading Amy's account of that day and the photos that Ms. Stephenson's response was this was a potentially negative experience. That spoke volumes to me.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2007
  10. Mama Belle

    Mama Belle Approved members

    Jan 23, 2007
    If they want to take away our straws, fine, but leave us with just one!! If we need to use it over and over again to treat lows we can. That way they'll be assured that we won't be throwing it away because we might need it again!
  11. bogusrogus

    bogusrogus Approved members

    Oct 1, 2006
    My hat is off to you!:D
  12. EmmasMom

    EmmasMom Approved members

    Dec 31, 2005
    Wow, stay away from the computer for a few days... ;) nearly 5,000 views on this topic in 1 week! That's astonishing!
    (I've been completely consumed by all the stuff going on with Emma's health and trying to start preschool this week... ugh, but that's for another thread!)

    I'm so glad that my wonderful husband was able to make the call to Sea World for me. I'm still so upset that I wasn't sure if I'd scream and curse at the poor lady or just cry, and neither would've been helpful!
    I'm very grateful that they're going to try to make some changes, but the fact that these policy's "are already in place" isn't much comfort to me, if they aren't followed by everyone at every park they aren't working!

    As far as the straw controversy, I can understand their view, but they MUST have an alternative available if they're going to toss yours as soon as you enter the park! There is no warning about straws (that I noticed anywhere) outside the park gates or anywhere obvious on their web-site, so until you've paid and entered you may not know you need to have an alternative with you.
    We did have glucose tablets as back-up, (we always try to have back-up options), but Emma had a bad enough low a few weeks ago that she could not chew the glucose tablets and our only option was a juice box. I can assure you that it wasn't a great time to go looking for an EMT or first aid station! She was going limp in my arms and it was only a matter of moments until she would've been unconscious, BUT she could suck from a straw! She was better in minutes, problem solved, no EMS needed... just a tiny straw and some juice!
    Luckily this didn't become an issue for us during our visit, but it could easily put other children in serious danger.

    We will consider returning to the park when we know that we'll be treated fairly and respectfully by the employees, and we can be sure that our daughter, (and her daddy) will be safe there. I don't think that's too much to ask.

    I'm overwhelmed by the support of all of you, and I'm hopeful that we'll all see some serious changes at Sea World in the very near future! I'm relieved to hear that a couple of families have had good experiences at other SW locations with their D kids, it gives me hope that someday we'll be able to enjoy Shamu with Emma like we used to with Brenden!:cwds:

    Thank You, thank you, thank you!
  13. Mama Belle

    Mama Belle Approved members

    Jan 23, 2007
    Speaking of, any news on Emma and JRA? I sure do hope things are okay with you guys. Update us when you have a minute (like in a year or so, right;)).
  14. CAGrandma

    CAGrandma Approved members

    Mar 14, 2006
    I certainly don't want any poor animal choking on a straw. Of course, if it is a poor animal or a child.....

    But, maybe Sea World would let us register those deadly weapons, I mean straws, when we enter the park and when we leave we have to show it to them. I'd even be willing to leave my drivers license as security. So you can be sure I'd have that silly straw in my possession when I'm leaving.

    Or they could just recognize that there are other things equally dangerous to the animals that are not restricted - like rubber bands, the plastic that holds 6 soda cans together, small plastic toys, rubber duckies....
  15. AlisonKS

    AlisonKS Approved members

    May 16, 2007
    thanx for the update!
  16. MrsBadshoe

    MrsBadshoe Super Moderator

    Aug 8, 2006
    While I'm very pleased with your discussions with Sea World San Antonio...from the posting by the CWD staff this type of treatment is not an isolated incident. I hope everyone here writes not only San Antionio but August Busch IV, CEO to let them become aware of the problem. That way there is a chance that the changes and education will be nationwide not just at the San Antonio site.
  17. hartpukas

    hartpukas Approved members

    Nov 8, 2005
    That is an excellent idea! Go for it.
  18. wilf

    wilf Approved members

    Aug 27, 2007
    I take the straw "policy" business with a grain of salt.

    We visited Marineland in Niagara Falls this spring. Beatiful marine animals, exciting shows, wonderful park, lots of people. And no hassles. We had a cooler for supplies, straws, our own drinks etc. Others were there with strollers and it was all just fine. Would go back there in an instant.
  19. SamsMom

    SamsMom Approved members

    Jul 23, 2007
    Found this on the SeaWorld San Antonio website

    Outside Food Policy:
    Hard or soft coolers larger than a six pack size, glass containers, food, drinks and picnic lunches may not be taken into the park. Guests with special diets, baby formula or baby food may bring their items into the park. Straws and plastic lids must be disposed of prior to entry for the safety of our marine life. These objects can become fatal to our animals if they were to land in one of the mammal pools. There are no exceptions to this policy.

    Restaurants and snack bars are located conveniently throughout the park. MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover and JCB are accepted at all restaurants. Guests with special diets, baby formula or baby food may bring their items into the park.

    Strollers, wheelchairs, and lockers are available for rental. Wheelchair seating is available at all facilities. Diaper-changing and baby-nursing areas, first-aid, 24-hour automated teller machine, taxi and bus parking may be found on-site.
  20. Beach bum

    Beach bum Approved members

    Nov 17, 2005
    I agree, if these policies are in place at Sea World, then probably at Busch Gardens also. Mr. Busch needs to know that training is needed for his employees across the board. This training needs to be implemented at the top and be taught to all theme park employees.

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