Last year, 9 year old Alexis LaGrega from New York was refused entry into a Staten Island Disney Store. This year, she received a gift she never expected!
In 2021 Alexis and her mother wanted to go shopping in a local Disney Store when employees denied them entrance. The girl was wearing a neck gaiter which employees informed the pair was not an acceptable face covering. Alexis’ mother tried to explain that Alexis was born with a congenital deformity called Microtia, and did not have a fully formed right ear, leaving her unable to wear a mask with ear loops. In a statement to local news station PIX11, Holly LaGrega, Alexis’s mother, said “Even after I pointed it out and explained, it was like they could care less what I said. They just kept saying store policy is she has to have a mask on with ear loops,”
Employees remained steadfast in their refusal of entry and Alexis and her mother had no choice but to shop elsewhere.
At the time, Disney Stores were following the same mask requirements as the theme parks.
In a statement to PIXII a Disney spokesperson said:
“…At this time, based on guidance from health authorities, neck gaiters and open-chin triangle bandanas are not acceptable face coverings. We are always focused on the health and safety of our Cast Members and Guests. At all of our Disney stores we have implemented a number of enhanced measures, including a face covering requirement. During these unprecedented times we all have a shared responsibility to do our part. We regret if Guests are disappointed.”
Like all great Princess fairytales, however, this story has a happy ending! The Small Wonders Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps children born with facial deformities heard about Alexis’ Disney Store incident and stepped in to help. They offered her reconstructive surgery which would give her a completely attached right ear. Alexis and her family were overjoyed.
Two weeks ago, Alexis had the surgery performed by Beverly Hills pediatric plastic surgeon, Dr. John Reinisch, according to NBC Los Angeles. When she saw her ear for the first time Alexis said it was “weird but cool at the same time” adding that she was “happy, like really happy”.
Her mother Holly was overjoyed saying, “”It’s mind-blowing,” her mother said. “You hear about families where these things happen. I never thought it would happen for us.”
Alexis is a huge Disney fan, and has been to Disney World 5 times. She told PIXII her favorite Disney character is Cinderella. Just like Cinderella, Alexis’ story proves “if you keep on believing, a dream that you wish can come true”.