(June 17, 2015) - Hillsborough County Aviation Authority veteran Barbara Barton walked into the finance department last month and immediately knew something was up. A large group of her co-workers and friends had gathered together and were waiting for her arrival. They handed her an envelope. She opened it, pulled out a piece of paper and read in disbelief.
“Congratulations,” the message said, “you’re going to Disney World.”
From left to right: LaVida Starks, Valerie Williams, Terri Peach, Ashley O'Kelly, Barbara Barton, Patty Gardner, Allison Desiano and Nick Desiano enjoy celebrating Barbara's first visit to the Magic Kingdom.
Since she was a young girl, Barton has wanted few things more than go to Disney World. Because she was raising a family and put her priorities elsewhere, she was never able to go. Her Airport family knew that.
Now, because of them, it was finally happening.
“I appreciate them so much,” she said recently, holding back tears. “Words cannot describe what they’ve done for me. They have made one of my main dreams in life come true.”
Barton is an Office Assistant III in Central Records, working at the Aviation Authority for nearly three decades. She helps sort and process the mail, scan invoices, pull documents, take calls, among many, many other duties. But what she is best known for is the warm “Good morning!” and “Have a great day!” she greets co-workers with every day.
“She’s always such a loving, caring person,” said Ashley O’Kelly, an administrative specialist and one of the master minds behind the trip. “She’s such an awesome person.”
O’Kelly said the idea for the Disney visit started in January when Nick Desiano, an accounting clerk in the finance department, came up to her and mentioned Barton had never been to see the Magic Kingdom.
“We should all just pitch in,” he said at the time.
They landed on a date: May 16 – Armed Forces Day. They decided that was perfect day to take Barton, who served 34 years in the U.S. Army and National Guard in addition to her long tenure at the Airport.
They got a number of colleagues to come in on the gift, including Patty Gardner, Terri Peach, La Vida Starks, Amber Jaramillo, Deneen Jones and Andrea Upshaw. They told Barton to clear the date, but didn’t tell her exactly what they had in mind. Barton said she kept asking and asking. Nobody spilled the beans.
“They were all in on it,” Barton laughed.
A few days before they were scheduled to leave, they finally let her in on the plan and presented her with the envelope. Overwhelmed, Barton said she teared up and just kept hugging everyone in sight. “You just don’t see things like that,” she said.
All in all, the group bought her four tickets (she still has three left) and gave her a T-shirt that read, “My first visit.” Barton said they covered all her expenses. Even picked her up.
“It was just fabulous,” she said. “It just shows what our employees will go out and do for another employee.”
As for the trip itself, Barton loved it. They left for Disney around 7 a.m. and didn’t leave the park until after midnight.
“I was like a little kid, drifting back into childhood,” she said. “It was just fascinating; just beautiful. It was like a childhood dream come true.”