For many of us, the start of a new year signifies new beginnings—a chance to set new goals and make changes in our lives to achieve them. Mark Gautier, a houseman at the Disneyland Hotel, knows all about the significance of a fresh start.
In 2013, Mark fell into a coma after going into diabetic shock. “My kidneys failed, my heart stopped three different times and, by the grace of God, the team of doctors and nurses working on me were able to revive me,” Mark recalled. When he awoke from the coma two weeks later, Mark was determined to lose weight, get healthy and make the most of his second chance at life.
In order to make exercise more fun, he and his now-wife, Vanessa, got Disneyland Resort annual passes. Mark didn’t expect to fall in love with the parks. “A few weeks after coming here, I just said, ‘I want to work here,”’ Mark remembered. “It was the ambiance, the detail, the artwork, I was amazed by everything and I wanted to be part of it.”
Since then, Mark has lost about 150 pounds, got married and, in 2016, was hired at the Disneyland Hotel. He and Vanessa are now the proud parents of a 1-year-old daughter—and Mark is pursuing new dreams in a way he never thought possible.
One of the most difficult challenges during Mark’s illness was the loss of his ability to write and draw, an effect of his coma. Growing up in Santa Ana, Mark had always been inspired by street art and loved recreating it in his own style. “I was devastated because I’ve always loved the arts and I thought I lost the ability to do it all,” Mark said. Today, Mark is not only creating art again but is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in graphic design through Disney Aspire, the free education investment program for hourly cast members. Mark enrolled in the online program last March and is working toward his bachelor’s degree.
“It’s important to me to make the most of Disney Aspire because it gives me another chance, not just for myself but for my family,” Mark said.
“I want my daughter to grow up and for her to be proud of me. I want to be her role model, to show her that it’s never too late and to not give up on anything she wants to do in life.” Mark has his own big dreams—he hopes to someday work at Walt Disney Imagineering to become part of creating the magic that inspired his own journey. “I was already given a chance at another life, and once Disney Aspire came about, it was just another chance,” Mark said. “I have so much to look forward to now.”
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