Artisans from the Augusta Training Shop stopped by Animal Kingdom to see their hard work on display.

By Rachel DeSantis / People.com
November 20, 2019

Disney World temperatures may still be in the 70s, but the park has already begun decking its halls and trimming its trees ⁠— and this year, the festive décor has a special backstory.

Animal Kingdom’s Discovery Island has been adorned with handmade snowflakes, each of which was created by an artisan with disabilities.

The intricately designed decorations come from the Georgia-based Augusta Training Shop, a nonprofit that gives jobs to adults with cognitive and physical disabilities.

“What Disney has done for us is breathe new life into these hearts and these hands,” Audrey Murell, Augusta’s executive director, said in a video shared by Disney. “That one beautiful creation is allowing five people with disabilities to have a job and meaningful life.”

The shop employs people from ages 18 to 79 who have various disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness. They each receive a monthly paycheck, and do everything from furniture restoration and repair to metal polishing and chair weaving, according to the Augusta website.

Disney recently invited the artisans behind the snowflakes to come in person to check out their creations, which currently adorn wreaths and trees along Discovery Island’s wildlife-filled pathways.

“I never thought that thousands of people would come over to this park and see my work,” artisan Trenton Martin said in the video. “It makes us so proud.”

Added fellow artisan Kasey Warning, “It brings real joy for me to see it.”

Murell, meanwhile, said that for the shop employees, seeing their work on display in Disney World was “life-changing.”

The Augusta Training Shop expressed excitement about the snowflakes in a Facebook post that thanked Disney for the opportunity.

“WDW has given us a platform to share the many talents of our employees,” the post read. “It has always been my goal to push our employees past their level of comfort zone and expand to things they have never tried before. They amaze me every day with their love of life and persistence. I feel honored to work alongside with them. … I want them to know how valued and loved they are. Thank you to those that made this WDW experience come to life.”

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