A family who sneaked their young son onto Disney World rides by rigging his shoes to hit height requirements apologizes for their stunt.
Parents Ty and Haley Kelly of Fernandina Beach, Florida, came under fire for now-deleted TikTok and YouTube videos in which they gave their 3-year-old son Kannon padded shoes on a trip to Disney World. Their goal was to make him appear tall enough to enter attractions with 38-inch height requirements.
Thousands of social media users accused the Kellys of negligence and endangering their son’s life and called for the couple to be banned from Disney World. The Kellys eventually removed their videos and issued an apology online.
"We are truly sorry about the whole situation," Ty Kelly tells TODAY.com. "I want my kids to know that parents follow the rules and we are trying to raise them right. In this situation, we bent the rules and I don’t want that to be my legacy."
Ty introduced the initial controversial video on TikTok by saying, "Meet my son Kannon, our thrill-seeking boy who can't get enough of Disney theme park rides. The only problem you ask? He's just not tall enough for the big ones. But we didn't want that to stop him from feeling the rush, so we took matters into our own hands."
Ty tells TODAY.com that the TikTok video was a "teaser" to lure viewers to the family's YouTube channel, where they posted a full-length version. The teaser, he says, contained stock footage of a roller coaster (that was not located at Disney World) and of Kannon being measured by a Disney cast member at a 40-inch attraction that he says the boy never rode.
“Without shoes, Kannon is a little taller than 37 inches; wearing shoes he’s at the cusp of 38 inches,” he says. Getting on a ride "might depend on (the discretion) of who is measuring him,” he says.
According to Ty, Kannon rode two Disney attractions — the motion simulator Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and the “family-friendly” roller coaster Slinky Dog Dash — wearing the DIY shoes. Both rides have a 38-inch height requirement.
When backlash bubbled, Ty released a now-deleted apology on TikTok. TODAY.com has viewed parts of the video that continue to be shared online.
He acknowledged to TODAY.com that he was defensive in his apology video.
"Nobody likes to be told that you're a terrible parent or 'I wish that your son would have died on that ride,'" he tells TODAY.com. "People were trying to get my wife fired from her (nursing) job or saying they would call CPS (Child Protective Services) to get our kids taken away from us or hoping we'd get banned from Disney World."
Ty says Haley has received threatening calls, but she has not been fired from her job. The situation, however, has "gone way too far."
Noting the public concerns of their son being in danger on the rides, the couple deleted the videos, Ty says, to avoid negatively influencing others.
"God forbid someone saw our videos and tried to do the same or went on a more dangerous ride and something happened to their kid," he says. "I wouldn't be able to live with myself."
This week, Ty and Haley posted a new TikTok video asking for forgiveness.
"We want to assure you that moving forward, we're going to be more mindful of our actions and what we put out on our social media," Ty said in the video. "This is a privilege, it's a responsibility to set a good example for the people that follow us ... we want to be a positive influence in this world."
"We are learning and we are going to continue to learn and we're going to do better," he said.
Haley added, "We hope that you'll give us the opportunity to prove that we love our children."
Ty says the family has not been contacted by Disney World regarding the incident; Disney World did not respond to TODAY.com's requests for comment.
"I just want the world to know that I really do love my kids," Ty tells TODAY.com.
"I want (my kids) to know that Mommy and Daddy make mistakes. I don’t want them to think that we’re perfect," he says. "I want them to know, “Hey, Mommy and Daddy messed up and we’re sorry and we’re going to try to be better next time.' It’s a teaching moment."