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CONTACT: Melanie Mowry Etters
Communication Director

Lego Up for Success

By Melanie Mowry Etters

Michael Hillis recently landed his dream job at Legoland in Lake Wales when he started working in food preparation at the Beach Retreat.

Hillis began at Legoland as a dishwasher in 2019, but his interest was in preparing food. He participated in a culinary program at Ridge Technical College for more than a year and learned the basics of working in a professional kitchen. His mother, Roxie Hillis-Lance, said, “The culinary program helped Michael become more outgoing. He felt he had a purpose and it helped him be more social.”

Hillis has a developmental disability and receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and APD is highlighting the workplace achievements of people with disabilities and the employers that hire them.

His promotion to working in food preparation came about because the leadership at Legoland wanted to challenge Hillis a little more, especially since he had participated in a culinary program. Hillis-Lance said, “The supervisors at Legoland have always helped Michael be successful no matter what position he was in. They provided another avenue for him to be successful with this new position.”

Legoland supervisor Kimberly Rogers said, “Michael is willing to help wherever he is needed. He has a great attitude, and the best part is he assists others without being asked to do so.”

Some of Hillis’ duties include food preparation, working in the serving line, and organizing the dry storage area. He usually works about three days a week.

Michael Hillis said, “I like it because it keeps me busy, and I am not doing the same thing every day. I have stuff to do.” Hillis added emphatically, “I do want to go to work.”

When not at work, Hillis is an enthusiastic gamer playing both Xbox and PlayStation games.

Hillis-Lance has created an ABLE account for her son and has been contributing money to it for the future saying, “It will support Michael when I am not here. His sister will be able to take care of him.”

Hillis’ plans are to keep working at Legoland and earning money to buy things he likes like video games and pizza. Hillis said, “I think I am going to keep working in the kitchen. I am staying there for now.”

APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 58,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit or call toll free 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273).

Michael Hillis loves preparing food at a Legoland restaurant in Lake Wales.