HVAC guy from Schaumburg discovers a whole new world with Disney on Ice

The story of how 34-year-old Michael DiNello of Schaumburg ends up as one of Captain Hook’s pirate henchmen in the hunt for Tinkerbell, begins one summer day in 2015. The sun was beating down and the temperature hit 100 when DiNello was killed. -change phone calls.

“I was on the roof repairing a fan motor on a commercial air conditioner,” recalls DiNello, who graduated from Schaumburg High School in 2006 with a degree in Environmental Engineering to become a heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration technician.

A buddy he met as a teenager, doing BMX tricks on his bike at Scrap Skate Park in Hoffman Estates, was part of a BMX team that performed with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus Xtreme. He asked if DiNello wanted to join the circus.

“You know what? I would be interested in that,” DiNello said. “That sounds like a wonderful opportunity.”

He fixed the AC unit, flew to Anaheim, California, auditioned, gave two weeks notice of his HVAC job, and began his circus career as a BMX stunt artist in September 2015.

He got to work with elephants, clowns and the person being shot out of a cannon. When the show retired in May 2017, DiNello moved to Orange County, California. “I figured air conditioning would be popular out there, so I brought my tool with me,” he says. “It was to pay the rent.”

After honing his jumping skills as a teenager in Schaumburg riding his BMX bike over obstacles, Michael DiNello, left, learned to do the same on figure skates to get a job with the Disney on Ice show on Thursday at the Allstate Arena .

After honing his jumping skills as a teenager in Schaumburg riding his BMX bike over obstacles, Michael DiNello, left, learned to do the same on figure skates to get a job with the Disney on Ice show on Thursday at the Allstate Arena .
– Lent by Disney on Ice

Kenny Short, a Minnesota hockey player who met DiNello while they were both working in the circus, worked for Disney on Ice and wondered if they could make their BMX appearance on an ice rink. “We held a workshop to see if we could add it to the show, and – spoiler alert – it turned out to work pretty well,” says DiNello.

He cycled through the ice ramps as part of the Disney of Ices show “Road Trip Adventures”. After buying a pair of roller skates in California and getting pretty good, DiNello bought a pair of skates in 2019 and quickly learned to handle himself on the ice. “I started skating almost every day,” he says.

So even though bikes are not part of the “Mickey’s Search Party” that is coming Rosemonts Allstate Arena Thursday to Sunday, DiNello is now part of the skating crew. While professional figure skaters are known for performing a “flying camel” spin, DiNello appears in a camel costume on skates for a scene from “Aladdin”.

“I was able to push into the camel,” says DiNello, who does not mind not being the center of attention. “Anonymity is not always a bad thing.”

He skates as caretaker for the pig Ham in a “Toy Story” number, jumps off a ramp like an ice harvester during a scene from “Frozen” and plays an evil character in the “Peter Pan” show.

“I’m one of Captain Hook’s pirates. We will not stop at anything to catch Tinker Bell and get this magic for Captain Hook,” says DiNello. “Well, it starts well, but Mickey and his friends always have different plans. It’s not because of a lack of effort, it’s definitely.”

After learning to skate in 2019, Michael DiNello from Schaumburg is cast by Disney on Ice, who spins his girlfriend and air show, Kimberly Dodson, under "Mickey's Search Party."

After teaching himself to skate in 2019, Michael DiNello from Schaumburg is a cast member at Disney on Ice who spins his girlfriend and air host Kimberly Dodson during “Mickey’s Search Party”.
– Lent by Disney on Ice

In another scene, DiNello appears with his girlfriend, Kimberly Dodson, an figure skater who plays the lead role as Rapunzel and who also performs air movements. “I spin her while she’s on top and flying,” DiNello says of the “Spanish Web” maneuver. The couple, both vegans, travel together and make many of their own plant-based meals. “One of my suitcases is my cookware,” says DiNello, who appreciates the environmental benefits of avoiding animal products but says he has also felt healthier since becoming a vegan three years ago.

DiNello envisions skating with Disney on Ice for a few more decades.

Growing up with his sister, Gina Nuzzo, and parents Domenic and Christine, DiNello says he had a great childhood riding BMX classes.

“We would find some random debris in the parking lot and see if we could skip it,” he says. He cycled to Hoffman Estates Park, did tricks all day and then cycled home. He says trainer Jimmy Walker taught him the technical aspects of BMX riding. But he greatly appreciates his adult life. “For the most part, it’s much nicer to fall on ice than cement,” he says.

His work as a professional skater continues to push him.

“These people are absolutely professional,” DiNello says of his teammates. “There are a lot of people who set that bar high for the rest of us.”

He has come a long way from repairing roof air conditioners.

“Every day I think about it. If you can dream it, there is nothing that can stop you,” DiNello says. “I’m a living example of that.”

And he still occasionally gets phone calls from a former heating or air conditioning customer.

“Sometimes I still want to be able to lead people through something,” DiNello says. “Replacement of their humidifier panels and their hot surface teeth.”


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