Autism can make things very difficult for those on the spectrum, as well as their family and friends. Public events and activities can present unique challenges that often require unique solutions. Thankfully, there are good people all around us who go the extra mile to ensure all people have the opportunity to enjoy life to their fullest.
So when 18-year-old Ty Swartout was recently unable to attend a special event, staffers and volunteers came together in an incredible way to make his dream become a reality.
A huge fan of “The Polar Express”, Ty makes a point to watch the movie monthly and has read the book literally hundreds of times over. So when Ty’s grandparents found out that the Polar Express rolls down the tracks just four hours away from his home, the couple planned a visit for the family.
While the trip to get to The Grand Canyon Hotel’s Polar Express went as planned, upon arrival, Ty was simply too overwhelmed to actually board the infamous train he has loved for so many years. After overcoming two prior meltdowns, Ty and his family were unable to enjoy the ride. But that didn’t stop the train staff from refusing to leave without him. After his parents insisted they continue on, the train departed. “The staff of the Grand Canyon Railway tried so hard to help,” Ty’s mother Angie wrote in a Facebook post.
“They even held the train. Finally, I had to say let’s go back to the room. Angie admitting the initial disappointment was devastating. “I cried all the way back. My heart was shattered,” she says. “I wanted this so badly for my son.”
However, upon arriving back at the hotel, the family had a knock on their door. It was a hotel staffer popping by to check in on Ty. The hotel assisted the family in rebooking their visit with free special needs accommodations. But that was only the beginning, as moments later, another visitor came knocking. While angie and Ty were curled up reading the book, the real-life conductor from the train entered in full attire. “He sat next to Ty’s bed and chatted with him. Ty was star struck. He was so excited and happy. Then the conductor gave Ty his pocket watch! They said that they wanted everyone to experience something special and magical.”
“They succeeded,” she continued. “We may not have gotten to ride a train but we got something even more magical… We got the gift of human kindness!”
With the holidays just around the corner, this serves as a simple reminder of how a small gesture can truly have a massive impact on not only those involved directly but to anyone who encounters the act as well.