Lloyd and Angie Swartout's 18-year-old son Ty loves the Christmas movie The Polar Express. Ty has autism and is non-verbal but he loves the holiday train and the movie and book that tells its story. Ty's parents decided to book a trip for the family on the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel's real-life Polar Express, but sadly had to cancel after Ty had, as Angie described it, "an atomic size meltdown."
The Polar Express, presented by Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel
The 19th season of The Polar Express is in full swing! If your preferred dates are already sold out, consider weekday (Sunday-Thursday) departures, as well as trips after December 25. It's a great way to keep the kids on their best behavior for an entire year! Book now - https://www.thetrain.com/events/polar-express/ Don't want to be left in the cold next year? Departures for our 20th Anniversary Season starting November 2020 are also available now! https://www.thetrain.com/events/polar-express-2020/ #GrandCanyonRailway #XanterraTravelPosted by Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel on Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Lloyd, Ty's father, told NBC 13 that the Conductor is one of Ty's favorite characters from the movie, and the family was so excited that Ty would be able to experience The Polar Express himself. The Swartout family had dinner at the railway but as they waited on the platform for the train, Ty became agitated. Angie explained what happened in a Facebook post writing that Ty was "so excited that he became overwhelmed and had an atomic size meltdown. He beat me and his dad up pretty badly. A wonderful woman helped us by holding our stuff while we tried to keep Ty from smashing his head on the bricks."
Despite help from the staff at the Grand Canyon Railway and other patrons surrounding them, both Lloyd and Angie realized that Ty's trip onTthe Polar Express wasn't going to happen and they returned to their hotel room. "I cried all the way back," Angie wrote on Facebook. "My heart was shattered. I wanted this so badly for my son. He loves trains and he loves the Polar Express. This was a dream come true. But it didn't happen."
Angie and Lloyd may have thought that Ty wasn't going to have his magical Polar Express experience, but the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel had other plans. Angie explained that after a while they heard a knock on the door and a police officer and one of the men that had tried to help during Ty's meltdown were there, telling the couple that they wanted to help. Angie was in disbelief but soon the Conductor arrived and asked to speak to Ty personally and Ty agreed. "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!" Angie wrote.
The family was thrilled that Ty was able to experience a bit of the Polar Express in the comfort of his hotel room, but that wasn't the end to the kindness extended to Ty. "After the conductor left my husband told me that the hotel and railway offered to reschedule our visit special accommodations! They said that they want everyone to experience something special and magical," Angie explained. "They succeeded. We may not have gotten to ride a train but we got something even more magical.....We got the gift of human kindness!"
The conductor came back a second time to give Ty a bell from the North Pole, just like in the movie, and offered the family a complete refund. While Angie was amazed at the kindness shown to her family, the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel went one step further and reached out to the family to book them a new experience free of charge. "They are giving us dinner, a hotel room, train tickets, and breakfast all on them! To top everything off The Conductor will be having dinner with us and take Ty on a tour!!! They want Ty to experience his dream of riding The Polar Express!!"
This time Ty's trip was successful and the Conductor even read him The Polar Express while onboard the train. "Thank you conductor and all the staff. You were such a help getting him on the train and creating a magical dream come true for our son!!!!" Angie wrote.
Lloyd told NBC 13 he wants the staff to know how much they appreciated their support.
"We hope more people could be like them," he said.