Four-year-old Daniel loves trains. Everyone who knows him can tell you that. It was no surprise then that his one true wish was to have a train in his backyard. Not just a small train set—he already had those—but a real train that he could conduct.
It was a tall order, but one that the staff and volunteers of Make-A-Wish Kansas were excited to deliver. Daniel’s imagination was inspiring, and it started a movement of people coming together to share the power of a wish.
After finding a retired Zoo train, Make-A-Wish Kansas called on their friend Lance, who works for CARSTAR in Topeka. Lance is a wish dad, and was eager to engage his fellow employees in the wish experience. CARSTAR employees showed immense service by donating their time to restore the old train to its original glory and make it suitable for Daniel. Ash Davis from Davis Electric donated the electrical work to ensure the train could run safely along the track. Volunteers from the Chi Omega chapter at Kansas University and soldiers from Fort Riley gave their time to move dirt and lay track. Daniel’s dad and brothers joined in the efforts by building Daniel a train depot with an antique cash register so that he can sell his passengers tickets before they board! The wish story traveled all the way to Alaska, and when the Alaskan Railroad caught wind of Daniel’s wish, they sent him a piece of track from their railroad and promised him a free train ride if he ever visits. Make-A-Wish Kansas is also grateful for the support of Trusted Choice, who underwrote the cost of this wish.
In order to further enhance this wish experience, Make-A-Wish Kansas updated Daniel’s existing play set with two inches of soft rubber mulch. Daniel has Osteopenia along with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, leaving his bones susceptible to breakage each time he falls. This new feature will allow Daniel the freedom to play without the fear of falling.
Flash forward several months to June 27th. This Saturday morning started out like any other. But when Daniel walked outside to leave for the park, he was met by nearly seventy-five friends, family, and community members standing in a tunnel and singing a revised version of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." At the end of the human tunnel sat a four-car, fully restored and operational Zamperla Rio Grande train on 100 feet of track. The look on Daniel’s face as he rode the train for the first time was all the “thanks” anyone needed. It was worth it. The day was filled with train rides, cake, and lots of smiles. Erin Tomlinson Photography captured some beautiful moments that can be viewed here.
After everyone left and Daniel was being tucked into bed that night, he looked up and asked “Papa, can we go ride the train?” And so, a late-night train ride marked the end of a very special day.