All aboard! Make-A-Wish Foundation and MTA Give Teen a Tour of Grand Central Terminal
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For some people, trains are just a form of transportation, but for others, they are an incredible feat of engineering and a source of pure joy that can change the life of a family.
Cole, a 14-year-old train enthusiast from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, has loved streetcars, steam locomotives, subway cars and all kinds of locomotives since he was little. Accumulating a whole collection of models and miniatures, it is also an encyclopedia of railway knowledge that might put a historian to shame – but it is not always easy for him to communicate it.
Cole had a rough start to life. Living with autism and suffering from a congenital heart defect, Cole’s passion was mostly limited to toy trains around the house.
However, with the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Cole was given a VIP tour of Grand Central Station, fulfilling a long-standing wish to not only see the inner workings, but also to start the engine of a train itself. . The MTA gave him a tour of Metro-North operations at Grand Central Terminal, an overview of the operator’s cabin and everything in between.
Cole’s demeanor started the tour rather shy and calm, but as soon as he was asked about the trains his face lit up with uninhibited glee, especially when he got a chance to board the trains. .
Mike Cunningham, the line superintendent at Grand Central Terminal, provided Cole with an overview of a conductor’s engine room and said moments like this are the best part of his job.
“We took Cole on our diesel locomotive. Our Genesis B32 is our push-pull locomotive that goes most often from here to Poughkeepsie. He was able to start it up, honk, ring the bell, see what the engineer would normally do to begin his journey out of Grand Central, ”Cunningham said, sharing that just seeing the teenager’s eyes light up and sparkling with pleasure warms her heart.
Cole’s mother greeted the young man as he sat in the driver’s seat with tears in her eyes.
“It’s a dream come true and incredible for him. He loves planes, he loves trains, and I don’t think it can ever get better than that,” Mom said.
Cole was born with a congenital heart defect, but it wasn’t identified until he was about six months old. At the age of four, Cole underwent his first of many heart surgeries. It was thanks to doctors at Boston’s Children’s Hospital that Cole’s mother was able to come into contact with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“It’s just amazing because it’s just a good time for him. He’s been through so much, ”Cole’s mother said. “We are blown away, and looking at him up there, he’s going to talk about it for a very long time. After a year of COVID and not being in school with your friends, we are blown away. ”
Cole’s dad shared that the experience was truly wonderful, and he can’t thank the Make-A-Wish Foundation enough.
“He’s such a good boy, and he deserves the best and is really fantastic. He struggled at first and like I said he deserves the best and we are so grateful to Make-A-Wish.” Cole’s father said.
Make-A-Wish is one of the largest charities helping make dreams come true for children ages 2 ½ to 18 around the world. In the New York chapter alone, they granted the wishes of more than 16,000 children with serious illnesses.
At the end of his visit, Cole told amNewYork Metro that “taking the train” was the best part of the day, then started listing all the aftershocks he has at home with his father.