For Stephanie Lynn and her family, even having a pizza night together was a big deal because it meant time spent together.
Her son Shaine, now 14, was born with a congenital disorder, and was first diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer when he was one-year-old.
“We ended up on isolation a lot of the time with my son’s treatments and that makes things very difficult and to be able to even eat dinner together,” said Lynn, a mom of three boys.
“It’s something we all take for granted.”
Lynn said the family was invited to different family events and they attended when Shaine was up to it. The family enjoyed the holiday season and the kids grew to enjoy A Christmas Carol.
But, she said the Polar Express ™ has a special place in their hearts. It was one of the first movies her oldest son sat through in its entirety.
They’d looked into the Aspen Crossing Polar Express ™ winter train adventure, but at the time, with Shaine’s treatments and the family financial pressure, it wasn’t something they could manage.
That’s when the Kids Cancer Care Foundation partnered up with Aspen Crossing to provide kids and their families a magical holiday experience aboard a real train – done up like the Polar Express ™.
Lynn remembers the call she received about another experience for the family to try and attend. She broke down in tears.
“When they said it was the Polar Express ™, I started to cry. Like, oh my God, I was looking into that, but we couldn’t afford it. And now you’re asking me if we want to go for free.”
Aspen Crossing Polar Express™ teams up with Kids Cancer Care Foundation
Every year, the Aspen Crossing opening Polar Express ™ train experience goes to kids living with cancer and their supporting families.
“We are so touched that Aspen Crossing offers the very first train ride of the year to our families every year,” said Christine McIver, founder and CEO of Kids Cancer Care.
“The Polar Express ™ is all about the need to believe and who needs a reason to believe more than a family battling a child’s cancer. The Polar Express ™ gives our families a special evening where they can forget about cancer and escape into the magical world of Christmas, where cancer is not all pervasive and where believing can make miracles happen.”
For Aspen Crossing GM Donna Biggar, there’s a personal connection. Her close friend’s grandson was diagnosed with crangiopharyngioma – a brain tumour of the pituitary gland. That’s when the idea was formulated to create a special memory for these kids and their families.
“This is our gift to these brave families. We all need to believe in something and our wish is that this evening will give these kids and families the magical power of believing again—whether it’s believing in the magic and innocence of childhood again or believing in the future or believing in family Christmases yet to come,” said Biggar.
The experience is bigger than just Lynn’s family
Lynn said that the Aspen Crossing Polar Express ™ has become a much bigger family than just her own.
“It’s kind of growing over the years because we see so many families that we walked the oncology hallways with, as well,” she said.
“So, it’s not only just about us and our family, it’s about the families that we have become connected with through our journey and cancer itself.”
And she’s aware of the Polar Express ™ underlying theme of believing and how it applies to Shaine’s journey.
“You have to have a different level of believing, right? It’s not just in magic, it’s in miracles.”
Shaine’s most recent scan showed he’s clear of cancer. Miracles really can happen.