Jon Jon’s Donner Pass Wish Comes True

“It was the best trip I’ve ever had and it was even kinda life changing,” that’s how 8-year-old Jonathan (better known as Jon Jon) described the rail adventure he took last week.

Jon Jon, who suffers from a severe heart defect, was able to sit in the cab of an Amtrak locomotive and even take a seat behind the wheel on our California Zephyr route through Donner Pass as part of a Make A-Wish Foundation wish.

As train lovers know, Donner Pass is one of the most breathtaking sites to see in the Amtrak system. And Jon Jon, a self-identified rail fan would definitely agree, “It was amazing."

Taking a run as a locomotive engineer aboard the California Zephyr was just one part of the wish granted for Jon Jon. Make-A-Wish Foundation, Amtrak employees, rail organizations and local communities came together to make this wish a success. Jon Jon received a police escort, was greeted by crowds of supporters at the station, and enjoyed an appearance by the Sacramento Kings Mascot and cheerleaders.

“I didn’t think there would be that many people,” he said. “There were hundreds of people at the station. Hundreds! It was exciting.”

Jon Jon wasn’t the only person surprised by the outpour of support and encouragement, “I was surprised it hit national news,” Dee Dee, Jon Jon’s mother said. "It was amazing for the family."

Trains are definitely a positive motivation for this young rail fan. "Trains have gotten him through a lot," explains Dee Dee. "After every surgery we take a photo and a train is in every picture. We have more surgeries ahead of us, but now we have memories and relationships to help us over the next hill."

Amtrak was honored to be a part of a wish that meant so much to Jon Jon. We happily welcome him into the Amtrak family and look forward to seeing him back on the rails soon, maybe even running the locomotive as a future engineer on #TeamAmtrak!

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