A Valley woman wants all families to experience the same holiday tradition, regardless of whether their children are disabled.
Every year, Kelley Bolender, her husband and her children drive to Williams and hop on the Polar Express.
"It's just a magical journey. You get into your pajamas. They have the hot cocoa. They read the story," said Bolender. The Polar Express is run by the Grand Canyon Railroad, and it is based on the popular children's book by the same name.
Bolender told her friend about the holiday-themed train ride and was surprised to hear his reaction.
"When he said, 'No,' I asked him, 'Why not?' And he said that unfortunately they don't attend public events like this," she recalled.
Bolender's friend has a child that is disabled, and he told her it was simply too difficult to attend such public events.
"He said basically when (his family) do(es) go out in events like this, kids make fun of (his) handicapped child and it's stressful for him, his wife and his family," said Bolender.
"This has been a tradition and it didn't even dawn on me that something like this wouldn't be accessible for kids in his situation, and I just felt that everybody should be able to go on the train regardless of his condition," she continued.
So Bolender started a project called "Ring the Bell." With the help of Phoenix Children's Hospital, the Grand Canyon Railroad, friends and family, she sponsors a trip for disabled and sick children to ride the Polar Express together.
Last year was the first year for the project. Bolender said about 50 total people attended, including parents and their children. The group meets at Phoenix Children's Hospital where they take a bus together to the Polar Express.
This year, Bolender hopes to double the number attending.
"It's a wonderful experience, and I just want more kids to experience it."
The Grand Canyon Railroad donates the tickets for the families, but the bus ride to Williams is paid for by donations. If you're interested in donating, you can contact Bolender at firstname.lastname@example.org. Parents who would like to learn more about how to participate in the train ride should contact the Child Life Division at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Traffic backed up for miles on Interstate 17 outside of Black Canyon City on Saturday.A wrong-way driver in the Southbound lanes collided with another vehicle. The Arizona Department of Public Safety toldMore >
A wrong-way driver in the Southbound lanes collided with another vehicle on I-17. Two people died at the scene and the highway will be closed several hours. More >
Sunday, May 26 2013 2:03 AM EDT2013-05-26 06:03:58 GMT
A Goodyear couple traveled to Mexico last week to attend a family funeral. The trip back to Arizona has turned into a nightmare - and it's not over yet. The wife is in a Mexican jail right now accusedMore >
A Goodyear couple traveled to Mexico last week to attend a family funeral. The trip back to Arizona has turned into a nightmare - and it's not over yet. More >
Sunday, May 26 2013 1:03 AM EDT2013-05-26 05:03:04 GMT
An 11-year-old child is in extremely critical condition after being pinned by a car into a block wall. Phoenix police calls it a private property collision. Stay with cbs5az.com for updates on thisMore >
An 11-year-old child is in extremely critical condition after being pinned by a car into a block wall.More >
Saturday, May 25 2013 11:03 PM EDT2013-05-26 03:03:05 GMT
A body was recovered Saturday evening from the water in Lake Pleasant. Maricopa County Sheriff's Deputies pulled the body of a 49-year-old man from the area known as Operations Cove, says Officer ChrisMore >
Sheriff's deputies are investigating the death of a man found in the water at Lake Pleasant.More >
Saturday, May 25 2013 9:11 PM EDT2013-05-26 01:11:29 GMT
A touching funeral procession followed Saturday morning's memorial service for fallen Phoenix police officer Daryl Raetz. So many people felt compelled to come out – in support of the Phoenix Police DepartmentMore >
Hundreds of people, many waving American flags, lined the route as the white hearse carrying officer Raetz made its way from Christ's Church of the Valley in Peoria to Phoenix Memorial Park – his final resting place.More >
Saturday, May 25 2013 5:59 PM EDT2013-05-25 21:59:07 GMT
Hundreds of people gathered at Christ Church of the Valley to grieve alongside family and friends of Officer Daryl Raetz. During Saturday's service Lt. Chris Moore called him a patriot. He said it wasMore >
Hundreds of people gathered at Christ Church of the Valley to grieve alongside family and friends of Officer Daryl Raetz. During Saturday's service Lt. Chris Moore called him a patriot. More >
Friday, May 24 2013 4:19 PM EDT2013-05-24 20:19:28 GMT
The Young and the Restless is airing a special tribute episode to the late Jeanne Cooper on Tuesday, May 28 at 11 a.m. MST. Cast members and friends of Cooper recently gathered on set to shoot a celebrationMore >
The Young and the Restless is airing a special tribute episode to the late Jeanne Cooper on Tuesday, May 28 at 11 a.m. MST.More >