We Dare You Not to Cry Over Teen with Down Syndrome's Reaction to a Surprise Trip to Disney World
A 15-year-old teen from Lewiston, Michigan, cried tears of joy when his mother surprised him with tickets to the “Most Magical Place in the World.”
Alethea Mshar and her husband wanted to do something special for their son, Alex, who has Down syndrome, and it didn’t take long for them to figure a trip to Disney World would be the perfect choice.
“Alex loves all things Disney. He watches videos of Disney parades on YouTube and practices the dances,” Alethea, 45, tells PEOPLE. “He once went down the driveway to his bus in the morning doing a Disney parade dance in a Peter Pan hat.”
The first time Alex had gone to Disney World was with his younger brother, Ben, who also has Down syndrome, autism and multiple complex medical conditions, but their last visit to the theme park was in 2014. With so many other priorities, the parents figured their family vacations would be few and far between.
“Rather than a return trip getting more feasible with time, we have realized that another vacation as a family is unlikely in the near future, and possibly ever,” says Alethea, who also has a 19-year-old daughter, Hannah.
But with Alex being the most passionate Disney fan they know, the family wanted to make sure he’d be able to go, even if the whole gang couldn’t come along.
“My husband was adamant that Alex should get to go again, and wanted me to have the pleasure of taking Alex,” Alethea says. “All he asked was that we kept the trip a surprise and that I took a video of Alex finding out so that Mike could share that moment.”
So on January 7, Alethea told Alex that they were going to drive to an “appointment” after stopping to eat lunch. But after leaving the restaurant — with Alex still wondering what the appointment was for — Alethea drove to an airport parking lot and surprised Alex with the news they were flying to Disney World.
“Alex lives very much in the moment, so as he reacted I was tickled. I wasn’t a bit surprised that he was so sweet about it,” Alethea recalls of the moment, which she captured on video.
Alethea posted the footage of Alex’s reaction to her Facebook, and the video garnered tens of thousands of views and encouraging comments from people who were moved by the touching surprise.
“I think people are tired, divided and hurting. I believe that is why Alex’s reaction struck a chord with so many people,” Alethea says about the response.
“His elation is contagious and it’s touching people’s hearts in a time when the news is depressing and many people are cynical and hurting. I want people to absorb the purity of his excitement and to let it lighten their steps.”
Alethea hopes that people become inspired to share Alex’s joy and spread it to others.
“If we can each find ways to share goodness with others and give momentum to the beauty in the world it will change things, one person at a time,” she adds. “I hope that many others also choose to pay it forward in their lives in creative and loving ways.”