Disney World often is described as magical.
Nine-year-old Maddox Yates-Benter, however, created a whole new meaning for the word during a recent trip to the Florida resort with his dads, Joey Benter and Patrick Dalton.
“When you see your child authentically smile and laugh, a feeling comes over you that is stronger than you can ever describe,” Dalton said.
The trio from Sandwich was given the four-day dream trip by the CEO of BD’s Mongolian Grill in Naperville, Gregg Majewski. Maddox, who has autism, loves to hit the gong at the restaurant every time he’s there, but during a recent visit, BD’s was closed due to a burst water pipe.
Instead of being sadly turned away, Maddox was allowed to come inside and hit the gong for as long as he wanted, thanks to General Manager Kirsten Simmons. She also gave the family “Mongo Money” coupons so they could eat for free that night at a sister restaurant in Bolingbrook.
Touched by the effort, Dalton wrote an email to the corporate office thanking Simmons and BD’s for being so kind. When Majewski read the email, he decided to go a step beyond and surprise the family with the free trip to Disney World.
Maddox and his dads were in Orlando July 11-15. They stayed at an Animal Kingdom resort, where Maddox was able to see giraffes, his favorite animal, roaming right outside his balcony.
Majewski also gave a Disney World trip and $1,000 in spending money to Simmons, who will be going with her two young children in September.
“Every morning, Maddox would have his breakfast of Cheerios, sitting on the balcony just watching giraffes and zebras and other animals roam around,” Dalton said. “Seeing his face light up was truly magical.”
Dalton said Maddox didn’t fully realize he was in Florida until he saw a gecko running by the resort pool, which reminded Maddox of a Florida trip the family took when he was 4. His dads were a little nervous about how their son would react to seeing all his favorite Disney characters in person, but Maddox loved every minute of it.
Maddox especially enjoyed meeting Olaf, Mickey and Minnie.
“It was better than anything we could’ve ever anticipated,” Dalton said. “We have such a heart for Disney World now.”
Maddox went to the different theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios — and made a return trip to Magic Kingdom.
In addition to riding the Dumbo ride seven times, Maddox also enjoyed multiple rides on “It’s a Small World.” Maddox, in fact, has been singing the song ever since the family returned to Sandwich.
Dalton said Maddox talks about the trip every day. He’s also looking forward to his next trip to BD’s to hit the gong again.
“We’re so humbled by Mongolian Grill’s kindness and thankful they were able to do this for us,” Dalton said. “We’ll be forever grateful for the memories they’ve given us that will last a lifetime.”