His name is Jonathan Dockins and, like a lot of kids, he loves trains. But this 8-year-old doesn't just play with toy choo-choos. This past Friday, he helped to conduct the real deal.
Jonathan, who has a heart defect and has undergone 10 surgeries over the course of his short life, had the opportunity to conduct the famed California Zephyr with some help from Amtrak and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
"I just can't wait," the clearly excited "Jon Jon," as he's called, said ahead of bording the Zephyr, which travels between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area. Jonathan, in train conducting gear, helped to run the show between Sacramento, Calif., and Reno, Nev.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation and Amtrak pulled out all the stops to ensure that Jonathan had the day of his life. He arrived at the Sacramento station with a police escort. He was met by cheering crowds and drum lines as he made his way to the locomotive.
"There’s just electricity," his mother Dee Dee, overcome with emotion, said. "This has touched our hearts in so many ways."
Jonathan doled out enthusiastic high-fives to his fans. Once aboard, he was given control of the radio and instructed on what to say.
Jonathan, who flew in from Jackson, Missouri, with his family, was instructed on what levers to pull and buttons to push by an experienced conductor. Jonathan was a quick study, partially because he's been studying trains and their routes for years.
The Zephyr's route, which runs through Donner Pass, is well known among train enthusiasts including, of course, the young man of the hour.
Mom Dee Dee told Fox40 that she didn't even known that her son knew what Donner Pass was before he told her about his wish.
Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).