Hannah Joy was at The Greenbrier restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on a vacation with her family, when her 3-year-old daughter, Remi, needed to use the bathroom. But while in the restroom, the sound of a toilet flushing triggered Remi to have a meltdown, and she began crying in the restroom.
That’s when the staff of the restaurant sprung into action. Hostess Barbie Kyzar noticed the sound of crying coming from the bathroom and knocked on the door to see if she could help, and Hannah explained the situation to her.
“She couldn’t control that huge feeling,” says Hannah. “I let [Barbie] know on my way out, I said I’m sorry, she’s autistic, and the toilet flushing was a big trigger for her.”
Barbie, who is a grandmother herself, ordered the child some fries to eat and got her a pen and paper to draw with. “Maybe if she has some fries before the meals get here, that’ll make her feel better,” she reasoned.
Chef Logan Rodgers brought a frozen orange out of the freezer for Remi, a trick he learned while working in a mental health facility.
“It’s something you can feel, you can feel the cold coming off of it, you can feel it on your skin, the smell of oranges and the textures itself of the orange, it’s something you can focus your mind,” he says.
Hannah decided to take Remi outside so that the rain could calm her, and Barbie brought their dinner out to them.
Barbie also made a plan to make the restaurant more autism-friendly for the future:
“I said, ‘The next time you come here to The Greenbrier, I’m going to have a toy box with Remi’s name on it, and I’m going to find whatever I can to put in that box to help autistic children,” recalls Barbie.
Hannah and her family are now back at home in Florida, but they say they’re planning on going back to Gatlinburg at some point, and they’ll be sure to visit The Greenbrier again.
“Thank you, you changed my life. Going places with Remi, knowing there’s still compassion in this world is really awesome,” says Hannah.
“Gatlinburg, it’s the next best thing to heaven,” says Barbie. “Everybody wants to touch someone’s life in some way. Dolly may have started the fire, but everybody else is carrying that torch.”
Remi, for her part, sums up the family trip as “happy.”Whizzco