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Big sister’s online plea makes Christmas wish come true for disabled brother

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The internet's hunt for a Tonka truck proves the Christmas spirit is very much alive.

Choosing gifts for loved ones at Christmas — or on any occasion — can be really tricky, but it’s especially so for 30-year-old Cassie Gretschel from Maryland. Every year for the past 17 years, Gretschel has undertaken the challenging mission to find her younger brother, Max, the exact same present: a Tonka Police Hummer truck that was manufactured in 2000 but is no longer in production.

Max, 25, was born with cerebral palsy and scoliosis; he’s visually impaired and has other physical and mental handicaps. Cassie explained to Buzzfeed that both she and her parents spend hours combing through eBay in search of the handicapped friendly truck, with Cassie unwittingly making her job harder when one year she swapped the usual orange truck for a bright blue one. Now Max only wants to play with the blue truck.

Cassie Gretschel

The toy, with its bright color and lever action, is “literally the only thing he will play with” — Max literally sits and plays with them for hours a day, which is why they need replacements every year, keeping the old, worn out ones tucked away to use for parts when necessary. Cassie, an artist, even tried to fabricate a mold to make one herself. “I still treat him like my annoying little brother,” says Cassie. “But I never want to let him down.”

Recently, Cassie took the next best step; she sought help on the social media site Reddit. She was quickly inundated with comments from people trying to locate the beloved truck, going as far afield as France. Other Reddit users reached out to Tonka directly, who responded with a lengthy message in search of Cassie’s details and touching on the Christmas spirit. The company, moved by the sister’s quest, sprung into action, responding: “This is the exact reason we do what we do. We love hearing stories like this and we will do everything in our power to help.” The company quickly commenced a search through warehouse archives both in the States and in China for this fire rescue Hummer.

Cassie Gretschel

“We actually get a few stories like this sent to us every year and we always send toys to help however we can, but we’ve never been contacted like this through a viral post,” says Jessica Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Funrise Toys, which owns Tonka. Although the company explained that the hunt for this old model will take some “extra digging.”

Luckily the story of the Hummer hunt has a happy ending. The toy manufacturer managed to locate Cassie and said: “We plan on sending her as many of those Hummer trucks we can find as well as some additional Tonka trucks. Since he has special requests like no rubber wheels, action levers, and a need for bright colors (he’s legally blind), we plan on making some custom adjustments to some other vehicles in hopes that he’ll like those as well.”

Just imagining the look of joy on Max’s face as he opens his old truck — plus some potential new favorites — this Christmas is a true gift this Advent.

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