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Florida family’s visit to Gatlinburg inspires restaurant to start toy box for autistic diners

Life-changing- that’s how one mother describes her visit to Greenbrier Restaurant in Gatlinburg. It wasn’t the tasty food that moved her to tears, it was kindness.
Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 7:41 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Life-changing- that’s how one mother describes her visit to Greenbrier Restaurant in Gatlinburg. It wasn’t the tasty food that moved her to tears, it was kindness.

“Gatlinburg, it’s the next best thing to heaven. Everybody wants to touch someone’s life in some way. Dolly may have started the fire, but everybody else is carrying that torch,” said Kyzar.

Hannah Joy and her family love visiting Gatlinburg. Remi, 3, sums up her trip as “happy.”

Their new favorite place is The Greenbrier.

“About 75 percent of the time she needs headphones on. I took Remi to the restroom and that’s kinda when it all went downhill,” said Hannah.

Hostess Barbie Kyzar noticed crying from the bathroom. She knocked on the door to see if she could help.

“She couldn’t control that huge feeling. 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,” said Hannah.

Barbie, a grandmother herself, made it her mission to help.

“Fix me some French fries for this child. Maybe if she has some fries before the meals get here, that’ll make her feel better,” said Barbie.

Chef Logan Rodgers grabbed a frozen orange he had hidden in the freezer. It was a trick he had learned working at 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,” said Rodgers.

Hannah took Remi outside so that the rain could calm her.

“Rain is one of her favorite things,” said Hannah.

Barbie brought their dinner outside.

“We’ve never had somebody so compassionate wanting to help us out, wanting to help others in the future not just ‘here are some crayons’ she was more like ‘here’s a pen and paper’ and they brought out the fries,” said Hannah.

“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,” said Barbie.

Hannah and her family are back in Florida but on their next visit, she’s going back to the people she says are like family.

“Thank you, you changed my life. Going places with Remi, knowing there’s still compassion in this world is really awesome,” said Hannah.

Hannah wrote a glowing review on a popular Gatlinburg Facebook page. It has hundreds of comments and more than 2400 likes from people who have been moved by this story. Hannah hopes this will encourage other restaurants to make their own Remi box.

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