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How a Coca-Cola employee made this non-verbal boy's dreams come true

Bryce McFeeters's mom says the 11-year-old St. Thomas, Ont., boy loves Coca-Cola, and because it's the holiday season, he's especially enamoured with Santa Claus right now. So when the opportunity came for the company's holiday truck to pull up to the family home, Karrie McFeeters knew he would be overjoyed.

Bryce McFeeters, 11, of St. Thomas was overwhelmed when Coca-Cola holiday truck rolled up to his house

The Coca-Cola Holiday Caravan pulled up at Bryce McFeeters's house in St. Thomas, Ont., on Wednesday, thanks to the help of Jamie O'Brien, who works at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in London, Ont. (Submitted by Karrie McFeeters)

Eleven-year-old Bryce McFeeters of St. Thomas, Ont., loves two things: Santa and Coca-Cola, his mom says.

So when the opportunity came for the Coca-Cola holiday truck to pull up in front of the family home last week, Karrie McFeeters jumped at the chance for her son, who's autistic and is non-verbal, to experience it. 

It all started with a Facebook post.

Bryce "is really hard to buy for for Christmas, and so my friend had tagged me in a post for some free Coke posters. He's very visual and would love just to see Coca-Cola on his wall," Karrie recalled.

It's hard for us to co-ordinate going somewhere and getting a picture taken. It's too loud, it's too noisy ... too many people and it just overwhelms him.- Karrie McFeeters, speaking about son Bryce

But by the time she got around to requesting the posters, they were gone.

That's when fellow St. Thomas mom Raemie O'Brien messaged Karrie. O'Brien's husband, Jamie O'Brien, is the vending manager for Coke Canada Bottling in London, Ont., and a volunteer for the Coca-Cola Holiday Caravan Tour, featuring a semi-trailer driven by Santa Claus and painted red with a giant image of Saint Nicholas. The truck tours Canada, making stops at various spots.

It didn't take long for Raemie's idea to come together.

Bryce, 11, is non-verbal and communicates with a hand-held electronic device called a talker. (Karrie McFeeters)

Santa visits are difficult

Bryce communicates with a hand-held electronic device called a talker, and in recent days had been asking to see Santa, said Karrie.

"He'll type in 'Santa' and his talker will say 'Santa,' and so he's following us around the house saying, 'Santa, Santa, Santa.'"

But visiting a mall Santa isn't easy, she said.

"It's hard for us to co-ordinate going somewhere and getting a picture taken. He's just not comfortable. It's too loud, it's too noisy, it's too many colours, too many people and it just overwhelms him, so he can't even enjoy himself."

Last Wednesday, when Jamie was out with the holiday truck at the Ronald McDonald House charity in London, Raemie texted her husband to see if Santa would record a video message for Bryce.

"Then about 10 minutes later, my husband calls me and he says, 'Santa is in the Christmas spirit this year, he wants to actually bring the truck to St. Thomas and surprise Bryce,'" Raemie said.

Jamie O'Brien, shown with his wife Raemie, is the vending manager for Coke Canada Bottling in London. (Submitted by Raemie O'Brien)

"I have been volunteering with the Coca-Cola holiday truck tour for the past two years and seeing the joy it brings people," said Jamie. "When my wife told me about Bryce it just seemed like the right thing to do. I knew he would love it."

WATCH | The moment the holiday truck rolled up to the McFeeters family home to surprise Bryce:

The truck rolled up at the McFeeters family's home about 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

"He was overwhelmed at first," McFeeters said about Bryce. "He couldn't believe it, and then he was just so excited and just kept staring at the truck and at Santa.

"He thought he was pretty special that he got to sit in the truck and honk the horn," Karrie said. "There's no way that we could ever thank everybody that was involved in this. He just feels so special. He actually did a presentation at school about his Santa visit and it's just been amazing, the whole thing."

And what does Bryce want for Christmas now? Coke, his mom says.

Karrie McFeeters says that when the Coca-Cola Holiday Truck pulled up to the family home, her son Bryce 'was just so excited and just kept staring at the truck and at Santa.' (Submitted by Karrie McFeeters)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebecca Zandbergen

Host, London Morning

Rebecca Zandbergen is from Ottawa and has worked for CBC Radio across the country for more than 20 years, including stops in Iqaluit, Halifax, Windsor and Kelowna. Contact Rebecca at rebecca.zandbergen@cbc.ca or follow @rebeccazandberg on Twitter.

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