From the first moment a boy with Asperger's Syndrome saw an expensive LEGO train set, he wanted to call it his own. So the parents of the 11-year-old promised to buy it, as long as he saved up the money himself.
Last spring, after two years of diligent saving, James Groccia had collected $100 -- enough to buy the coveted Emerald Night Train set. But just as all his hard work came to a pinnacle, James and his parents learned the toy was out of production, and was available only as a collectible for $250 at a handful of retailers.
James attends a counseling service in West Boylston, Mass., where he participates in a LEGO support group to help with Asperger's.
One of the program's social workers suggested asking for the company's help in realizing James' wish. Karen, his mother, decided they should write a letter to LEGO.
“Together we wrote to Lego to see if there was any way they could find one for us from some dark corner of a warehouse or something,” she told the Banner.
“James was very concise about what he wanted to say. He planned it, and I just helped him organize his thoughts,” she said to the newspaper.
The letter was transcribed in a video posted to YouTube by James' parents. It said:
For two years I kept all the money I got for birthday and holiday gifts, some of my allowance and some money I got for participating in a research project. At last, a couple of months ago I had my $100 and was ready to buy the LEGO set of my dreams.
My mom started looking for it online and could not find any. We checked the LEGO store in our area and they didn't have it either. I was completely crushed. You've stopped making it! It seems the only way to get one now is to pay $250 on Amazon or eBay, since now it is considered collectible.
I got another LEGO set, thinking I could forget about the Emerald Night, but every time I see it anywhere online I get very sad and disappointed. I still want the Emerald Night so badly, but there are none to be found.
Do you have any at your corporate headquarters? Perhaps I could get one that way? If you have any other ideas, I would be happy to hear them. I have never wanted a LEGO set so badly ever in my life.
Several weeks later, the company wrote back from their headquarters in Enfield, Conn., with a sincere apology and condolences for disappointing James.
"James, I'm afraid that we no longer made the Emerald Night," it began. "I understand how upsetting this news can be. I realize that you saved up your money to purchase it, I do apologize for any disappointment this news may have caused you."
The letter pointed the family in the direction of a few secondary websites, unaffiliated with LEGO, that they could visit to try to find the set. The Groccias even entered a few bidding wars after that, but they never panned out.
Then, on his 11th birthday on Oct. 19, James got a second package from LEGO. The letter accompanying the package read:
We are always thrilled to hear from our LEGO fans! You truly have a passion and joy for LEGO. I am amazed at how many sets you have at only ten years old! I am a very big LEGO fan myself and enjoy some of the same sets you do. We received your letter here in Consumer Services and were very touched by your determination.
The Emerald Night Train is a wonderful set, so we can understand why it is your dream to own it. I commend your willpower and patience to save money for over two years just to purchase this set. It is very evident that no other set could make you happier. We can understand how disappointing it must have been to find it had been discontinued. Due to your passion for LEGO and your heart-warming letter, we knew we had to go above and beyond to help make this a reality.
We have located an Emerald Night Train for you, James, and included it in this package! I am sure you will enjoy building it and cherish your time playing with the train. We are excited to know that we could help make this dream come true for you! Now there will be no more sadness or disappointment when you think about it ...just happiness!
We hope you will continue to love to build and create with LEGO. Fans like you are why we are so lucky as a company. Who knows, maybe you will be working for The LEGO Group one day! You certainly have the heart and passion for our bricks to do so! Happy building, James!
Consumer Services Advisor
With Jay's camera rolling, James opened up his long-awaited Emerald Night Train as Michael, James' younger brother, wiped a tear.