All aboard for a wish-granting ride to remember

  • Christopher Chappell, 10, of Palatine has a life-threatening medical condition called Batten's disease. Through Make-A-Wish he assisted in driving a Metra Train from Chicago to Roselle and back into Union Station. Above is Christopher's father Lester Chappell, left, and John Novak, chairman of the board for Make-a-Wish, right.

    Christopher Chappell, 10, of Palatine has a life-threatening medical condition called Batten's disease. Through Make-A-Wish he assisted in driving a Metra Train from Chicago to Roselle and back into Union Station. Above is Christopher's father Lester Chappell, left, and John Novak, chairman of the board for Make-a-Wish, right. Dan White | Staff Photographer, June 2007

  • Christopher Chappell, 10, of Palatine has a life-threatening medical condition called Batten's disease. Through Make-A-Wish he assisted in driving a Metra Train from Chicago to Roselle and back into Union Station. Above, he sounds the horn.

    Christopher Chappell, 10, of Palatine has a life-threatening medical condition called Batten's disease. Through Make-A-Wish he assisted in driving a Metra Train from Chicago to Roselle and back into Union Station. Above, he sounds the horn. Dan White | Staff Photographer, June 2007

 
By Sara Faiwell
sfaiwell@@dailyherald.com
Updated 9/29/2017 11:25 AM
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on June 6, 2007

A Palatine boy got the ride of his life Tuesday aboard a Metra train.

Ten-year-old Christopher Chappell walked into the terminal at Chicago's Union Station dressed in denim overalls, a red bandana and a matching conductor's cap.

 

Along for the ride were his parents and seven siblings, leading the way toward Train No. 401 en route to Roselle.

With the help of his dad, the fourth-grader climbed up the steps of the train, uttering a faint "Woo-hoo!" when he finally made it aboard.

It's a dream that's been a long time coming and was granted this week by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Christopher Chappell, 10, of Palatine has a life-threatening medical condition called Batten's disease. Through Make-A-Wish he assisted in driving a Metra Train from Chicago to Roselle and back into Union Station.
Christopher Chappell, 10, of Palatine has a life-threatening medical condition called Batten's disease. Through Make-A-Wish he assisted in driving a Metra Train from Chicago to Roselle and back into Union Station. - Dan White | Staff Photographer, June 2007

Christopher has Batten disease, a genetic condition that results in blindness and seizures, and eventually death. There is no cure.

Christopher lost his sight at age 6 and has since learned to read Braille. He is a student at Winston Campus Elementary in Palatine. Along with his family, several teachers from the school rode the train for about 90 minutes while Christopher tooted the horn and enjoyed other perks of being a conductor.

Of Celeste and Lester Chappell's eight children, three have the disease, they recently learned.

"This has been a horrible year for us," said Celeste Chappell. "But it's nobody's fault. You can't be bitter."

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That's why things like this make it a little easier on the 10-member family.

Christopher Chappell, 10, of Palatine has a life-threatening medical condition called Batten's disease. Through Make-A-Wish he assisted in driving a Metra Train from Chicago to Roselle and back into Union Station. Above, he walks with his father Lester Chappell.
Christopher Chappell, 10, of Palatine has a life-threatening medical condition called Batten's disease. Through Make-A-Wish he assisted in driving a Metra Train from Chicago to Roselle and back into Union Station. Above, he walks with his father Lester Chappell. - Dan White | Staff Photographer, June 2007

The night before the train ride, the foundation sent a limousine to take the family to a downtown Chicago hotel for the evening.

"This is incredible," Celeste Chappell said. "Make-A-Wish has brought our family so much happiness during this time of sorrow. It's been a real blessing."

The best part of the day? "Honking the horn," Christopher repeatedly told reporters who asked the question.

Last year, his 8-year-old sister, Elizabeth, who also has Batten disease, also had a wish granted for a trip to Disney World.

Christopher Chappell, 10, of Palatine has a life-threatening medical condition called Batten's disease. Through Make-A-Wish he assisted in driving a Metra Train from Chicago to Roselle and back into Union Station. Above right is Tom Baldwin, conductor.
Christopher Chappell, 10, of Palatine has a life-threatening medical condition called Batten's disease. Through Make-A-Wish he assisted in driving a Metra Train from Chicago to Roselle and back into Union Station. Above right is Tom Baldwin, conductor. - Dan White | Staff Photographer, June 2007

The train Christopher rode is named "Ollie," after a former Make-A-Wish kid, Oliver Tibbles of Downers Grove. He died before his wish, also to be a train conductor, was granted. His namesake train is the only one in Chicago named after a child.

"This will be a day to remember," said Lester Chappell. Christopher "has had some challenges, but this gives him something to think about, to dream about."

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