Tyler Whataburger restaurant makes memories for child with autism
Tyler Morning Telegraph - 6/27/2018
June 26--Two orders of French fries and a booth next to a window kept William White, 6, calm and content at Whataburger #1107 in Tyler Tuesday evening as the fast food restaurant threw him a party. William, who has autism, wore headphones to soften the noise of excited relatives around him buzzing over the story of how William's love for Whataburger went viral.
William White was featured in a May 28 article in the Tyler Morning Telegraph as a client of the East Texas Autism Network, a nonprofit organization that helps parents learn about autism and assists in scheduling appointments with medical professionals. The story described how the child uses nonverbal communication to tell his parents, Jonathan and Natalie White of Tyler, his desire to visit Whataburger. Routine is important in William's life, so they stop at a Whataburger almost daily.
It's a favorite place because William has limited foods he will eat, but French fries are on his short list of favorites. He likes going through the drive-thru so he can see the neon lights on the outside of the building. He's also fond of architecture and windows.
The story was circulated from one person to another online, reaching all the way to employees at Whataburger's corporate offices in San Antonio. From there, it was decided that a party should be held for the White family at a store they often frequent on the way home from school in Tyler.
"The article took on a life of it's own. It went viral through the company," said Billy Stark, director of training at Whataburger.
Connie Baker, who does marketing for Whataburger, arranged for the small gathering on Tuesday that included lots of orange balloons as well as gifts for William and his family. Whataburger bracelets and temporary tattoos were handed out William's young cousins. He and his parents opened a gift basket containing a stuffed animal, sunglasses, a beach towel, glow sticks and gift cards. Everyone attending the event received a free meal.
"When Connie called us she said that everyone at the corporate office knows who William is, and they wanted to do something special for him," said William's mother Natalie White. "William has and continues to inspire those around him," she said.
The party was attended by grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, co-workers, Whataburger employees and East Texas Autism Network founder Julee Renfroe.
"We like to be a part of a great memory," Stark said.
Natalie and Jonathan White said they felt proud and happy for Will to have this experience. Although Will does not talk, his smile at the end of the evening said what his words could not say.
"William is Whataburger's most passionate fan. When William was smiling we knew he was 100% content and in his element," Mrs. White said.
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