After a day in the skies, 12-year-old Daniel Evan Turner finally stepped out of the plane, and into a sea of compassion, in the color of Freeport Pretzel orange.
"I was kind of shocked that ya’ll we're going to be here, a little bit I didn't know there was going to be that many people," Turner said.
Sunday's arrival was made possible by Ron Werntz who met Evan last year in South Carolina and discovered his interest in the Pretzels. Werntz began organizing sponsors, penpals and donors for the trip. It's a special journey since Evan has a terminal brain illness involving lots of daily medication and few athletic activities.
"It's a daily struggle. Trying to make sure he has everything he needs, medical wise, so for anyone to come out and do this for us. They don't have to, but it just shows you what kind of people there are in the world," Georgia Turner said.
Evan and his family will spend the week in Freeport, on the city's tab. From Humvee rides to being named an honorary Pretzel, the 12-year-old is thrilled to hold the key to the city.
"Being in a parade, having fun, have a great time," Turner said.
And after receiving a dose of Southern Hospitality in Northern Illinois, Evan's family says this week is something they'll cherish forever.
"At one point you get kind of down, and on our down days we can look back on this and we can laugh and smile and, "OK do you remember?" So it's going to give us stuff to remember during the tough times," Georgia Turner said.
Tough times forever changed, thanks to a Pretzel, a dream, and a community energized by the human spirit.