Tom said that for him, it was always his parents that made him believe.
"We lived in different places, my mom and my dad. So my mom kept all of this stuff in the trunk of her car which we never knew about until years later, because every Christmas morning, there it was that Santa brought—by way of the trunk of my mom's car," Tom explains. "My dad did this thing that was so great. One year, I got a western outfit. It said on the card, 'To Tom from Hoss.' Hoss from Bonanza. I was convinced that at the end of Bonanza that week, Hoss would look in the camera and say, 'I just want to say to my buddy out there, Tom, I hope you like this.' When it was over, and he didn't do it, I rationalized it anyway. 'Well, he probably gave a lot of kids presents and he doesn't have time to single it out for me.' All through the show there's Hoss running around and [I'm saying], 'Gosh, he's such a great guy. He brought me a present for Christmas.' That was cool of my dad."
Darren is just 10 years old and, like most boys his age, he loves sports, playing games and going to school. But that's where the similarities end. Diagnosed with the incurable disease of retinitis pigmentosa, Darren lives each day knowing he could go completely blind at any moment. Tired of always getting hit with the ball, due to his impaired sight, Darren gave up his favorite sport of baseball and was just about to lose hope—until one day, when his mother opened the newspaper. Nelacey Porter's story read just like Darren's.
Nelacey also suffers from the same disease. Now at the age of 20, he can barely see. But his disability hasn't prevented him from living his life to the fullest! This summer in Athens, Greece, Nelacey competed in the Paralympics and set a new U.S. record in track.
Back home in Oregon, Darren was cheering on his new hero. He began to believe that anything is possible.
"He's like a big brother," Darren says. "I guess you could say he's a hero, too."
Nelacey Porter surprised Darren on the show!
Darren: I just want to say thank you for just helping me and just giving me faith—faith to believe in myself.
Nelacey: Hey, man, I just want to let you know, I mean, I'm really honored to have you look up to me as a role model and a hero. But I also want to let you know that not only am I an inspiration to you, but you're an inspiration to me, as well.
Mary Shodiya moved to the States from Nigeria when she was about 11 years old. Mary's mother saved every penny to send her daughter to America to get a good education. She came here alone and lived with relatives she had never met. Her hard work paid off when she graduated at the top of her class and got into the prestigious Columbia University. But, unable to get financial aid from the school or banks, Mary says she couldn't afford college and saw her American dream collapsing.
With only days left before school started, Mary literally took a stand for her education. Mary made her way to Wall Street armed with her grades and test scores. Mary stood right across from the financial capital of the world, the New York Stock Exchange, with a sign that read, "Hello, I'm Mary. I'm brilliant. Columbia University agrees. All I need is a loan. Name your interest rate."
She stood on the street for eight hours straight.
Mary says she didn't want to "miss a golden opportunity if it happened to walk by. The only thing I feared was losing my dream. I needed somebody, anybody, a stranger to tell me to believe in me. I was ready to give up."
Judith Aidoo, owner of an investment firm on Wall Street, saw Mary's sign and spread the word about Mary's plight to everyone she knew. "I thought it was fearless. She was absolutely prepared. She had stellar grades and great SAT scores. She believed she had earned her right to go to Columbia and I believed in her."
Not even six weeks from the day they met, they've received donations from all over the world and raised more than $40,000. Today, Mary is halfway through her freshman year at Barnard College, a women's college at Columbia University.
"I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you so very much," Mary tells Judith. "I know those words, they don't possibly express the depth of my gratitude. But thank you so much. You saved my dream, my life, my soul. I have a future now. Whatever I become, I'll have you to thank for it. Thank you so much."
With a flare for special effects, it is no wonder Bob Zemeckis is an Academy Award®-winning director. Two of his greatest achievements, Forrest Gump and Castaway, came when he teamed up with his good buddy Tom Hanks. The Polar Express is their newest project and, together, they took the art of animation to a whole new level.
Bob says he wanted to make the movie look like the oil paintings in the book. To do so, Tom had 194 tiny plastic jewels glued all over his body. When he acted out his scenes against a blue screen, infrared cameras guided by the jewels captured his every move. Animators then used the data to create a computer-generated shell and wrapped digital "skin" around that shell to create the five different characters Tom plays in the movie.
Tom: At one point, Bob said, "I think you should play everybody in this movie. I think you should even play all the elves." I said, "Bob, I can't."
Bob: He's my favorite actor. I'll do everything with this guy!
Josh Groban Performs
Josh Groban has a voice that will make anybody believe—and he sings the theme song from The Polar Express! He wows our audience with a special performance of the song "Believe."
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