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Hello, Dolly!

By Staff
Singer makes man's dreams come true
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Tom Smartt of Hartselle is living proof that dreams do come true.
Tom, 53, has been a fan of country singer Dolly Parton since her beginnings with country legend Porter Wagner in the 1960s.
His bedroom is filled with Dolly's photos, movies and collectibles. He watches her concert videos every night before going to sleep.
Tom's family believes he might possibly be Dolly's biggest fan.
"He has always had a wish and it is the only thing I've ever heard him ask for," Tom's sister, Linda Smartt of Hartselle, said. "That is to someday meet Dolly Parton. I would like to be a part of making his wish come true."
Linda wrote these words in a letter to Dolly Parton this February after her sister and brother-in-law, Elaine and Doug Cain of Hartselle, found a way to possibly fulfill Tom's dream.
While vacationing in the Smoky Mountains last Christmas, Elaine and Doug began to search for a new picture of Dolly to take home to Tom as a souvenir. Besides two photos, the couple also found a blessing.
"We met a lady named Karen Wilson and told her about Tom," Doug recalled. "She told us about the DollyWood Foundation and said Dolly picks a few people each year, usually terminally ill people, to meet with during the DollyWood parade and park opening in April. We got the contact information and started getting his paper work together as soon as we got home."
Although Tom is not terminally ill, he does have special needs.
"Tom has been evaluated by professionals who diagnosed him as having the IQ of a seven-year-old," Linda's letter continued. "Now I know what it means when God's word says, 'Suffer thy little children to come unto me. For such is the kingdom of heaven.' Spiritually, when I look at Tom, I see the face of God. What a spiritual gift he has given our family."
Along with Linda's letter, the family included a letter from Tom's doctor, Steven Branning, and pictures of Tom and his collection of Dolly memorabilia.
"I sent his application and package by overnight express mail," Doug said. "We got the call that same week that Tom had been selected as one of five people to meet with Dolly."
But Tom, who lives with Doug and Elaine, wasn't let in on his family's big secret until the following Sunday at Pine Street Baptist Church in Falkville when Bro. Roger Ammons called him to the altar.
"Tom thought he was just going to the parade up until then, and he was happy with that" Doug explained. "But then Bro. Roger told the whole church that Tom was going to meet Dolly. Tom started crying because he was so happy. He hugged our necks and said, 'I love y'all.'"
And Tom shed more happy tears when he saw Dolly walk through the doors of the conference room at DollyWood on the morning of April 4.
Then it was Dolly's turn to hug Tom's neck and give him a peck on the cheek.
"Now I can be a fan of yours now that I've met you," Dolly said to Tom.
The brief encounter, which was captured by Doug, Elaine and Linda through photographs and on home video, included Tom presenting Dolly with roses, a butterfly music box and a poem written by Doug on behalf of Tom.
"Girls always love flowers, especially roses," Dolly told Tom after she thanked him. "Do these two roses represent us? I'll put them in my room on the bus and then take them home and put them in my room there."
Dolly signed photos and talked with Tom and his family, called Tom her boyfriend and complimented him on the "smell good" he put on for her.
And every time Tom watches the video of his and Dolly's time together, he cries more happy tears.
Tom's family said he is a man of few words, but he's had much to say about Dolly since he returned from Pigeon Forge.
"She pretty," Tom said. "And nice."
Tom also enjoyed the parade and riding the bumper cars and carousel at DollyWood, but when asked what his favorite part of the trip was, he quickly replied, "My favorite thing was probably Dolly."
Tom has had copies made of the pictures of him and Dolly together and given them to his family, friends and co-workers at Mack's Paint and Body Shop where he has worked for nine years helping Mack keep things neat and tidy.
"Tom's a very special part of the team here," owner Mack Garner said. "He's dependable as the day rolling round and just tickled to death to help anyone. We're all so happy that his wish to meet Dolly was fulfilled."
Elaine said the family appreciates and thanks Mack for giving Tom the opportunity to work and be a part of a team.
"Bro. Mack took Tom under his wing nine years ago when Mother and Pop died," Elaine recalled. "It was really hard on him, but working with Bro. Mack has given him something to look forward to and smile about."
Elaine said there were also many people to thank for helping make Tom's dream of meeting Dolly come true.
"This is Tom's life dream," Elaine said. "I think it took all of us to make it come true. Doug has really filled in as the male in Tom's life and wanted to see this happen as much as the rest of the family did. But we all thank God the most because he worked things so that Tom's dream could come true."
Doug also thanked Anthony Green of Blue Green Vacation Condos in Gatlinburg, Tenn., for providing amenities and tickets to the Dixie Stampede for the entire family. Doug said Green had known about Tom's trip since January and wanted to make sure he had a fabulous memory of the entire experience.
However, Doug was humble about Elaine and Linda thanking him for his efforts in helping make Tom's only wish a reality.
"Two dreams were fulfilled," Doug said. "Tom's to meet Dolly and these two to see that smile on his face."

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