This Boy Was Killed By A Disney World Alligator. Now His Parents Have Made A Moving Announcement

Melissa and Matt Graves have lived through every family’s worst nightmare. Indeed, their son, who was just two years old – died in a vicious alligator attack while on a Disney vacation. Two years later, though, the couple had something special to share with the world.

At the time, the Graves family consisted of Melissa, Matt, their son, Lane, and their daughter, Ella. And the entire clan had traveled from their home in Elkhorn, Nebraska, to the balmy Floridian city of Orlando. Like many other families in the city, their destination was Walt Disney World.

It was June 14, 2016, when the family stood on the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon. The lake is a man-made body of water in front of the park’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. From the sandy beach, Lane waded and played in six to 12 inches of water. Ella relaxed in a playpen nearby.

ADVERTISEMENT

Suddenly, the idyllic backdrop turned nightmarish when an alligator emerged from the lagoon and grabbed Lane as he frolicked. The reptile pulled the toddler back toward the water, but not without a fight from the two-year-old’s dad.

However, as Matt attempted to save his son, a second alligator went after him. A lifeguard tried to help, too, but neither could pull Lane from the reptile’s grip. Authorities conducted a search for the toddler that lasted 16 hours, after which they delivered some heartbreaking news.

ADVERTISEMENT

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings announced at a press conference, “We are working on recovering the body of the child at this point.” After such a long search, Demings could say assuredly that the Graves had “no question [lost] a two-year-old child.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Eventually, Lane’s body was found a mere 12 yards from where he had been playing in the sand. After his death, Disney World hung signs around the location to warn visitors that alligators swam in the area. But the boy’s parents wanted to do more.

ADVERTISEMENT

At a press conference in September of 2017, the Graves family revealed that they would start a foundation in their son’s name. Through it, they would help meet the living and transportation costs of families whose little ones sought treatment through Nebraska Medicine or at the Omaha Children’s Hospital.

ADVERTISEMENT

Melissa and Matt called their organization the Lane Thomas Foundation for a very special reason. “If Lane was ever asked his name, he would say, ‘I’m Lane Thomas, I’m two,’” the charity’s website reads. It goes on to say that this effort “is the best way to pass on the legacy he left to this world.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Lane’s dad expressed a similar sentiment at the press conference during which he and Melissa announced their charitable plans. “Lane had a very special light about him. We promised him at his wake we would turn this tragedy into good for many families,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

The foundation wasn’t the only tribute made to Lane, though. Another appeared on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon, where Lane spent his last moments playing in the sand. Indeed, the statue used the emblem of the Lane Thomas Foundation – a lighthouse – as its inspiration.

ADVERTISEMENT

The golden lighthouse statue also includes a pair of blue stars representative of Lane’s two years of life. His parents said this and other gestures had helped them get through their heartbreak. In a statement, they said, “We find comfort that so many people continue to remember our sweet boy.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Melissa and Matt also explained why they had chosen that particular symbol to represent their son’s namesake charity in the first place. “We believe the lighthouse stands as a beacon of hope and support for families in the depths of despair,” they said

ADVERTISEMENT

Even with all of the work they had done in their son’s honor and the sculpture built in his memory, the Graves had one last announcement to make. And it would be the most moving of all. It happened on September 13, 2018, when the couple spoke to People magazine.

ADVERTISEMENT

On that day, Melissa and Matt told the world that, one week prior to their interview, they had welcomed a newborn son. But their third child carried with him a constant tribute to the older brother he’d never meet.

ADVERTISEMENT

That was because Melissa and Matt named the baby Christian Lane Graves, so that he shared a name with their first son. Indeed, the couple had a simple explanation for their decision to have Christian carry on his brother’s legacy.

ADVERTISEMENT

In a statement to the magazine, they said, “Although we know the pain of losing Lane will never go away, we feel God has blessed our family with this precious miracle of life.” The parents added that they felt their first son was still with them and his siblings.

ADVERTISEMENT

The statement went on, “We know Ella and Christian have their brother, Lane, watching over them as their guardian angel.” It ended with the family thanking their community and beyond for building them up when they needed it most.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The love and support we continue to receive from so many is greatly appreciated,” the couple said, adding that their final wish was to settle into life as a family-of-four far from the public eye. “We ask that our desire for privacy continue to be honored,” the couple said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Indeed, as the Graves family moves forward with their lives, it was clear that on the second anniversary of his passing, they were already making good on the promise they made Lane. “We will fight every day to keep your memory alive and make a positive difference in your name,” the family wrote on the Lane Thomas Foundation’s Facebook page.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT