This will be my fifth article for Country’s Chatter about The Santa Train. This is undoubtedly one of the most wonderful holiday charity events anywhere. For those of you who still haven’t heard about this awesome event, here is what I’m talking about. Every year, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, CSX Railroad, Food City, The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, and for the second year, Dignity U Wear, sponsor The Santa Train.
The train makes its way from Shelby, Ky., to Kingsport, Tenn., a 110-mile trip. Along the route, 14 scheduled stops are made, and volunteers get off the train at each stop to distribute bags of toys to hundreds of children waiting at each scheduled stop. We’re talking about 20 tons of toys! Toys that are packed and loaded on to the train the Wednesday before, by more than 250 volunteers. It’s not just toys either. It is clothing (all new) donated by companies that make it and collected by Dignity U Wear; it is food collected by Food City and donated from businesses and individuals across the country. The event is something you can’t begin to imagine, and it is an unbelievable thing to get to experience.
Kree Harrison was our celebrity on the train this year. At each stop, Kree would either join Santa on the platform at the back of the train to throw toys and candy out to the crowd, or she would get off the train with the ground crew to help distribute the pre-packed bags to boys and girls in appropriate age groups. (The bags were different colors, so you would know whether they were for a boy or a girl, and what ages the bags were to be handed to).
This was not Kree’s first trip on the train. At age 11, after being named one of Rosie O’Donnell’s “most talented kids”, and making several appearances on Rosie’s television show – Kree boarded The Santa Train for the first time as celebrity guest. She had a great time, and told us that she now realized more what the train actually did. “I’m happy to be here,” Kree told me.” “This is a more emotional trip this time”. The train travels through some of the poorest areas of the Appalachian coal region. And you know, when you hand out those bags, that these will probably be the only Christmas gifts these children receive this year. While it is emotional, it is also very rewarding. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of an event like this.
Kree is working on her debut album. She is writing songs, and searching out songs to include on the CD. No word yet on when that might be released, but all of Kree’s fans love hearing that it is in the works. Kree has already made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry stage, and will be returning to that stage soon, along with Carrie Underwood and Joe Diffie. On the train, Kree was presented a plaque, as a ‘thank you’ for her participation in the event. She also (accomannied by Josh Matheny on guitar), took a minute to sing a few Christmas songs for us on the train. After the train made its final stop in Kingsport, Tenn., Kree did a short acoustic concert for the crowd, then joined in tossing out the remaining gifts to the huge crowd there.
The best way to end this post is to just give you a lot of pictures. And let you know, too, that if you missed previous articles about the Santa Train, you can find those by clicking the the following dates: 2009, 2009 (second article), 2010, 2011, and 2012.
Another great adventure has come to an end – for this year. But The Santa Train will be back in 2014, and I know everyone along that 110-mile route is already making their plans to be a part of it.
Back with more soon! Hope you all have a wonderful Sunday!