On Saturday, Nov. 17, The Santa Train completed its 76th journey. The goal is to bring as much Christmas joy to as many people as possible, along the 110-mile route. The train makes 14 scheduled stops each year. Volunteers get off the train at each stop to deliver gifts to the waiting hands of children.
Maddie & Tae were onboard this year, to help distribute nearly 20 tons of gifts, including toys, coats, socks, hats and food, to the crowds at each stop. Color-coded back packs let the volunteers know if the bag is packed for a boy or girl, and what age child the bag will be given to.
This annual trip is referred to as a tradition. But, to coal mining families between Shelby, Ky., and Kingsport, Tenn., it has become an important part of their Christmas. Grandparents who received gifts from the train as children have been back to the tracks year after year, bringing their children and grandchildren to experience The Santa Train.
Maddie and Tae said their manager received an email about The Santa Train. And they were excited to learn more about it. This was their first experience on The Santa Train, and Tae said that wasn’t really what they expected, but that she meant that “in the best way.”
When we returned to Santa’s Depot after the Trip, Maddie & Tae put on a brief concert for the crowd.
Tae said that they both really enjoy giving back, especially at Christmas. “This gave us the perfect opportunity to do that.“ she said. “It is an honor to be included, and really great to see firsthand how many people are working together to give back to the communities along the train’s route,” Maddie said.
Maddie really summed up their experience when she said, “The day has been awesome”.
This really was their first train trip of any kind. Tae said she remembers being on a train in Branson once, but it was a very long time ago. Maddie said she had never ridden on a train, but did tell us that the motion of the moving train was very much like riding in a tour bus, so they were both used to that.
An event like this will create lifelong memories for the girls. When asked what their favorite part of the day was, Maddie said, “My favorite part of today was whenever I was throwing a toy to a particular kid, that you could tell they really, really wanted the little toy. It would take me a couple of tries to make it to that particular kid, but when they caught it, the look on their face was priceless”.
For Tae, her favorite part was “hearing the kids yelling ‘Santa, Santa!’”. “It was their excitement. They feel special”.
Sponsors of The Santa Train this year were CSX, Food City, Appalachian Power, Soles4Souls, and the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce.
(Unless otherwise noted, all photos in this article were by Country’s Chatter, or contributed by event attendees).
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