Toys for Tots Train stops in Saratoga Springs
SARATOGA SPRINGS Santa doesn’t deliver all of the toys by sleigh. Some of them come by train.
Sacks of surprises were unloaded from an Amtrak train that chugged up to the Saratoga Springs station early Sunday morning, much to the delight of a crowd of chilly children.
The station was one of six stops the Marine Corps Reserves’ Dunkin’ Donuts Toys for Tots Train made Sunday as part of a two-day run across the state to bring toys to needy children.
Thanks to a $30,000 donation from Dunkin’ Donuts, the train was chock full of everything from warm winter coats to play sets and board games.
“We spent the past several months collecting toys and taking the donations, sorting toys, bagging toys,” said event organizer Rebecca Akers, a flight nurse for Life Net of New York.
The majority of the toys were headed to nonprofit agencies that had put in requests for their clients, but Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with many helpers, also passed out toys, coats, cookies and blankets to all of the kids at the station.
According to Akers, this year’s Toys for Tots train campaign is dedicated to wounded warriors, and one was flown in to help with toy distribution.
Right before the train arrived, an AS350 helicopter landed with a rush of wind in a grassy spot in front of the station. Inside was Army veteran Bill Whitman of New Hartford, who was injured while serving in Kuwait. He said he was honored to assist with the Toys for Tots campaign.
“Whatever I can do to help — hand out toys and represent the wounded warriors and the ones that didn’t come back — I’m glad to do that,” he said.
The platform outside of the train station took on a party atmosphere as visitors sipped cocoa and gobbled munchkins donated by Dunkin’ Donuts.
A costumed character passed out free boxes of chocolate chip cookies from Freihofer’s, and Santa and Mrs. Claus wished everyone a Merry Christmas.
Nicolle VanDeloo of Delmar was at the station handing out brightly patterned fleece blankets to the children who came to see the train. The effort is in honor of her brother, Shawn, a Marine who was killed in action in Iraq six years ago. She and other volunteers have handed out more than 600 blankets this year and more than 5,000 since they started their initiative, called Uncle Shawn’s Hugs.
“We try to give where there’s a need,” VanDeloo said.
Bruce Wilhelm, of the South Colonie Central School District’s transportation department, was passing out winter coats unloaded from the train.
“We try to help people that are less fortunate than we are,” he said. “It just makes you feel good and it’s good for your heart.”