More than 350 CSX employees gathered on Friday, November 7th at Jacksonville’s Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center to sort, pack and load thousands of gifts onto the Santa Train.
For the past 70 years, the highly anticipated CSX Santa Train has marked the beginning of the holiday season. With more than 15 tons of donated toys, candy, clothing and other gifts, the train winds 110 miles through the Appalachians from Shelby, Kentucky, and southwest Virginia to Kingsport, Tennessee.
At various stops the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Santa distributes gifts and lasting memories to thousands of children and families. Don Royston, more affectionately known as Santa Claus the past 16 years, does his part to keep the tradition alive.
“All walks of life from area communities come together to see the train,” said Royston, who has played the role of Santa Claus for the last 30 years. “It feels good for all those involved to see the excitement of the children and adults, and make a difference in the lives of children in Appalachia.”
The annual event enables the business community to thank the surrounding area for their continued patronage. But the treasured tradition wouldn’t be possible without considerable preparation and logistics.
“Our partnership with CSX is encompassing, as together we benefit communities nationwide,” said Nan Coyle, vice president of development for Dignity U Wear, a human services charity and sponsor and participant in Santa Train. “CSX, a logistics, funding and manpower partner, makes possible the mission of delivering new clothing to children and families when they need it the most.”
To learn more about Santa Train, visit http://www.teamsantatrain.org.