Guest Columnist: Kree Harrison on Riding the Santa Train

Country singer was Santa’s sidekick on the rails.

photo by Ed Rode/McNeely Pigott & Fox PR

On Saturday, Nov. 23, the Santa Train made its 71st 110-mile run through rural areas of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee, where American Idol finalist and country singer Kree Harrison helped distribute more than 15 tons of gifts and toys to families. This is her account of the experience.

One of the sad mysteries of growing up is that somehow things that seemed beautiful or enormous when we were children oftentimes seem less perfect and smaller once we become adults.

This Christmas, I revisited one of my favorite childhood memories, the Santa Train, and was delighted to find that it was even more remarkable to me at 23 than it was during my first trip as an 11-year-old girl.

The Santa Train is unlike any other holiday event. The train, which made its 71st run this year, travels a 110-mile stretch of the Appalachian Mountains, bringing gifts, cheer, hope, warm clothing and the man in the big red suit to thousands of families.

Also onboard each year is a celebrity guest. I was asked to be the celebrity guest in 2001 and again this year, a huge honor for me.

Back in 2001, I made the trip with my mother. I remember seeing the crowds of people waiting to receive gifts and feeling very blessed to have plenty of toys to play with at home. Though I don’t think I was old enough to fully realize it at the time, the experience inspired in me a real desire to help others. The biggest memory I took away from the day was of kicking a toy as hard as I possibly could off the back of the train in an effort to get it to a little girl who was about my age and still needed a gift. I got in a little trouble with my mom for kicking the toy, but she knew my intentions were good.

This year I boarded the train feeling particularly sentimental about reliving the Santa Train experience. Some things had certainly changed. The crowds were bigger, the process of organizing the 20-some-odd tons of gifts onboard the train was even more streamlined and organized. No one is as much of a celebrity as Santa, but I was proud to be his sidekick for the day.

As I remembered, Santa and his large crew of elves aboard the train work really hard to make the event happen. I enjoyed working with them for the day and hearing their stories. In fact, I met several of them on my first trip on the Santa Train. Also the same was the spirit of giving and love that surrounded the event. I enjoyed every minute of handing out toys at the Santa Train’s 14 stops.

For me, the Santa Train means counting our blessings, giving to others and keeping traditions. My wish for you this holiday is that you find a cause or event that inspires those feelings in you, too.



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