The 15th annual West Coast Express Santa Train will be rolling into town on Dec. 10 and the 17 this year.
Each year the West Coast Express offers free rides to Waterfront Station and back with the donation of a new, unused and unwrapped toy for the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau.
The Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau, established in 1930, currently gathers toys all year round to be distributed to needy children by 12 local bureaus around the Lower Mainland.
All toys collected here will go the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society, which will then distribute them with Christmas Hampers or at Rudolph’s Gift Shoppe.
Last year, 120 toys and more than $40 was collected at the Pitt Meadows station, 500 toys and more than $60 at Maple Meadows station, and 350 toys and more than $55 at Port Haney station.
Lorraine Bates, co-chair of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society, says the Santa Train is a great way to get children involved in giving.
“The Santa Train is perfect for young kids to get involved in because they are not coming in contact with the recipient children,” Bates says, since parents bring their children when they pick up their Christmas hampers.
“The Santa Train is something away from this office.”
We also get some pretty nice toys for the children, says Bates.
“We know it is a difficult time of year for the local toy bureaus,” says organizer Kyla Daman-Willems. “We are told every year how much the influx of toys and cash is appreciated to help families in need.”
The train will be leaving Mission City station at 10 a.m. on both days. It will arrive at Port Haney station at 10:17 a.m., Maple Meadows station at 10:23 a.m., Pitt Meadows station at 10:27 a.m. before picking up people in the Tri-Cities area and heading to Waterfront station for 11:15 a.m..
Last year, a group from Alexander Robinson elementary and Rayne Beveridge, with students from the Bergthorson Academy of Musical Arts, provided musical ambiance at the local train stations. Anyone wishing to be part of the musical entertainment this year can contact Bates at 604-463-6922.
This year, the second annual open house at Waterfront Station will take place as part of the annual festivities. From 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., both days, Santa Claus will be on hand for photo opportunities, there will be face painting and crafts for children to do, as well as live musical entertainment.
People are asked to bring non-perishable food donations for the food bank to the Waterfront Station event.
The return train leaves at 5 p.m.
• For more information call the West Coast Express at 604-488-8906 or visit www.westcoastexpress.com.