Santa visits with children on the 11th annual Children’s Christmas Train

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 246 views 

Santa rode into Springdale on the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad on Saturday (Dec. 6), aboard the 11th annual Children’s Christmas Train.

Beginning at 8 a.m., families could join Santa on the 1940s-era train for a 40-minute round trip ride from the Emma Street depot in Springdale to Johnson. More than 2,000 people, mostly families with children, rode the train over the course of the day, according to Brenda Rouse, operations manager for the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad. 

Children requested all sorts of gifts from Santa while visiting with him on the train. Ely Taylor asked Santa for a violin, while other children told Santa that they wanted him to surprise them with their Christmas gifts. Santa said the most unusual request he heard was when one girl asked him for a real Samurai sword.

After returning to Springdale, families could enjoy holiday games and entertainment in the parking lot of the depot, including operating a model train, writing a letter to Santa, building a wooden helicopter, having their face painted, watching a puppet show and more.

Seven round trips were offered during the day with tickets ranging in price from $12 for adults to $7 for children. Proceeds from ticket sales benefitted the Children’s Safety Center in Springdale.

Rouse said they hoped to raise $17,000 in ticket sales.

“We have a private donor doing matching funds, so we’re shooting for $38,000 to $40,000 this year.  Last year we donated $38,000,” she said.

Emily Rappe, director of development for the Children’s Safety Center, said in the past 11 years the event has benefitted four children’s charities, but this year it benefits the Children’s Safety Center alone.

“Michael Dougherty with J.B. Hunt retired and this was kind of his baby. He was the father of the Christmas Train,” she said. “He wanted to pass it on to a non-profit that would take it and build it and make it grow and enjoy it as much as he does, and that’s why he picked the Children’s Safety Center.” 

Staff from the Children’s Safety Center volunteered for the event and set up the games and activities in the parking lot of the depot. Rappe said she hopes the event will not only be a fun time for families to get in the Christmas spirit, but that they will also see the charity behind it and get into the spirit of giving. 

“The fact that it’s tied to a non-profit reiterates that there are some children in the community less fortunate and so I hope that the parents and families not only enjoy the train, but they also reiterate the fact that this goes to help the less fortunate,” she said.

According to their website, The Children’s Safety Center “coordinates the complex investigation and treatment services for child victims of sexual and physical abuse in Washington County…. and prevent further trauma these children might endure during that process.”

“It’s all free of charge to the families we serve,” Rappe said. “We saw 533 kids last year, so this fundraiser primarily goes to support those programs.”

The Children’s Christmas train is held each year on the first Saturday in December.