Someone told me recently that my blog is very negative. Why don't you tell some nice Holyoke stories for a change? Since we were talking about the railroad at the time, this was the first thing that came to mind.
The Brightside Christmas train was never reported by the news. It was done by the Pioneer Valley Rail Road for the kids, not reporters. These photos were taken during the Holyoke Christmas tree lighting, a week later.
The Brightside Kids, for a variety of reasons, have no family. Many are simply orphaned. They live with the Sisters of Providence in the Brightside Facility.
It took over a week to prepare for the train ride. My contribution was to set up a Christmas tree, and decorate the inside the passenger car.
The plan was for the kids to ride with Santa from Westfield to Holyoke and back. While in Holyoke the train stopped at Heritage State Park, and the kids got to ride the merry-go-round for free.
The kids bought it, hook line and sinker. The looks on their faces. The train was huge by their standards. They made a special trip with Santa. He had come just for them.
During the ride they sat on Santa's lap, and told him what they wanted for Christmas. Santa gave them coloring books, and candy canes. The railroad delivered a truckload of toys to Brightside the following week. And I mean a truckload!
The Man that played Santa said that in all his years it was his greatest performance, and saddest experience. Greatest because the kids truly appreciated it. And saddest because of the things they asked for.
One little boy asked Santa for a new Mommy and Daddy for Christmas. The type that would put him to bed every night with hugs and kisses.
One little girl asked if Santa could bring back her sister for Christmas. Her sister was the only family she had left, and was adopted earlier that year. She hadn't seen her since.
The train was paid for by the PVRR, and the merry-go-round by the O'Connell Family of Holyoke. All the people who volunteered had a great time with it.
Photos courtesy of Ryan Parent
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