SPARTA, NJ - The Sparta train station was a hub of activity on December 6 as the community turned out to see Santa arrive by train. Sparta was added as the last stop on the Marines' Toys for Tots Santa train.
Children, parents and grandparents lined the fence along the track in anticipation Santa's arrival. The toys they brought to donate were stacked high on the deck of the station. Inside, the station was decorated with garland, large glass balls and a Christmas tree with a working model train circling beneath.
The run that day had originated in Bergen County. The train was loaded with more than ten thousand toys by the time it got to Sparta. According to estimates from Santa's helpers, people who came to the Sparta train station brought the total to approximately 13,000.
"The turnout is fantastic," John Sobotka from the Toys for Tots organization. "It is total community involvement."
Nearly 40 Toys for Tots Train volunteers and Sparta volunteer fire fighters lined up, forming a bucket brigade to get the gifts donated by other towns off loaded. Sobotka explained the toys would be taken from the train and put on trucks donated by UPS.
The trucks took the gifts to Picatinny Arsenal where they would in turn be distributed to people in need in the seven surrounding counties, according to Sobotka.
Gunnery Sergeant Matt Hutcheson and Major Chris Polidora accompanied Santa on the train.
"It's awesome seeing the amount of people and the generosity of the towns," Polidora said. Within a week the toys will be distributed through reputable local charities Polidora explained.
After greeting Santa, children lined up for a moment to talk to him and take a photo. The line went from inside the station, stretching all the way across the parking lot.
Some of the children shared some of the things they were going to ask from Santa: Paw Patrol, Thomas the Tank Engine trains, Dash and Dot robots, a drone, a puppy, Barbie Dream House, Elsa Play House, X box, a soccer ball, train stuff, new light up shoes, Fit Bit watch, hover board and Pokeman cards.
The event had started early with activities inside the adjacent PAL building. Two military trucks were on display in the parking lot, along with two fire trucks.