SPARTA, NJ – Santa came to town on Saturday. He arrived by train to the delight of children and families from all over Sussex County. The Santa Train made a stop in Sparta to pick up the toys donated throughout the town.
More than 800 toys were added to the nearly 10,000 toys that filled the train cars on Saturday,
and Santa was not done. For the first time Sparta was not the last stop. The train continued on to Vernon.
“In collecting 82 toys at our location this year we are reminded that the Sparta community embraces the season of giving and always comes through to help those who need it most,” event organizer Katelyn Leondi said.
Families from all over Sussex County enjoyed an afternoon of holiday activities in the PAL building. They played games, made crafts and had their faces painted. Sparta High School choir students and alumni sang seasonal songs.
Model trains caught the attention of young and old. They also enjoyed feeding, petting and holding animals and riding ponies from Mountainside Stables.
Outside Bob Johnson of Decorative Flair Ice Sculpting created ice carvings including an Olfa “Frozen” snowman.
According to Operation Toy Train’s Rudy Garbely the train was to head out on another toy collection mission in New York state on Sunday. Next weekend the train will wind its way through Morris and Warren Counties to add to the collection.
“Sparta did really well with their toy collection,” a man from Military Transport said as he loaded the collection boxes onto the train. “The Toys collected in New Jersey stay in New Jersey.”
Operation Toy Train has been running for 11 years collecting more than 25,000 toys each year for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots to be distributed to children through partnerships with local organizations. In Sussex County Project Self Sufficiency is such a partner.
The toys collected in the northern Jersey and southern New York will be distributed through campaigns at Picatinny Arsenal and Stewart Air National Guard in Newburgh, New York.
Leondi said, “We at the Space Train Station are very grateful for the individuals and families, businesses, schools and volunteers who came together to help make our event a special kick off to the holiday season. We can’t wait to do it again in 2020 and hopefully top our collection goals.”