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November 29, 2013

Train comes bearing holiday cheer, charity

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — When the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train pulled into its Oneonta stop Wednesday afternoon, about 600 people were waiting.

They included Kelli Hafele of Otego, who was there with her 4-year-old daughter, Mallory. They come every year, Kelly said, for the start of the holiday season. Mallory said she, too, looks forward to it.

Katie Hill of the CP communications department said Wednesday’s crowd was the biggest in the last four years at the Oneonta stop.

The train not only brings Santa and a half-hour performance of holiday music, but also an opportunity for the company to support food programs in the communities they pass through, Hill said. She presented a $4,000 check for Opportunities for Otsego during the event, and the Oneonta Salvation Army will benefit from nonperishable food that was donated at the event.

“We want to support the communities we operate in,” and where employees reside, Hill said. This is the 15th year of the event, and the need is “greater than ever,” she said.

The company also partners with Feeding America and matches those online donations.

Oneonta Salvation Army Capt. Evelyn Hopping said that because of all those who turned out, “we are able to assist more people.” OFO Chief Executive Officer Dan Maskin said the turnout “couldn’t be better.” Funding is always a problem and the donation represented “a very nice contribution” that will be used for holiday baskets, he said.

Wednesday was the first time Danielle Whitaker of Unadilla was at the train stop.

“It’s just a fun event, I feel great to have made it.” With a baby on the way, she was hoping to be back next year with her child.

Jackie Silver of Laurens said she came last year with some friends from work. This year, she brought her 8-year-old daughter, Diedra Ecker, who said it was fun to be part of it, and hopes to come back. She said her favorite part was the lights.

Lacey Layton of East Meredith was with her daughter Jasmine, 8, and 17-month-old son, Kale. She said she heard about it on Facebook and decided to check it out.

“I think it is awesome,” Layton said.

Jasmine said her favorite part was the music and Santa, who circulated through the crowd and danced in the last number.

Musicians traveling aboard the train will play for than 150 concerts from the boxcar stage this holiday season. Since the program was first launched, it has raised $7.4 million and 3 million pounds of food for local communities. More information on the train and holiday programs is available at the Canadian Pacific website —  www.cpr.ca.