Lawton_Some Jackson County families are taking a ride they won't soon forget. The Altus Armed Services YMCA is getting ready for its first "Santa Claus Express" - an old time passenger train ride through the Wichita Mountains. The train will be trimmed with garlands and lights, cookies and presents will be aboard and, of course, it wouldn't be a proper Christmas train without Santa stopping by.
The Quartz Mountain Flyer doesn't make it all the way to the North Pole, so Santa is taking a little time off from his workshop to visit the kids in Jackson County. "Christmas time is a time for children and a time for joy," says Santa. "And to bring these children joy at this time, it's worth my time."
This is how the Altus Armed Forces YMCA wanted to help families away from home have some Christmas Cheer. Executive Director of the Altus ASYMCA Joan Wilcoxen says sometimes it's hard to find things to do because of the weather, but it's worth it. "Our military are sacrificing so much that we can be free," she says. Luckily, the passenger train is fully heated.
The ASYMCA has been busy getting the Quartz Mountain Flyer festively decorated for the two hour train ride. Kids and their parents will enjoy some milk and cookies, a free gift and hugs from Kris Kringle himself on the Santa Claus Express. "The reindeer enjoy the break - they don't have to pull me around tonight," says Santa.
Gifts are provided by Mattel. "They actually gave us a whole pallet of toys to distribute to the military children," says Wilcoxen. And, they're sold out already, both trips are already full. "So, we're going to have a lot of kids here tonight, it's going to be a busy and fun evening," she says. "I'm honored, humbled, and delighted to be able to be part of such a wonderful holiday tradition. And we hope it will be an annual event."