KINGSPORT, Tenn. – Santa Claus is delegating his North Pole duties to a team of elves so that he may make his annual railroad trip through Appalachia. On Nov. 20, the jolly old elf will launch the holiday season by riding the Santa Special, a CSX train that brings joy to children in the remote areas of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.
Santa’s special guest on this year’s train will be Grammy award-winning country star and Arista Nashville recording artist Rebecca Lynn Howard. The Kentucky native was nominated for the 2003 Academy of Country Music’s “Song of the Year” award for “Forgive,” which she co-wrote, and for the “Top New Female Vocalist” of the year award. Born and raised in Salyersville, Howard will help Santa and his elves distribute gifts to thousands of children.
“Having grown up in the hills of Kentucky, I understand just how meaningful this Christmas tradition is,” Howard said. “It warms my heart to be able to be part of this very special holiday event.”
Now in its 62nd year, the Santa Special will distribute more than 15 tons of gifts to children at 15 designated stops along the 110-mile route. The train begins in Shelby, Ky., with stops in Marrowbone and Elkhorn, Ky., and the Virginia communities of Toms Bottom, Haysi, Clinchco, Fremont, Dante, St. Paul, Dungannon, Ft. Blackmore, Speers Ferry, Kermit and Waycross, before arriving in Kingsport.
The Santa Special is co-sponsored by CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSXT) and the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce. The special train gives Kingsport merchants a chance to thank area residents for their business throughout the year. CSXT believes the tradition is a way for the railroad to make a positive contribution to the communities through which its freight trains pass every day.
For more than 60 years, this tradition of giving has brought happiness to the young and young at heart. And in more recent years, the generosity of people and organizations has allowed the Kingsport Chamber to establish a scholarship fund. Each year, one or two graduating high school seniors living along the train’s route are selected to receive a four-year, $5,000 scholarship.
Since 1989, 19 students have received scholarships. The Santa Special’s route is part of the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio line, formerly known as the Clinchfield Railroad, a CSXT predecessor railroad. Today, the train operates on CSXT’s Central Region, and its employees continue this tradition. CSXT has about 6,300 employees in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.
The Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization focusing resources and efforts to enhance the Kingsport area business environment. The Kingsport Chamber has been accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for 25 years. People interested in supporting the Santa Special through funds, new toys or new clothes may send their donations to the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, attention: Santa Special, 151 East Main Street, Kingsport, TN 37660.
— PRNewswire-First Call