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Event helps gather holiday funds, toys for underprivileged kids

Dec. 07, 2008 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- A special train made its way to Huntington last night, gathering funds and toys to bring Christmas to area children.

Toy Train 2008, an annual toy drive and fundraiser for underprivileged children took place Saturday night at the MCA Building on 4th Avenue. The drive raises toys for local organizations such as the Children's Place and the City Mission.

"This started as a friend's house party 11 years ago," David Yon said. "Now we do it every year. This year has been one of our largest drives. We raised about $14,000 already and we are expecting to raise about $20,000 including the toys."

Teachers from different schools across the area were invited to contact the toy drive to let them know about local families in need of assistance this Christmas. The event featured Charlie Brown Superstar, a live DJ and the entertainment of blues-based country star Rick Huckaby.

"I just what this drive does," said Huckaby, a former Huntington native now based in Nashville. "I am sucker for kids and wanted to do what I could to help."

Michelle Bailey, a member of the security team at the Cabell County Courthouse, said she has come to the event every year.

"I love it, it's a great cause and this year has been one of the nicer places they have had it," Bailey said.

About 90 percent of the toys stay in the Huntington area, Yon said. The organizers of the drive are all volunteers and there are no administrative costs to run the drive.

"We are all completely volunteer, the food was even provided by local restaurants," Yon said. "We are a true and pure charity organization."

In the past, Yon said press were not even invited to the event. He said the parties are usually small gatherings where people just enjoy coming out to help. He said a tight economy made them rethink their decision to keep the party small.

Yon said the volunteer committee was composed of other community members including Scott McClure, Anne Yon, Hanna Murrell, Jocelyn Billy, Tony Mancini, Ashley Lockwood, Todd Bittle, Cara Hedrick and Alex Bence.

"Without their help, this event would have been very difficult," Yon said. "We have fun here, but we really just want to see these kids get what they want for Christmas."

The audience was also invited to enjoy a free dinner and an open bar. They were also invited to dance to the music of Huckaby or Charlie Brown Superstar.

Admission to the event was $25 at the door or an unwrapped gift. Last year, the event raised more than $7,000.

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