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Toy Train collects gifts, donations at annual party

Dec. 09, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- What started out as a small gathering of about a dozen friends in a crowded living room 14 years ago has evolved into an full-blown holiday party that ends with thousands of dollars and hundreds of toys being donated to needy children for Christmas.

The 2012 Toy Train Christmas Party took place in a vacant business space at 611 4th Ave. the former home of the Monkey Bar, where the donations stacked up quickly around a Christmas tree at the front door.

Admission to the party is the same each year: A donation of a new, unwrapped toy or $25 per person. It's an easy price to pay for a night of free food, beverages and fun with friends for a good cause, said Ashley Lockwood, who has been part of the Toy Train committee for a little more than a decade.

"You know, we do have a good time at this event, but it's really about making sure we are giving back any way we can," he said. "It's something that is done 100 percent by local people for local people."

Last year's event garnered hundreds of toys and about $10,000 dollars. The group already had collected 500 toys before this year's party thanks to a donation from Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier Resort, Lockwood said.

Everything from the venue and the DJ to the beverages and the food is donated by local business owners, many of whom attend the party.

This year's event included food donated from restaurants including Rocco's, Buddy's Bar-B-Que, Mac-Reedo's, 21 at the Frederick, Huntington Prime and Giovannis. Huntington-based band Mystic Mountain Blueberry provided tunes throughout the night.

Katherine Fuller said she comes to the party each year because it sets the right tone for the holiday season.

"We always come here because it's a really good time," she said. "More importantly, it's for the kids, and it is a wonderful cause that is vital to our community."

While the Toy Train doesn't aim to undermine or overlap with existing charities, Lockwood said the group focuses more on people who might have slipped past larger organizations.

"We tend to be able to find the families who, for one reason or another, have fallen through the cracks and aren't getting help from other charities," Lockwood said. "That's what we want to do -- fill in the gaps in places where some charities can't quite reach."