By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE -- On Dec. 8, a southbound train with some very special passengers on board will make a stop in downtown Fort Pierce.
Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and lots of elves will deliver holiday gifts that were collected by employees and families of the Florida East Coast Railway.
The Toys for Tots Christmas Train operates between Jacksonville and Miami once a year, and the annual event includes Fort Pierce in its stops.
"I'm always amazed," said Anne Satterlee, communications and marketing manager for the city of Fort Pierce. "They have volunteers dressed as elves, and the children are so excited to see Santa and Mrs. Claus."
The community can come out to meet the holiday royalty, and everyone is also invited to donate an unwrapped gift that will be used further down the railway line.
The train is expected to stop at the Orange Avenue crossing at approximately 1:25 p.m. Dec. 8.
Other stops on the train's travels include Jacksonville, St. Augustine, West Palm Beach and North Miami.
"The first year we handed out 25,000 toys and last year we handed out 50,000 toys," said Bob Ledoux, vice president for the rail system.
"This year we are hoping to hand out close to 80,000 toys on the stops."
The stops the railway picks are ones where they have offices. Santa will get off the train at the stop and meet with the children.
"Employees volunteer to ride the train and help," he said. "We also reach out to our customers and vendors to donate to this, as well. It's truly a great cause."
Representatives of the United States Marine Corps and the local Fort Pierce Toys for Tots campaign will be on hand to receive the donations and distribute them to the children in the community.
"So many people come out to be a part of this," Ms. Satterlee said. "We've been doing this for the past three years."