20th Annual Toys for Tots Holiday Train
On December 1, 2018 the President & CEO participated in the 20th Annual Toys for Tots Holiday Train conducted by the Marine Toys for Tots Campaign in Albany, New York. This year’s Holiday Train delivered over 20,000 toys to less fortunate children along the rail line from Binghamton to Delanson, New York. Toys were distributed at four stops: Bainbridge, Oneonta, Cobleskill, and Delanson. This economically depressed area has been hit particularly hard during our recent recession, so this year’s Train Lift took on added importance.
Added to the challenges this year was the absence of Amtrak, who after 7 years of tremendous support had to suspend its support. Fortunately, Norfolk Southern Railroad came to the rescue and this vital and wonderful holiday tradition continued. Central to this year’s success was Mr. Bennett Levin of Philadelphia, PA who secured Norfolk Southern’s support and also added his two personal vintage rail passenger cars to the effort. Also joining in the 20th Anniversary Holiday Train was Mr. Joe Boardman, former President & CEO of Amtrak, whose personal support had made Amtrak such an important part of the program in the past.
From left to right: Joe Boardman and Bennett Levin
The man primarily responsible for bringing the entire event together, however, was the Marine Toys for Tots Coordinator for the Albany area, retired Gunnery Sergeant Vinny Roman. In addition to coordinating the collection and distribution of the 20,000 (+) toys, Gunnery Sergeant Roman had to coordinate the efforts of local police departments, government officials, local businesses, media coverage, messing support, countless volunteers, and several rail companies. Gunnery Sergeant Roman did a remarkable job of coordinating all the “moving parts”, and the entire event was an unqualified success. It’s important to realize that in addition to the Holiday Train, the Gunny and his magnificent team helped to bring the joy of Christmas to over 160,000 children in the central New York area.
In previous years, the Holiday Train would travel a second day from Albany, NY to Rouses Point, NY on the Canadian border. Although there was no train available, that did not deter Gunnery Sergeant Roman and his extraordinary team of volunteers. Gunny Roman planned a tractor trailer and bus convoy on 8 December that assisted the residents of Northern New York as in previous years. Volunteering the entire day as well was Congresswoman Elise Stefanik who represents New York’s 21st District.
The Toys for Tots Train Lift has proven to be an exceptional example oft the Marine Toys for Tots Program. This single event brought the joy of Christmas and sent a message of hope to thousands of less fortunate children while bringing America’s Marines to the American people in a very special way.