Camden train transforms to 'Polar Express' for kids battling illnesses

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Sunday, December 10, 2023

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in South Jersey were treated to a holiday surprise Saturday when the state's transit department transformed one of its trains into the Polar Express.

NJ Transit and the Ronald McDonald House teamed up to give the holiday makeover to one of its River Line trains, delighting about 25 children currently staying at the house.

"We got like some snowflakes, some snow," explained teen volunteer Carly Troy. "Altogether it looks cute and festive and cozy."

The River Line has been participating in this trip since 2017. Volunteers decked out the trains with holiday decorations and gave golden tickets to each passenger who would be taking the ride to the "North Pole."

"We've been preparing for it all week, so to see this come to fruition with the children, we're very excited," said Lyla Wilkins, the superintendent of the River Line.

"It takes me back to my childhood. It takes me back to coming down on Christmas Day, seeing presents, knowing that there's a surprise," she said.

Some of the kids taking the ride will be staying at the Ronald McDonald House through the holidays, meaning they won't be home with their families. That's why the family at the residence wanted to make sure their season is still full of magic.

"They're all far away from their homes and this brings them a sense of wonder and joy," said Tracey Sharpe, the interim director of the house.

The joy was all over two-year-old Amanda's face. Her mom is so excited to give her this experience.

"With time, they're family too and it's nice," said Gessenia Lugo.

For the families on board, it's a cheerful reminder that as we learned from the Polar Express, the true spirit of Christmas lies in each of our hearts.

"This is the season to give back. It's the season to remember that there are those that are less fortunate who need to have a great time and still believe in Christmas," said Wilkins.