‘Holiday Express’ rolls into FargoSanta may or may not get Kaj Naujokas a Thomas the Tank Engine toy, but BNSF Railway made sure it gave the 3-year-old and dozens like him a few hundred tons of holiday cheer.
By: By Helmut Schmidt, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Santa may or may not get Kaj Naujokas a Thomas the Tank Engine toy, but BNSF Railway made sure it gave the 3-year-old and dozens like him a few hundred tons of holiday cheer.
Kaj was treated to a ride on BNSF’s “Holiday Express” Tuesday, as it rolled into town as a treat for the families of area men and women serving in the National Guard or Reserves.
As the train pulled into Fargo’s Amtrak station, its bell ringing, it brought cheers and shouts of joy and awe from the chilled children.
“Its pretty exciting so far,” said Kaj’s father, Nick Naujokas, who also brought 8-month-old daughter, Ona. Their mother, Staff Sgt. Kate Naujokas, was on duty with the 188th Army Band.
About 350 people were signed up for the 90-minute trip, which included hot chocolate, cookies, an ornament and face-time with Santa, BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said.
Corey and Raina Askin of Moorhead, Minn., had never taken a train ride with their sons Logan, 6, and Will, 3.
“It’s neat. I thought it would be really cool. They’ve always been begging to take a train. We’ve just never had the chance,” said Sgt. 1st Class Askin, who served as a squad leader in two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
“This is something the boys have been begging to do” and is a nice Christmas gift, Raina said.
“I want to get in the very top seat,” piped in Logan.
Angie Young of Fargo brought her daughter Joey, 2, and stepdaughter Taya Laidlaw, 4. Their father, Joshua Young, is a sergeant with a Minnesota Guard unit now in Kuwait.
“I think it’s really important,” Young said. “This is the first year she’s excited about Christmas. She doesn’t understand where her dad is.”
After the trip, BNSF Foundation gave $10,000 to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, and $10,000 to Soldiers Angels, McBeth said.
Andrew Johnsen, director of state government affairs for the Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad, said society recognizes the sacrifices of those who serve in the military, but too often, forgets about the sacrifices of their families.
“Many of our employees are veterans or still serving in the Guard or Reserves. And so, this is a great way for us to show our appreciation in the communities we operate, by honoring those military families who are making a sacrifice,” Johnsen said.
The train is expected to provide rides to more than 2,200 members of military families during a weeklong trip through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, the Dakotas and Kansas. In all, BNSF Foundation will donate $110,000 to groups helping military members and their families, McBeth said.
Helmut Schmidt is a reporter
at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.