All aboard the Toy Express

A Metrolink train covered in some 50,000 sparkling lights stopped for adoring fans in Burbank and Glendale Sunday evening as crowds donated hundreds of toys for low-income families.

The Metrolink Toy Express, which benefits local nonprofits and agencies, attracted hundreds of people at each stop. In Burbank, where the firefighters' Spark of Love toy drive was beneficiary, fire engineer John Freeborn said the need was as great as ever.

“The toy donations have been going down and the requests have been going up. It's just a sign of the times,” he said.

Twenty women, all Alpha Xi Delta sorority alums based in Los Angeles, donated toys Sunday night to benefit children with autism.

“These toys are sensory-oriented,” said Deanna Detchemendy, a Pasadena resident.

Her group pitched in a singing soccer ball, the game “Operation” and jelly-like play figures that light up with a touch.

Mayor Jess Talamantes and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich welcomed the crowd with ABC-7 reporter Leslie Miller. Later, Santa, an elf and a snowman sang songs on the train.

The Burbank Temporary Aid Center and the Family Services Agency clients received toys collected from Sunday's event, organizers said.

Days before the event, 300 families — for an estimated 700 to 1,000 children — had already signed up to receive gifts from the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, said Executive Director Barbara Howell.

All donated gifts are placed in the nonprofit's “Santa's Room,” where parents can pick up gifts for their children to give later.

“What we want in everything we do — whether it's giving them food for the holidays — we want them to take it home and have them be able to continue their family traditions,” Howell said.

Pat Smola of Burbank's Family Services Agency said over 400 families with the agency had been adopted by families outside of the center to provide them with gifts. But hundreds more children and teens will be given toys collected from Sunday's event.

“We're trying to reach a goal of 1,000 toys,” she said. “It just does your heart good. When somebody cries because they can get a truck for their son, it makes you stop and think — ‘We don't have it so bad.'”


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