KINGSPORT, Tenn. - It's a yearly Christmas tradition that many look forward to -- the Santa Train gives Christmas to needy children every year, but this year one of its key members wasn't with the group.
The sound of a train horn is the sound of a yearly Christmas tradition in Appalachia. It means the 71st Santa Train is making its annual 110-mile trek across Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee, but this year the ride on the train was a little different. "Ed Moore was one of the golden guys that always stood in the background, but you always knew he was there," said the train's Santa Claus.
This year the trip was bittersweet; it's the first time long-time volunteer and director Ed Moore wasn't along for the ride. "He wishes he was with us and we wish he was with us too, but he's in a better place and he's certainly smiling right now as he watches us carry on the tradition of the Santa Train," adds Miles Burdine President of the Chamber of Commerce.
Moore died of natural causes in May 2013, leaving behind a legacy of helping the community. But something he was most known for was his dedication to the Santa Train. "I said, 'Ed, have you ever thrown anything off the back of the train?' He said [he hadn't], and I said, 'Well, have you not wanted to?' He said, 'No, I like to stay behind the scenes This is where I'm suppose to be, making sure it all went smooth,'" says Santa Train Coordinator Jamie Horton.
Moore worked behind the scenes of the Santa Train for more than 20 years. He would get support for the train -- anything from financial help, to getting donations like toys and candy.
"I got to ride the train this year and I got to see first-hand the impact it has on everybody," adds Scott Moore, Ed's son. Scott Moore tells us his dad was dedicated to helping others, especially kids.
The Santa Train does just that; it hands out more than 15 tons of presents to boys and girls in the area. For some, this may be the only present they get this Christmas. "It means so much to us, because we are a low-income family. This really the biggest thing in Christmas for [our daughter] right now. If we didn't get the Santa Train it would be a sad time for children," says Santa Train attendee Vonda Stevens.
Stevens is one of thousands of parents who cannot thank Moore and all the other volunteers and sponsors enough for what they do. While Moore never wanted to be recognized for what he did, volunteers tell us he would be honored to know he's touched so many lives. "He was never in the front he was always in the back but he was the guy that we all depended on and loved being around," adds Burdine.
Everyone on the train tells us this year has been difficult without Moore, but they know he would want them to carry on, and that's exactly what they did.
Last year Moore became the first recipient of the Santa Train Service Award. It's designed to recognize the year-round effort by countless volunteers to make the Santa Train happen, and now the award is named in his honor.
Moore was a long-time employee of Food City and volunteered in many other community organizations.