Blind World Magazine

Santa made a special stop in Palestine.

December 11, 2005.
The Palestine Herald, Texas.

Santa made a special stop in Palestine to make a personal visit to a young boy before riding the Victorian Christmas Train Saturday.

Santa, played by Al Watlington, met with Will Walsh and his family before going out the Texas State Railroad State Historical Park to greet the riders on the train.

Each year the Walsh family drives from Richmond to ride the train during the special train runs for Christmas.

During last year's trip, Will Walsh, a second grader who has been blind all of his life, hand delivered a special letter to Santa typed in braille.

This letter, Santa said, has become one of his most prized possessions.

In the letter ,Will Walsh wrote a special Christmas wish to Santa.

Santa with the help of several "elves and Angles" made Christmas magic happen and delivered the gift early on Saturday.

Will Walsh - all excited by the visit from Santa - fidgeted in his chair as he and Santa talked.

With his parents and grandmother around him, Will Walsh shared a story about his friend who does not believe in Santa.

"Don't tell your elves," Will Walsh said. "But he does not believe in you and my mother told me that if you do not believe, Santa will not stop by and give you presents because there is no point - they don't believe."

His mother said he was concerned and afraid for his friend.

"'The Polar Express' is our favorite book right now," Kathy Walsh said. "He does not want his friend to miss Santa."

"I want him to be able to hear your slay bells," Will Walsh added quickly. "I am afraid he won't be able to hear the slay bells."

Then after several more stories, Will Walsh climbed into Santa's lap to receive his present.

His mother carefully put the box into his outstretched hands.

"It has bells on it," Will Walsh said after he heard them tinkle.

His hands carefully went over the package and he touched the ribbon and wrapping paper with his fingertips.

Then he began tugging at the ribbon tied around the box.

With his mother's and Santa's help the ribbon was removed and he quickly began to work on the wrapping paper.

As Will Walsh was unwrapping his gift, his father Steve Walsh explained how they experience Christmas from their son's perspective.

"He feels with his fingers and hears with his ears," Steve Walsh said. "This is how he feels Christmas."

Will Walsh all the while was working on unwrapping the package, and by this time, with Santa's help, had the box open and was fishing around for the present.

Inside a bag wrapped in tissue was a carousel horse music box, that moved as the music played.

"A dancing pony!," Will Walsh exclaimed. "I have been really, really wanting one of these."

Carefully examining the horse with his finger tips, Will Walsh inspected every detail of the music box.

He found the key and turned it making the pony "dance" on the stand as the music played.

He even held the music box to his ear to hear the song better.

As he was doing this his father described in detail what the pony looked like.

"Very cool," Will Walsh said.

Then Santa had to leave so he could arrive on time for the Victorian Christmas Train Ride and greet passengers on the train.

"Bye Santa, see you Christmas Eve," Will Walsh said as he hugged Santa goodbye.

The Walsh family then readied themselves to join the rest of the travelers on the train.

While passengers for the train waited, the visitors were greeted by strolling actors in Victorian costumes, and a string trio played in one corner of the depot for the visitors' entertainment.

The station was decorated with garland and bows, which many visitors said helped get them in the holiday spirit.

"The atmosphere here is awesome," Jan Grimes of Maybank said as she waited for the train.

Her mother, Blake Grimes was taken by the Victorian characters strolling the grounds.

"I just love the costumes," she said.

For the Allen family of Spring, the train ride was a welcome Christmas trip.

"This is a perfect theme ride for our family to take," Ann Allen said. "It is just right for a holiday get-a-way."

Allen heard about the train from a friend, and because her son, Logan, who is 3-years-old loves trains she purchased tickets to experience it for herself.

"I grew up around trains," Allen said. "This is just fabulous and puts you in the Christmas spirit with the lights, the characters and music."

As the train came into the station blowing its whistle, the children cheered as they saw Santa hanging on to the engine and leaning out to wave at them.

Once the train stopped, Santa disembarked to greet them as they boarded the train to take a magical ride back in time to experience a Christmas Victorian style.

The train will make its final Victorian Christmas run next Saturday.

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