By Sandra Grondin
JAY/FARMINGTON — Santa Claus got a head start on the 2017 Christmas season by leading the 21st Annual Whistle Stop Trail ATV Toy Run.
He wasn’t in a sleigh and his reindeer were nowhere to be seen, but he provided the children who attended this year’s event a look at how he delivers toys, when there is no snow; he uses an ATV!
The toy run has raised $79,138.17 in toys and cash donations for families in need during the holidays over the past 20 years.
The Western Maine ATV Club, Canton Trail Riders, the Mountain View ATV Club and the Brettun’s Wheelers ATV Club sponsored the event again this year, with help from the Roxbury ATV club, who provide tents, tables, chairs and the grills. Helping with the cooking again this year was the Spruce Mountain Area Robotic Team from Regional School Unit 73 in Jay.
This year, several obstacles were placed in the path of the event’s organizers when the area used for their barbecue and parking was filled with parts and equipment from windmills, getting ready for delivery to a site in Canton. Even though most of the windmill pieces have been taken to Canton, the site north of Jay Plaza was unavailable until the end of September. To avoid conflicts with local fairs and festivals, they also moved the date up to the second week in September.
Like anything that causes change, there were also some logistics that made things a little more complicated. Pickup trucks hauling trailers filled with ATVs and the ever more popular UTVs, known as “side-by-sides,” take up a lot of space and also need room to unload.
Luckily the clubs were able to find alternate parking behind Spruce Mt. High School in Jay, but even that change caused a little confusion and some of the participants reported going to the previous year’s parking location, finding signs directing them to the proper area. To help alleviate the confusion, people on ATVs were parked at the bottom of Community Drive, directing traffic to the right parking place.
The free barbecue after the ride, which usually takes place in Jay, was held in Canton in the field where the run normally leaves the toys with Western Maine Community Action’s Operation Santa Claus program. The raffles and prizes were also announced there.
Shannon Mitchell, program coordinator and her son, Benjamin, had a little something extra for the kids, helium balloons which she inflated and gave to the children. The people who did not want to bring a toy, had the opportunity to donate money which the WMCA uses to purchase toys, coats, clothes, and other needed Christmas gifts.
Special thanks were given to the Wilton Fire and police departments, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and the Canton Volunteer Fire Department for traffic control at road crossings along the trail. Also to Pat Litalien, her daughters, Carrie Judd, Rachel Pack and Jill Litalien and her grandchildren manned a table selling homemade apple pies, cakes, cookies, and fudge, the proceeds going toward next year’s toy run. Volunteers made salads and helped with
Once again, the Lisbon Hardcore ATV Club stepped up with a sizable donation of over $1700 generated by holding bottle drives during the past year. They then purchased toys to donate at the toy run. This is something they have been doing for several years, even though they have a very limited trail system in Lisbon.
WMCA works closely with local businesses and organizations like the ATV clubs to provide gifts to the more than 1200 children and elderly individuals who are served by the program. Donations of money and requested gifts come from individuals, businesses and organizations. Local organizations, including town fire departments, help to deliver the presents to the homes before Christmas.