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posted: 12/2/2013 1:49 PM

Operation North Pole a magical ride for very ill children

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Submitted by Operation North Pole

Operation North Pole will once again share the magic of Christmas with 62 families who have a child or children suffering from life-threatening or terminal illnesses by taking them on a fanciful trip to the North Pole on Dec. 7.

This special train ride will depart Des Plaines Metra station at 11:15 a.m.

Now in their fifth year, Operation North Pole wraps the exterior of a Metra train car -- and this year, a Metra locomotive too -- with bright holiday colors and images of Santa's Gingerbread Express. The train cars will remain wrapped for the remainder of the holiday season.

Families will take a nonstop trip from Des Plaines to the Pingree Road station in Crystal Lake, enjoying activities led by Mrs. Claus, the Gingerbread Express Elves and Conductor, and firefighters from the North Pole Fire Department.

On the return ride to Des Plaines, fire departments in the towns along the way will be out with their fire engines and dressed in holiday attire holding up signs with arrows reading "North Pole this way!"

The Des Plaines public is invited to join firefighters at the Cumberland train station at 12:50 p.m. to cheer on the families as the train slowly rolls by. Or, they can welcome families at the Des Plaines downtown train station at 12:55 p.m.

Once back in Des Plaines, families will board charter buses and parade to Santa's Winter Wonderland at the Donald E. Stephens Rosemont Convention and Banquet Center. Greeting his guests as they arrive at the North Pole, Santa will lead the families through his Gauntlet of Honor, where dozens of police officers and firefighters from Chicago-area communities bend to one knee, clapping and providing hope and encouragement for the families as they are led to the 28,000-square-foot south ballroom which has been transformed into a child's sugar plum dream. Each child 12 and younger will visit with Santa and receive wrapped gifts selected from wish lists they wrote to Santa earlier in August.

Children participating in this day are referred to Operation North Pole by child life specialists from area children's hospitals and directors from four area Ronald McDonald Houses.

Approximately 150 children will participate this year.

Operation North Pole is an all-volunteer, community-based, nonprofit public charity, whose mission is to provide one day of fun and fantasy during the holiday season for Chicago area families who are battling the emotional, as well as the financial stresses of dealing with life-threatening or terminal illnesses of one or more of their children. Operation North Pole hosts fundraising events throughout the year.

To learn more, visit www.operationnorthpole.org.

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