The Heartfelt Vision of one Cop: 
"The Santa Train" and Forgotten Child Fund

..."the child that was neglected, despite every effort by their caring parents just didn't have the money for Christmas time food or Santa.  That was the child that was always forgotten at Christmas."
  R to L:  Officer Johnny Wright, Officer Charles Reno (Santa), Officer E.F. Vandergriff
In 1961, on Christmas Day, Officer Johnny Wright and his partner were dispatched to one of the poorer parts of town on a domestic disorder call.  When they arrived on the scene, they were confronted with drunken parents fighting while their two children watched. It was the decision of the officers, that if at all possible they were not going to jail. These parents had completely ruined what was left of Christmas for these two kids. After gaining control over the situation and getting the adults calmed down, Mr. Wright's partner was giving them a lecture on their behavior and what the consequences would be if the police had to return.  In an effort to calm the children, Mr. Wright asked them, "What did Santa bring you for Christmas?".  One child proudly showed him an apple and the other an orange.  This was their sum total for their Christmas.  It was also more than Mr. Wright could bear.  He didn't tell the kids, because he didn't want to further disappoint them, but he made himself a promise. He was going to do everything he could to see that they had toys for Christmas.  After he left their home, he called several merchants and after telling them the story, convinced them to open up their stores so that he could buy the toys he needed. He then went back to their houses and gave them to the kids.
The first Santa Train with local volunteers!
It was at this point that he decided that he was going to do what he could to see that no child would ever be forgotten at Christmas again.  As Christmas of '62 approached, Mr. Wright found himself in real trouble. He had personally promised over two dozen kids that Santa would come this year and the could count on it.  He knew that there was a way that this could be done, and the people of Chattanooga would be more than happy to help, if he could only show them how.  He had struggled with this problem for a year and had not found the answer and time was running out.  It seemed that the only thing to do was get a loan company to finance this year, and then maybe things would work out by the next year.  At this time, the Wright family attended Sunday School at Highland Park Baptist Church.  Mrs. Wright would go into the classroom and Mr. Wright would stay outside and work traffic for the church, then he would join his family.  

Mr. Wright describes, "It was close to Christmas of '62 when the Lord and his Sunday School Class answered the question, 'How?'.  I came into the room and the Sunday School Class informed me that my wife had told them about my problem and that they were going to help. This wonderful class had raised $85 in donations!  The solution seems so simple now, but up until that time, it was one I couldn't solve.  The Lord used me and the $85 to start what is now known as the Forgotten Child Fund.  He had shown me the way."

Courtesy of Military Order of the Purple Heart, 1997

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