Saturday at the Nevada State Railroad Museum was a day of firsts for 2-year-old Gabriel Bonicatto of Reno. It was his first ride on a train and his first donation to the Toys for Tots program.
Bonicatto, along with his dad, Steve, took advantage of a promotion that allowed them to donate a new toy, an Etch A Sketch to be exact, in exchange for a ride on the museum's train.
"He wanted to ride the train and we love the museum. The whole museum is so authentic and the displays are great for the adults, plus they have things for kids. It's just great," Bonicatto said.
As he waited atop his dad's shoulders for the train to come by, Gabriel kept repeating "choo-choo" and pretending to work the steam whistle with his hand.
Farther down the platform, the Ebira family from West Jordan, Utah, was also looking forward to the train ride with their 2-year-old son Kai. The Ebira family is in town visiting relatives in Dayton for the holidays.
"We are visiting family and (Kai) is addicted to the trains," said Korrin Ebira.
The museum has served as a toy dropoff location and offered a free train ride on selected days for the last five years, resulting in two pickup trucks full of toys donated in 2004.
"It's great for us and for the community, it gets people in here and lets them know about the museum and about Toys for Tots," said Program Coordinator John Frink.
He said the museum enjoys the service.
"We had a relationship with the Marine Corps League, they used to come down and cook hamburgers and hot dogs and we wanted to do something for them and for the community," he added.
More than 250 people, including 70 children took advantage of the promotion on Friday, with similar numbers expected Saturday.
"It's the holiday season and Christmas and trains just go together like mom and apple pie," Frink said.
Those wishing to donate a new toy in original wrapping can do so through Dec. 18. Frink said the toys vary every year, with several staples.
"We get a lot of dolls and trucks and of course trains are always very popular," said Frink. "Hey, an Etch A Sketch, I didn't know they still made those."
-- Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.