Child role in Polar Express will be auctioned on eBay

Child role in Polar Express will be auctioned on eBay

DANVILLE – A role is up for bid, and the winner will see their child, grandchild or special young person on stage with Santa for the magical ending to this year's Polar Express.

The Provena United Samaritans Medical Center Festival of Trees has placed the role of the child who will receive the first gift of Christmas in the re-enactment of the Polar Express up for bid on eBay.

"We just sort of came up with the idea as a way to raise additional money for the foundation's outreach programs," said Bob Richard, chairman and organizer of the event. "There had been no formal way of selecting the child in the past."

Tickets went on sale Oct. 11 for the two editions of the event at 6 p.m. Nov. 15 and 5 p.m. Nov. 16, and the Nov. 15 event had sold out by Monday.

"We're doing all our special events connected with the festival differently this year," said Chad Hays, vice president and mission services director of the foundation. "They are available through the David S. Palmer Arena box office or online at www.palmerarena.com and they are selling especially well online."

Bidding for the Polar Express package on eBay has four tickets reserved even if the regular tickets sell out, Hays said.

Each trip has 325 tickets available. Children should be accompanied by an adult.

Bidding begins at $100 and includes the four tickets, the leading child's role, with involvement at the Village Mall and the arena, and a photograph with Santa. Because there are a few lines to deliver, it is requested the child be between 5 and 9 and not too shy to perform.

"Jack was 6 when he did it," said Gretchen Wesner of her son. "He was really excited to be the 'star,' next to the conductor and Santa, of course. It made it extra fun for him since the mayor was there and, since his dad works for the city, they know each other."

"He tells people he was the boy who got the bell," Wesner said.

In the "Polar Express," by Chris Van Allsburg, the first gift of Christmas is a bell from Santa's sleigh. The book also became a popular animated movie with Tom Hanks.

For the festival's event, ticket holders are encouraged to come in pajamas, slippers and robes and assemble at the Village Mall. There is a pajama contest and an opportunity to have photos taken with a Polar Express conductor on a specially constructed caboose platform.

Participants board a string of buses according to ticket numbers and make a short stop at McDonald's where the chefs board to served cocoa and candies, then lead the passengers in the singing of holiday songs along the route to the arena.

Inside the arena, the stage is set for the reading of the book by Mayor Scott Eisenhauer, also dressed in his pajamas and robe. Following the story, Santa stops by for a visit.

The bidder does not have to buy the package for their own child or grandchild, officials agreed. It could be a gift to an organization whose clients would not otherwise be able to afford to participate.

Bidding on the auction site closes noon Oct. 20.

The festival's fundraising efforts support the community outreach activities of the HALO Project, I Sing the Body Electric, Women Aware, Young Men and Young Women Aware and Faith in Action.

For more information, call the foundation office at 442-6583.

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