ST. LOUIS - As the holiday season quickly approaches, hundreds of families flock to Union Station to take a trip to the North Pole.
They're not going to the actual North Pole, of course, but the 45-minute train ride takes pajama-clad kids and their parents on a magical journey mimicking that of the beloved holiday classic, "The Polar Express."
On Monday night, that trip included six patients from St. Louis Children's Hospital and their families, who were joined by Blues forwards Paul Stastny and Kyle Brodziak, and Brodziak's family, in a private car.
The kids were treated to chocolate chip cookies, a train ride through St. Louis, a stop at the "North Pole," and a visit from Santa, who came bearing gifts of jingle bells and rally towels.
"You forget about some of the worries in your life for a little bit and you get to enjoy what Christmas is all about," said Stastny, whose family has made the Polar Express ride an annual tradition. "It's coming together with friends and family and just having fun."
Karen Scott's daughter was one of the patients who joined St. Louis Children's Hospital and the Blues for Monday's Polar Express ride. In June 2012, at just nine-months-old, Eleni Scott required a double-lung transplant.
"It's incredible and the opportunity from Children's [Hospital] and the Blues has been great," Scott said. "This isn't something we would typically take her to do because of the germs in the winter… so having this opportunity that was a little more private was excellent."
There wasn't a frown to be seen in the train car as the patients and their families enjoyed their trip into a winter wonderland.
"Whether it's meeting Santa or seeing the lights or listening to music and forgetting about everything for a couple hours, I think, makes a big difference in their lives," Stastny said. "I enjoy seeing them put a smile on their face and not worry about it for a little bit."
The Polar Express Train Ride at Union Station runs until Dec. 30. For more information, visit www.stlthepolarexpressride.com.