It was a goodwill trip that ran into bad luck... The Trinity Equestrian Center's Cross Country Christmas campaign hit several snags on the way to delivering gifts to hurricane victims.
The gifts, donated from folks right here in western wisconsin eventually made it to the Gulf Coast. But not without a lot of help, hope and faith... So what was a regional project turned into a nationwide effort. Toni Mattson is home at the Trinity Equestrian Center now, but she and her team of volunteers have had a long couple of weeks.
The first truck hit the road December 15th, loaded down with gifts, but the icy interstate derailed the donations by Hudson, that's when WalMart came to the rescue, with a new big rig. Mattson says, "we needed help and it came in huge volumes."
With one problem solved, another sparked when the Texas hotel the volunteers were supposed to stay in caught fire. Hotel managers came through, so the trinity team could come through for Katrina victims.
Finally, they would make it to Houston, then Beaumont, Slidell, Baton Rouge, Biloxi and New Orleans... Santa's badger state helpers caught some of the moments on home video. "it wasn't like if our gifts didn't come they would get some from someplace else, they were it, " says Mattson. Her heart was touched by the ones known as Katrina orphans.
"Kids that survived but their parents didn't, " she said.
The Trinity team handed out more than 2,000 wrapped presents -- clothing, toys and electronics. Mattson reflects, "it was spectacular... Kids with huge smiles... The message was that we cared about them that the Chippewa Valley cared... We wanted to bring a message of hope."
Any hardships this crew endured were quickly erased by the scenes along the side of the roads they traveled down south.
"it put a pit in your stomach... So much devastation and not that much relief going on. I just hope they aren't forgotten,"
Mattson said. The Trinity Equestrian Center won't forget the hurricane victims, the team is already planning for a 2006 Cross Country Christmas. If you are interested in the center's efforts, log onto its website at http://www.trinity-ec.com/