I decided to start 2015 on the right foot and start volunteering on the first day. I saw on Twitter that Ronald McDonald House needed volunteers for ithe Trains at Northpark exhibit. It has been going on for 16 years, but I’d never been.IMG_20150101_160101_445Put on my Bank of Texas, the exhibit features 1,600 feet of tracks through 4,000 square feet of miniature cityscapes from all across America. My favorite part, of course, is the Dallas cityscape, complete with Big Tex and Texas Star ferris wheel.

IMG_20150101_160315_264Some cityscapes have buttons you can push to make things happen like a little guy putting up a billboard. There are so many little details that one man suggested they make some kind of “I spy” book to encourage kids to look closely.

IMG_20150101_135528_772San Francisco Cityscape

It seemed like hundreds of people visited in the 3 hours I was there. Mostly families but also some adults in groups or on dates. The kids loved it. One girl ran up to me and yelled, “We’re having a great time!” Another girl was running around taking pictures of every little thing. Several children had to be dragged out crying.

IMG_20150101_160040_304Grand Central Station

The exhibit is the largest fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House of Dallas, which provides shelter, food, transportation, laundry services, and more for families with sick or injured children receiving treatment in Dallas-area hospitals. They serve more than 2,000 families annually at little or no cost to the families. They also provide activities for the kids, a room for families to rest between appointments, and a scholarship for patients or family members whose education has been delayed by illness.

IMG_20150101_160132_638My job was to stand at the exit of the exhibit to keep people from coming in without paying and stop any little kids who tried to run off. It was pretty easy, and I got to do some people watching. Plus, Northpark Center is a tourist attraction in itself. It’s like a museum, garden, and mall all in one.

IMG_20150101_160337_328If you want to help Ronald McDonald house, you can volunteer at the train exhibit or at the house in the kitchen, at the front desk, or with family activities. Groups can hold fundraisers, collect pop can tabs to donate, clean at the house, or collect wishlist donations.

IMG_20150101_160123_917(Sorry, I really need to start taking a good camera when I volunteer!)

You can also help by visiting the exhibit. Keep in mind for next year that you can purchase a railcar that will be displayed at the exhibit and then mailed to whomever you choose as a gift. Their artist will paint the car however you want, and they range from $175 to $325.

The exhibit runs until January 4 (tomorrow), so go check it out. It’s $7.00 for adults and $3.00 for children (free under age 2) with $1.00 off coupons available at Tom Thumb. If you can’t make it this year, it will start again in late November 2015.

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