WHITESBURG, Ky. - When the signature edition Kelly Wells-UPIKE Ford F-150 truck rolled up it was a welcome sight to the man they call the “Mountain Santa Claus.” Filled with bicycles and toys, the makeshift sleigh delivered hundreds of gifts specially chosen to bring smiles to children of all ages.
Sponsored by the University of Pikeville (UPIKE), Appalachian Wireless, Bruce Walters Ford, Walmart and East Kentucky Broadcasting (EKB), the special delivery will benefit Marlow Tackett’s annual Christmas giveaway on Sunday, Dec. 18, in Letcher County in the former Food World building at the Walmart Plaza. Now in its 33rd year, the event will serve families from Letcher, Pike, Floyd and surrounding counties and communities in Virginia.
“Bruce Walters had the idea to load up the F-150 with gifts,” said EKB President and General Manager Keith Casebolt. “A lot of families need help right now so we called some of our friends to lend a hand.”
“Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life it is a blessing. I am thrilled to be a part of giving back,” said Kelly Wells, head men’s basketball coach at the University of Pikeville.
The signature truck-turned-sleigh was designed by Bruce Walters Ford to honor Wells, the national coach of the year who led the Bears’ basketball team to their 2011 NAIA National Championship.
“This brings back memories,” said UPIKE Vice President James Hurley as he carried an armful of toys to the truck. “Years ago our basketball coach volunteered the team to load and unload trucks for Marlow’s Christmas party. It was a good experience then and just as meaningful today. This University has always been involved in the community we serve.”
Employees at the Walmart in Whitesburg also lent a hand loading and unloading the truck.
“Nothing says Christmas like the gift of giving,” said Dwayne Moore, Walmart market manager for the region. “Eastern Kentucky has been great to us over the years. This is just a little bit of what we can do to give back.”