COEUR d’ALENE — The passengers aboard Silverwood Theme Park's Steam Train No. 7 during the 2017 season really seemed to enjoy having their money stolen.
"People were extremely generous," said the train's lawman, Marshal Jack. "I’m always amazed at how generous people are."
Marshal Jack (played by Chris Tortora) said it might be because word is getting out that the bandits who board the train to "rob" guests don't really keep the money. The "stolen" pocket change and dollars support Children's Village, and the marshal said even very young guests are starting to pick up on the benevolence behind the bandits' heists.
"Even before the robbers board the train halfway through the ride, they already have their dollars out," he said. "That was the biggest change we saw this year, even the little kids knew."
On Friday, Marshal Jack and his Silverwood colleagues were pleased to present Children's Village with a check for $100,000, thanks once again to the park's visitors and the generosity of park owners Gary and Jeanne Norton, who topped off the train donations with enough to get to the $100,000 mark.
"First off, we have to thank our guests," said Paul Norton, Gary and Jeanne's son and Silverwood general manager. "All the hundreds of thousands of visitors who came here, it starts with them."
He said supporting Children's Village is really special to his parents, who dearly love children.
"It's definitely about the kids. We have a soft spot for them," he said. "It’s so easy to connect with this organization. They’ve been wonderful to work with and I think we’re really lucky to partner with them."
Children's Village is a nonprofit residential home for children who need a haven from abuse, neglect, homelessness or other family crisis.
"We literally could not do what we do without the support of your organization, your family and your commitment to this work and to the kids,” Children’s Village CEO Mark Wilson said to Paul.
“It comes easy for us,” Paul replied. “We definitely have a passion for your organization as well."
Funds from this gift will help pay staff "who work 24-7," said Children's Village chief programs officer Rosa Mettler.
"We have a wake staff at night for extra safety and making sure that if the kids are crying, they're not being left alone in their rooms," she said. "Staff is a big expense, and we always try to go above and beyond and have the best practice."
Mettler said some of the funds will help with the creation of a "crash and bump" room to help children who have experienced trauma with self-regulation and cognitive function. The funds will also help the organization's implementation of a new emphasis on crisis prevention and training for parents and families.