Video: Merry musicians spread the holiday magic

  1. Closed captioning of: Merry musicians spread the holiday magic

    >>> finally on this christmas eve , a group on a mission to bring the holiday spirit to people who are often left out. they call themselves holiday express . they are tireless, doing 50 gigs in the 30 days leading up to christmas . this is the 18th year that they are making a difference. nbc 's natalie morales has their story.

    >> reporter: if you had any doubt about the true meaning of the holidays, just follow the holiday express . a volunteer band with 100 entertainers spreading good cheer. one stop they make year after year, eva's village, a shelter and treatment facility in patterson, new jersey.

    >> i've had grown men come up with tears in their eyes telling me this the is the first time they've ever celebrated the holidays.

    >> look at the penguins.

    >> reporter: at the holiday express warehouse year round, hundreds of volunteers pack gift bags. tim is a front man.

    >> people need shampoo and toothbrushes.

    >> reporter: he dreamed up the idea 18 years ago.

    >> when you do things for people, it comes right back at you immediately.

    >> reporter: he developed compassion early in life, seeing his brother in and out of hospitals with polio. now as his 13-year-old son jack battles leukemia.

    >> when he was diagnosed, my moment was, and i don't like cliches, but it was the, i've been talking the talk, it's time to walk the walk.

    >> reporter: their motto is serving the underserved. playing to an audience that often doesn't get the attention and everyone gets involved.

    >> we try to go to places where, if we don't go, they're not going to have a christmas or celebrate hanukkah.

    >> reporter: they've played more than 700 shows from hospitals, psychiatric wards and beyond. for monica craig, this is the first real christmas her kids have had.

    >> when we got here and they saw santa claus and they were singing the songs in the atmosphere, it was amazing.

    >> reporter: for those who may have forgotten, once again believers in the magic of the holidays. natalie morales , nbc news, patterson, new jersey.

    >> and you can find much more on this week's special holiday "making a difference" series on our new website, or you can also get to it, of course, by going to nightly.msnbc.com.

    >>> that is our broadcast for this friday. thank you for being with us. i'm carl quintanilla . brian williams will be back on monday. for all of us at nbc news, merry christmas . good night. .

By NBC producer
updated 12/23/2010 3:04:35 PM ET 2010-12-23T20:04:35

Feel the love. I’m not a fan of that expression.

But as the roaring chorus of 300 men and women at Eva’s Village (www.evasvillage.org) sang along to the O’Jay’s anthem, “Love Train,” I was definitely feeling it.

And so was Tim McLoone. He signaled his full band with a sweeping hand motion to extend the chorus. Conga lines snaked around the auditorium and probably would have exploded onto the streets of Paterson, New Jersey if it weren’t seven degrees outside. This concluded with foot-stomping and joyous table-slapping.

It was, as Tim would say, a “Holiday Express moment.”

Tim McLoone founded Holiday Express 18 years ago with the intention to deliver music, food, gifts, financial support and friendship to the people who are often overlooked during the holiday season. Over the years, they’ve spent time at homeless shelters, drug abuse treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals, cerebral palsy centers and nursing homes. Because, as the song goes, nobody oughta be alone on Christmas.

A rotating cast of professional musicians donates their time and talents, playing 50 concerts in the Tri-State area in the 30 days leading up to Christmas. These concerts morph into “interactive parties,” complete with costumes, props, audience participation – and often a hot meal. All those in attendance are given customized gift bags according to their needs. The organization is made up of 1300 volunteers of all ages who keep things running year round— helping to wrangle and stock donations, drive and pack trucks, and balance the books.

I spent the day watching all these pieces come together and at the climax—even though singing and dancing while ALSO operating the camera would only lead to headaches in the edit room—I couldn’t help but to sing along to “Love Train.” And I was genuinely feeling the love.

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