It is a tradition which is not only long lived, yet has become iconic with the Oakdale Lions Club and what they represent as a service club.
While the experience may look a bit different, the intent as well as the joy brought to Oakdale children remains the same. On Tuesday, Dec. 12 the Oakdale Lions Club will once again present the annual Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour. The event will be hosted for invited guests at the Gene Bianchi Community Center between the hours of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
As is customary the event will be complete with a pizza dinner for the attendees, as well as a visit from Santa Claus himself and a gift card for every child.
Hosted each year for the past 25 years, the mission of the Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour remains to bring a bit of joy and the spirit of giving to the children who might not otherwise be so fortunate. Families interested in applying for the event may do so at Family Support Network, 1405 W. F St., Suite A, Oakdale.
“I’ve been doing it over 25 years now,” event organizer and longtime Oakdale Lion, Greg Rivera said.
“The spirit of giving,” he explained when asked of his motivation to continue the event. “I’m not a quitter and this is just what the Oakdale Lions Club does. We brought it from the Oakdale JC’s to the Lions Club, they brought it in with open arms. When we talk about the Oakdale Lions Club, it’s one of the first things brought up.”
Transitioning from the longtime tradition of taking the children shopping with the closing of K-Mart several years ago, the club members did what they do and rallied for a few years, recruiting volunteers to take the young shoppers to Kohl’s in Riverbank.
“Everybody’s willing to do it,” Rivera said of the volunteers signing up to chaperone the shoppers. “I really miss doing that because you know how Oakdale is. It’s just been so generous.”
Yet the liabilities in California plus the challenge of the pandemic and no local store presented too many challenges.
“It just got to be quite the ordeal,” he added of making the arrangements to do the shopping in a different city.
Holding true to not being a “quitter,” Rivera and the Lions continue to accept monetary donations year-round, so they may continue to make this happen, presenting the gift cards so participants can shop for themselves.
“We’ll take any donation at all,” Rivera said of those wishing to contribute to the effort.
A sort of proof in the pudding of creative ways to rally funds can be found at the H-B Saloon, where for the past 13 years they have sponsored a Christmas Stocking fundraiser to help sponsor the shopping tour.
According to Kim Bacigalupi of the H-B, enough money was raised last year to sponsor a total of six additional kids.
Each year, since 2010, Bacigalupi has pulled out the Christmas stockings and allows patrons and community members to decorate or bring in their own stocking to be hung in the bar. For a donation of $10 stockings are hung throughout the downtown establishment.
“We’ll collect through December 20,” Bacigalupi said, noting that the money donated benefits shoppers for the following year. “They are welcome to bring one in or come by and pick one up to decorate and bring back. We’re not picky, we’re just happy to help.”
Rivera shared donations may also be mailed to the Oakdale Lions Club, PO Box 550, Oakdale, CA 95361.
This year the service club hopes to collect enough funds to serve 150 children with gift cards to Kohl’s.
“This is just what the Oakdale Lions Club does,” Rivera concluded. “We are a service group. We love to do it and so everybody gets on board. The spirit of giving is the big thing for me.”