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Christmas Joy - Shopping Spree Delights
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Lions Club shopping spree chaperone Beth Millard and her son Ben help their young charge, 6-year-old Haylie, pick out a great pair of boots at the annual shopping spree at Kmart on Thursday evening, Dec. 16. The event list nearly reached 300 children this year. - photo by Kim Van Meter/The Leader
“Thank you for making my Christmas special.”
These were the first words said between a Lions Club shopping spree chaperone and their “adopted” child for the evening — and those words of gratitude fairly sum up the evening for most involved.
It’s an Oakdale tradition taken on by the Lions Club each year and each year the list of children selected to participate in the Kmart shopping spree populates like daisies in a field.
And yet the generosity of strangers, whether donating their time as chaperones or contributing their hard-earned dollars, grows in an attempt to keep up with the demand.
This year multiple fundraisers joined efforts to funnel cash into the popular event, including a Halloween bash put on by the Rummy Girls, and a stocking fundraiser at the H-B Saloon. Everyone, it seems, has a soft spot for this event.
And it’s easy to see why.
Just walk down the aisles of Kmart on the designated day, this year it was Thursday evening, Dec. 16, and you’ll see the faces of little kids of all ages lighting up as they pick out socks, underwear, shoes, and jackets — items many people take for granted but mean the world to a child who otherwise would go without.
This year 275 kids were accepted — a jump from last year’s record-breaking number of 200 — but still there were kids left waiting on the list.
“It’s heartbreaking to leave kids on the waiting list,” said Greg Rivera, Lions Club shopping spree chairperson. “It’s a huge project and we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but it’s inevitable that it’s going to happen.”
Still, for the kids and people participating the event is nothing short of an embodiment of the Christmas spirit.
“The Oakdale community can’t be beat,” Rivera said. “I can’t put my finger on it. Last year we had a record of 200 kids and this year we surpassed that. Then, boom! We had an influx of money to bring on more kids. There are so many new faces and so many people who are interested in volunteering.”
One such volunteer, Beth Millard and her 6-year-old son Ben, were first-time chaperones and full of smiles with their young charge, a tow-headed little 6-year-old girl who had a penchant for new boots.
“My sister and mom did it last year and I knew I wanted to get involved,” Millard said. “It’s a nice way to do something. We couldn’t do something monetarily but we could donate our time. It’s great being able to see her get something she really wanted and it’s a great way to make friends while doing it.”
Millard said without a doubt she’d volunteer again.
Another volunteer made it a family affair, bringing their family along to help chaperone a family of six, ranging in age from 3 to 12 years old.
Jenelle Stastny, 13, was having fun with her little charge, 3-year-old Destiny, who was hooked on Dora The Explorer and Tinkerbell.
“I’m having fun,” Jenelle Stastny said. “I like helping others and making their Christmas better.”
Mom, Ana Stastny, said, “I would love to make this a family tradition that we do. It’s unfortunate more kids are on the waiting list. I would encourage anyone who can donate to do so — if not monetarily — then with their time. Your time is just as important.”
After each child had exhausted their allotted funds, they were taken to the Oakdale Sportsman’s Club where Santa awaited with pizza and presents.
The Oakdale Lions Club accepts donations all year for this annual event. Anyone who is interested in donating can contact any Lions Club member or mail a check to: PO Box 550, Oakdale, CA 95361. Please mark in the memo CCST so that the donation is properly routed.