During her shopping trip to Walmart on Wednesday morning, a Carson City fifth-grader started with the basics.
“I’m going to get the things that I need — socks and a backpack for middle school — then, whatever,” she said.
The 10-year-old was one of 190 children in grades kindergarten through fifth treated to a $100 shopping spree as part of the annual Holiday with a Hero program.
“I’m grateful to have this,” she said. “It’s just awesome.”
Holiday with a Hero serves children in the Carson City School District’s Students in Transition program, which assists families who qualify as homeless by living in motels, cars, campgrounds or doubling up with other families. During the shopping spree, children are paired with volunteers throughout the community, including first responders, military and other businesses.
Katie Leao, Western Nevada College’s foundation director, has volunteered for the last eight years. Her 10-year-old son donated $60 to the event this year.
“As a mom, this is one of the most rewarding things I do to give these kids the opportunity to have a Christmas,” she said. “It makes me cry every year.”
“This is truly a community event,” said Sgt. Dan Gonzales, who organized the first event 10 years ago with the sheriff’s department and about 40 students.
This year, Gonzales said, drew the largest number of volunteers, making a nearly one-to-one ratio with the children.
Arleth, 8, appreciated that.
“You don’t have to shop alone,” she said.
It is the third year Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Savannah Ellis has volunteered to shop with the children.
“I’ve been in these kids’ spot,” she said. “I know what it’s like to not have Christmas. I’m really happy to be able to give back.”
Gonzales said he would like to see donations for the program grow to include middle school through high school as well.
Peggy Sweetland, director of the Students in Transition program, said Holiday with a Hero is instrumental in the success of her program.
“This event totally makes their Christmas,” she said. “Without this, most of them would not have presents. Every year, this event gets bigger and better and more organized and more beautiful.”