Holiday With a Hero provides for 230 children in Carson City

Army Guard Sgt. Robert Diaz helps 6-year-old Luis pick out a toy at the annual Holiday with a Hero program on Wednesday at Walmart.

Army Guard Sgt. Robert Diaz helps 6-year-old Luis pick out a toy at the annual Holiday with a Hero program on Wednesday at Walmart.

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More than 200 Carson City students celebrated Christmas thanks to the 12th annual Holiday with A Hero.

The 230 students met at the Market Street Walmart to pair up with a local hero and shop for Christmas presents.

“We had massive amount of volunteers and the community has been so gracious and kind,” said organizer Carson Bailiff Meliah Gonzales. “I couldn’t be happier.”

Holiday with a Hero takes students in the McKinney-Vento Students in Transition program on a Christmas shopping trip with local law enforcement and public safety officials. Children receive a $100 gift card where they shop with a public safety partner.

The McKinney-Vento Students in Transition program serves children who live in motels, cars, campgrounds, and grandparents or double up with other families.

“We had the biggest turnout of shoppers and volunteers. It is nice to have that one-to-one relationship with the shoppers,” said organizer Carson Sgt. Daniel Gonzales. “Having that one-on-one interaction is good because that is where the conversations strike up, where everyone can sit and talk.

“It is good for the kids to see the community come together and we just happen to be wearing uniforms, but it is really showing the community as a whole whether they are donors, businesses, public safety, military, etc.”

Though the weather was gloomy, the students excitedly lined up outside, eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival. This year, Santa ditched the sleigh and reindeer and hopped a ride on a Carson fire truck to come to Carson.

“The joy of Christmas is just overwhelming me right now,” said Nevada National Guard Tech. Sgt. Emerson Marcus, one of the volunteers.

Heroes from the Sheriff’s Office, Fire Department, Juvenile Probation, Nevada National Guard, Nevada Highway Patrol, Search and Rescue, members of the School Board and more all joined the students to help with their Christmas shopping. Several outside county agencies also participated including Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada Division of Forestry, Nevada Department of Forestry, East Fork Fire Department.

“This was one of the events I have always wanted to be a part of,” said David Bourne, East Fork Fire Department captain. “It is a nice way to give back to the community. My wife and I are fortunate enough to provide for our son but so many families can’t. It is nice to brighten the holiday for a kid.”

The students went all over Walmart, picking out toys, clothes and electronics to have wrapped under the tree. Bourne helped his shopper Ciara pick out a new pink bike and matching helmet to put under her tree.

“I like getting toys, I got stuff like a bike,” said Ciara, a first grader.

Some of the students relinquished their own presents to buy things for their families. Kurt Zamarripa spent some of his gift card to buy presents for his grandma and brother as well as himself.

“(I did it because) my grandma takes care of me,” Zamarripa said.

In addition to getting Christmas presents, Zamarripa said he really enjoyed getting to shop with Carson City Deputy Michael Huynh.

“I think it is cool, because last year I didn’t get to shop with a police officer. It was cool to see them and it was a lot of fun to shop with the police,” Zamarripa said.

For many of the volunteers, it’s nice to have positive interactions with the children so they understand public safety officers aren’t people to be afraid of.

“Nevada Highway Patrol is often overlooked because they don’t think we are engaged in the community because the perception is we are isolated to the highways throughout the state, both rural and urban, so it was nice to break down those barriers to be involved in the community,” said Trooper Tappan Cornmesser. “It is beneficial for kids to go in and have that positive interaction with the law enforcement community.”

At the end, the children were able to get their presents wrapped, enjoyed snacks with their shopping buddy and took pictures with Santa.

“Wow, this year went so well, I think better than ever before,” Meliah Gonzales said. “Walmart was incredibly helpful, we had approximately 320 volunteers for shopping, wrapping and bagging. We couldn’t run such an incredible event without the community helping us so much. I smiled at and hugged as many kids as possible and that’s what it’s all about.”


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