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Making Christmas a merry one

Sandi Hoover
shoover@nevadaappeal.com
Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealShelly Cohen helps 11-year-old Oswaldo Mata choose a helicopter toy at Walmart on Saturday morning.
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Five-year-old Natelie Torres can tell you it isn’t easy sticking to a budget when you’re picking out your own Christmas gifts.

Natelie was among 100 children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada to be treated to a $100 shopping spree at Walmart early Saturday morning courtesy of Western Nevada Supply.

The family-owned and operated company based in Sparks has hosted the kids’ Christmas shopping event since 1998 instead of purchasing customer gifts. Since the project’s inception, a company team has provided more than 5,000 children throughout Northern Nevada, Idaho and California – where the company branches are based – with needed clothes and toys, said Jody Hedgcorth, WNS coordinator for the Saturday event.

“I think this is awesome,” said Walmart Community Involvement Coordinator Dayna Phelan. “Having this many children being able to shop with the economy the way it is wonderful, and the way I understand it, they help everywhere they have a store.”

On Saturday morning, WNS set up tents and provided doughnuts and other refreshments as more than 100 WNS employees, family members and WNS customers lined up to offer one-on-one assistance to each of the 100 children as they set off on their shopping sprees.

“This is our 13th year of doing this,” Hedgcorth said. “We invite our customers to volunteer, and we always get a great response.”

Robin Talancon of Sparks, was Natelie’s helper Saturday. She was volunteering with her sister Brooke, who, as it turned out, was helping Natelie’s 7-year-old brother, Alex.

As the shopping commenced, Natelie’s first selection was a ladybug pillow, and it was the only item that somehow managed to stay in her basket for the duration of the spree. Alex was quick to pick out a Nerf gun.

After sticking together for awhile, however, it was clear that the pairs of shoppers needed to go their separate ways.

“Our mother works for Granite Construction so I’ve volunteered with her for the last four to five years,” said Robin Talancon. “I love doing this. I work with special needs kids in Washoe County, and I just love kids. This has become a tradition for our family.”

Next into Natelie’s shopping cart went a large pink guitar followed by a pink pony purse.

“I used to be a hairdresser, but I always felt like something was missing,” Talancon continued, “so I changed careers, and ever since, I’ve felt like I’m home.”

Within minutes, Natelie took the guitar out of the cart and replaced it with an Easy-Bake Oven. Talancon guided her to another aisle where she was able to find ingredients for baking food in her oven.

A few minutes later, out went the pony purse, replaced by a Tote ‘n Go Laptop for kids.

“I like to buy stuff for Christmas,” Natelie smiled. “I’m going to show it to my mom.”

A pink multi-colored coat was the next item the 5-year-old popped into her cart, but less than a minute later, it was rejected in lieu of a Justin Bieber hoodie and black jeans with a pink metallic belt.

“Western Nevada Supply is wonderful,” Talancon whispered. “Even if you go over your amount a little, they pay for it. I feel that way too. When I’m shopping, I always say, ‘I don’t care how much it’s over, I’m just going to pay for it.'”

By the time Natelie met back up with her brother and Brooke, she had also selected a pair of pink mitten-gloves and matching ear muffs.

They each picked out one last item – plastic flutes – and their shopping was complete.

Brooke Talancon laughed when she saw Natelie’s hoodie.

“Do you love Justin Bieber?” she asked.

“Yeah,” said Natelie.

“Is he your boyfriend?” Talancon continued.

“No!” shouted Natelie.

After going through the checkout stand, a WNS volunteer packed all Natelie’s purchases into one huge plastic bag, slapped a name sticker on the bag, and directed the brother-sister team to a photo booth where they got their pictures taken with Santa Claus before leaving.

Just outside the back door, however, Natelie spotted another Santa helping load bags of toys and clothes.

“I told you Santa Claus has a brother,” she said, with a big grin on her face.