Standing in for Santa
December 3, 2005
Gaby wanted a pony. Alexis had her heart set on SpongeBob. Mary Ann sought out Dora the Explorer. Sarah wanted clothes, lots of purple clothes. And it seemed they all wanted a giant bouncy ball.
Eleven-year-old Daniel took a different path. While the majority of the children who participated in the eighth annual shopping spree for needy children Saturday morning headed straight for toys or electronics, Daniel went to appliances.
“I am looking for a coffee maker for my mom, because she needs one,” said Daniel.
He also filled his cart with DVDs and CDs for his brother and sister, and was headed to the clothing aisle next.
The program is put on by Western Nevada Supply Co., which gives children in first through sixth grades $100 each and a volunteer to help them shop for Christmas. This year, more than 400 children came from Lyon and Douglas counties, Carson City and South Lake Tahoe, meeting at the south Carson Wal-Mart.
“We used to give our employees and top customers Christmas gifts and they came to us and told us they wanted to do this instead. We turned from buying them gifts to helping those in need. We give the kids the full experience and the (volunteers) get a gift as well because they get to play Santa,” said Rick Reviglio, Western Nevada Supply general manager.
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Among the volunteers were members of several groups from Carson High School, Western Nevada Supply employees and their families, customers of the company and members of the Reno High School and Reno Knights baseball teams.
“I think this is such a neat opportunity for the kids and I was excited that I get a chance to help,” said 17-year-old Shanni Eng, a member of the Carson High School student council.
Eng was helping 10-year-old Kyle spend his money, starting with a bag of jellybeans before moving on to electronics, looking for a memory card for his Nintendo Gamecube.
Four-year-old Freddie walked right past the video games in search of Candyland and Play-Doh. He seemed a little overwhelmed and stuck close to his volunteer, Marci Banes.
“I’m a teacher and this is such a treat for me and for them,” said Banes.
Shayna, 10, loaded up her cart with CDs by Jesse McCartney and Hillary Duff, along with some white tiger slippers and some paints.
“I got the paints so I have something to do when it rains,” Shayna said.
Her helper, Carson High senior Brittany Waltz, said, “This is such a good cause and the kids have so much fun. Plus, they deserve it.”
The children are selected by counselors at the area schools and are chosen based on need and their situation.
“We have a list of children who are a priority, like children living with grandparents or doubling up in motels, and we contact all the shelters,” said Kim Riggs, coordinator for the Carson City School District’s Children in Transition program. “It’s a lot of work but when you are here, it’s so worth it. The kids just love it.”
For Rob Emrich and his daughter, Alex, serving as volunteers has become a tradition.
“We’ve done this for three years. It’s a father-daughter experience and ends up being more of a blessing to us than to the kids we help,” said Emrich.
This year the Emrichs were helping 9-year-old Marcos pick clothes and toys to brighten his holiday.
“The kids all have their favorite toy but they also buy underwear, bras, sheets for their beds and coats – things that they need,” said Reviglio.
Walking out the doors, volunteers pushed carts filled with video games, clothes and toys, including several bikes. Bat a shy 5-year-old girl added something else.
Nestled among the toys and clothes was a bouquet of yellow roses for her grandmother.
n Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.