Carson City heroes save Christmas
Submitted by T. Costa on Thu, 12/15/2011 - 1:48pm
Question: What do Santa, a clown, a platoon of police officers, and coffee have in common?
Answer: They were all at the Wal-Mart service center Friday morning.
The second day of the seventh-annual Holiday With a Hero shopping spree event kicked off at 9 a.m., with the volunteers being fed donuts and coffee. Santa and his Wal-Mart helpers stood prepped to welcome less-fortunate children and help pair them off with volunteers, who would help them spend their complimentary Wal-Mart gift cards.
Volunteers from the Carson City Sheriff's Department, the Nevada Department of Public Safety, the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, the Nevada Army National Guard, and a half dozen other organizations stood ready, anxious and willing, dedicated to helping. Unfortunately, the show was stolen from them when the elementary schoolchildren arrived, as a cry of, "Santa!" rose through the crowd.
Santa waved as the adults chuckled amongst themselves.
"We've got...chaplains, the Carson City courts...state troopers, some retired firefighters," said Carson City Sheriff's Department detective Daniel Gonzales. "It's a collaborative effort. We did this in, literally, four weeks. Carson City has come together, and we raised over $30,000, so these kids can have wrapped Christmas presents under their trees."
He said that they got checks from as far away as Virginia, and some were for $5, and some for thousands. They managed to double what they brought in last year, and helped 286 needy children. A lot of local businesses, from mom and pop shops to Starbucks and Bank of the West, donated and volunteered to help. There were also large donations from corporations, and the community answered the call of children in need.
Wal-Mart allows the group to "take over," Gonzales said, and they take care of the sales tax. McDonalds covers lunch, bringing in extra help from other stores to provide. In the gardening center, a wrapping station has been set up so that children who purchase gifts for family members and friends can present them with wrapped gifts.
A committee forms each year in October, with representatives from each group involved, to figure out how to raise the necessary funds. That more money was raised this year, even in the midst of the economic downturn and recent low events such as the IHOP shooting and the tragedy at the Reno Air Races, is a pleasant surprise for the people of Carson City.
This is the first year that the group of children has been so large that it needed to be split into two. Most years it all takes place within a single day.
The goal is not just to provide needy kids with Christmas gifts, but to inspire them to something greater, said Gonzales. "We try to give them a good role model, and you can see -- some of them, because of their parents' history, are skittish around the police officers, and they leave happy and at-ease." He smiled as another load of children came in to be matched up.
"Each of these kids is special."