Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate

Children paired with role models as they shop for family

Children raced around Walmart on Saturday morning picking out gifts for their families.

They were participating in the "Shop with a Hero" charity event that pairs one or two kids with "heroes" from law enforcement, fire departments, EMTs and the Coast Guard.

Each child was also equipped with a $40 gift card.

The annual "Shop with a Hero" event runs in conjunction with Santa's Workshop, a Rural Human Service program that uses local gift and monetary donations to provide presents for children who otherwise may go without one on Christmas.

About 110 children took part - they will receive gifts themselves from Santa's Workshop.

The event was led by the Crescent City Rotary Club.

One benefit is to teach them about budgeting, said Rotarian Susan Elliott, event coordinator.

"They are also being taught even though you do not have much, it's good to give to others," said Elliott.

The event began at 8:30 a.m. with children waiting in line to be paired with one of the 40 heroes who volunteered to take them shopping. Some kids waited more than a half-hour. Rotary President Katherine Taylor said some"civilians" offered to take the children shopping, but they opted to wait their turn to interact with the heroes.

Sheriff's Deputy Nate Donaldson was paired with 8-year-old James Mitchell.

"I thought it was a really rewarding experience because this event is about teaching the kids to share with their family members," said Donaldson. "It's a good opportunity for us because we get some interaction with the community."

As for James, he thought his chaperone was "awesome."

James shopped for his mother, father, brothers and sisters.

"I'm surprising them," said James. "I got them something I knew they would like."

Hismother thought the event was "wonderful."

"Ever since I told him about it, he's been counting the days as if it were Christmas," she said. "He's always been one to enjoy law enforcement and firefighters."

In addition to the Sheriff's Office, which had deputies and commanders Bill Steven and Tim Athey escorting children, volunteers included Crescent City Police Chief Doug Plack, Cal Fire Lt. Mike Knight, Fire Chief Steve Wakefield and wife Debra Wakefield and members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Fort Dick and Crescent City volunteer fire departments and EMT workers from Del Norte Ambulance.

Deputies and local firefighters even contributed out of their own pockets to ensure all of the family members of the children they were paired with received gifts, said Alania Steven, who joined her husband Bill Steven at the event.

This was the second year for "Shop with a Hero, and they participated last year as well. Alania Steven said they do it "to see the smiles on children's faces."

Walmart manager Nick Gonnella said he has been involved with similar events for 13 years.

"We do run it in as many stores as we can," said Gonnella.

He thanked the community and all of the organizations that helped "get everybody in our store to help the children in need."

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