BAXTER — What happens when you give 12 students about $2,000 and a bus ride to the local Walmart?
You get cartloads of Christmas presents donated to their peers who otherwise may not have a gift waiting for them under the Christmas tree.
On Wednesday, six fifth-graders from Eagle View Elementary School in Breezy Point and six Pequot Lakes Middle School students went on a shopping spree at the Baxter Walmart, using money donated by students at both schools in the Pequot Lakes School District.
Middle school students recently held a penny wars challenge and raised $1,568.69; $1,000 was used to buy gifts for the Christmas for Kids program and $568.69 was donated to the Lakes Area Food Shelf, Chris Palmer, middle school guidance counselor, said.
Eagle View fifth-graders held a quarter challenge the week of Nov. 21 where each student received a ticket for a chance to go shopping for the Christmas for Kids program when they donated a quarter. They raised a record $1,025 used to purchase gifts, said Eagle View social worker Eileen Nelson.
Nelson and Palmer chaperoned the shopping trip of six fifth-graders and six middle schoolers, two from each grade, Wednesday at Walmart. They then went out for lunch and then hand-delivered the presents to Katie Wagener’s home in Ideal Township. Wagener is president of Christmas for Kids and is collecting toys for the local program.
Christmas for Kids provides Christmas presents to about 250-280 children, infants through high school students, who live in the Pequot Lakes, Jenkins, Lake Shore, Merrifield, Breezy Point, Ideal Township and Nisswa communities. Each child receives an outfit, a pair of pajamas and three or four items off their Christmas wish list, said Wagener. Their families also receives a holiday meal, including a turkey, five pounds of potatoes, a loaf of bread, butter, cans of vegetables, gravy, stuffing, dessert and a snack, courtesy of Schaefer’s Foods in Nisswa.
Law enforcement personnel from the lakes area dress up as Santa and deliver the presents on Christmas Eve morning, said Wagener.
Wagener said families may sign up their children for the program at the Pequot Lakes and Nisswa chamber offices or at Schaefer’s Foods in Nisswa.
Wagener said she was thrilled that the Pequot Lakes students donated so much for the program and also shopped, too.
“This just excited me,” said Wagener. “It’s nice to have kids shop because they know what the kids want.”
Students broke up into groups of two and, armed with calculators, were given an amount they could spend, usually around $300.
Mackenzie Nelson and Molly Johnson, both 10 and fifth-graders at Eagle View, had $325 to spend on gifts for children ages 8-10 at Walmart Wednesday. They were eyeing the iPods, as well as popular large bouncy balls.
“I think it’s a good cause because some kids at our school might get these,” said Johnson. “It’s nice to have at least one Christmas present under your tree.”
“I hope they really enjoy this and see how nice Christmas is and just be wowed by them,” Nelson said of the gifts she and Johnson were buying.
Allie Miller, 11, and Karli Skog, 12, both sixth graders, had a good time at the superstore.
“It’s fun,” said Miller. “The fact we can help them out for Christmas.”
“We’re just looking for toys and clothes and things they can’t afford,” explained Skog. “It’s real fun.”
“I was amazed with what they raised,” Nelson said, of the fifth-grade class. “Truly, this was an exceptional year of giving.”
Wagener said she already has 40 families signed up for the Christmas for Kids program and anticipates this year she’ll have a large list of children in the program. She said 100 percent of the donations go into the program each year. Wagener said some of the more popular Christmas requests this year are La La Loopsy dolls, iPods and Monster High items. High school girls are asking for items like “Glee” DVDs and CDs while mothers of infants are asking for diapers. If anyone wishes to purchase or donate unwrapped gifts for the Christmas for Kids program, or to help wrap the gifts at the Nisswa Community Center on Dec. 22, contact Wagener at 851-2211.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.