Christmas spirit again demonstrated through Holiday with a Hero in Carson City | RecordCourier.com

Christmas spirit again demonstrated through Holiday with a Hero in Carson City

Taylor Pettaway | tpettaway@nevadaappeal.com

Even though the weather outside was frightful, inside the Carson City Walmart the atmosphere was delightful as the community came together to celebrate Holiday with a Hero.

First responders and community members from across Northern Nevada were at the Market Street Walmart on Wednesday morning to help bring Christmas to more than 250 underprivileged Carson City kids. Each year, Holiday with a Hero pairs a local hero with a child and a $100 gift card to Walmart to shop for Christmas presents.

Thirteen Douglas County Sheriff's Office volunteers assisted Carson City at the event from 8:45 a.m. to 11 a.m.

"It is great to give back and be with the kids," said Douglas County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Elges. "It is hard to describe but it is so fun to see their smiles. It is a great community and I love getting to come and meet the kids."

For Elges, having a community that allows its regional partners to also join in the festivities is a plus, as it helps bring more than just immediate community together. For the kids, being exposed to more than just Carson City personnel means they can meet many different heroes.

More than 250 people from a variety of agencies attended the event. Locals like the Carson City Sheriff's Office, Fire Department, Juvenile Probation Services and Department of Alternative Sentencing were joined from regional agencies like Reno Police Department, Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Department of Corrections and more to bring Carson City kids a little brighter holiday season.

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"It is a very humbling experience when a child is allowed to buy whatever they want from the store and they can pick out gifts for their mother, father and other relatives," said Douglas County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Bernadettte Smith. "The cashiers at Walmart were exceptional talking to the kids about their gifts and engaging them in conversation. The volunteers that wrapped the gifts allowed the kids to pick out the paper and bows and get involved in wrapping."

In addition to the first responders, nearly 100 volunteers were in attendance to wrap presents so every child got something to open under the tree. The aim for everyone was to make sure every child was able to have a good Christmas.

"This makes me proud because Nevada is so generous and caring to make sure that every child has a good Christmas," said Gov. Brian Sandoval. "As much as our first responders sacrifice each year and to have them here and spreading cheer, events like these is what makes Nevada a family, we take care of each other."

All of the students in attendance are in kindergarten to eighth grade in the McKinney-Vento Students in Transition program, a program for students without a permanent residence.

"This means they get to have a Christmas, plain and simple," said Peggy Sweetland, liaison for McKinney-Vento. "The kids love it, the energy on the buses when we are coming to Walmart is electric. They are bouncing in their seats and excited to shop."

For some of the kids, this event means everything. One child, an unnamed first grader, was walking around with holes in his sneakers and cried tears of happiness as the volunteers wrapped a pair of new shoes for him.

"Their lives are full of unpredictable events, some of them aren't all happy events, and this helps bring happiness and those good memories," Sweetland said. "And now they can celebrate the spirit of Christmas."

In addition to gifts, the participating kids loved getting to hang out with their local heroes.

"It is awesome because I have always wanted to be a police officer, too," said Austin, a fifth grader at Empire.

To the heroes, especially law enforcement agents, Holiday with a Hero is an opportunity to have positive interactions with the children in the community.

"Anything we can do to have those positive interactions in the children's lives is important," said organizer Carson City Sgt. Daniel Gonzales. "This event helps break down any barriers that come with our job. We interact with children and families often with difficult calls so it is good for them to see us not in that traumatic light. And this also allows us to let our hair down and interact with the kids on a different level."

For Fritsch students Delilah, 6, and Takayla, 10, getting to shop with Juvenile Probation Officer Jessica Boggan was almost as great as getting their new toys. The girls couldn't contain their excitement, hugging the officer while they weaved through the aisles of Walmart.

"She is so awesome and fun and adorable," said Takayla. "(I like this because) we can have a good Christmas. I want her to be my auntie!"

In the end, all the children got their new gifts wrapped up for Christmas Day and enjoyed a movie and lunch with their fellow classmates before going back to school.