Children in need were treated to a special shopping spree on Saturday, courtesy of the Eagles Lodge and local military personnel.
The weekend event marked the second year the Eagles Lodge Auxiliary and volunteers from the Dugway Proving Ground, National Guard and the Stansbury High School and Grantsville High School ROTCs have teamed up to host Shop with a Soldier, a Christmas charity similar to the Shop with a Cop program. Funds raised throughout the year by the local Eagles Lodge provided 32 local children, ranging from 3 to 14 years old, with $100 to spend on Christmas gifts they may not have otherwise been able to afford.
Participating children were escorted to their shopping spree by about 80 volunteering soldiers and cadets, who drove them to Walmart in humvees — stopping to march in formation part of the way — and helped them buy gifts on their Christmas wish lists.
The program, which is limited by the amount of funds available each year, was able to help 10 more children than the 21 who participated last year, thanks in part to a $1,000 donation provided by Walmart. It’s a growth trend Barbara Denner, Eagles Auxiliary president and Shop with a Soldier co-founder, would like to see continue in the future.
“We try to take as many children as we can,” Denner said. She had set a goal to help 31 this year, and after meeting that goal, took on an additional participant when she met another family in need while at Walmart the day of the event.
“I can’t say no to a child,” she said.
The soldiers are also an integral part of the program. Denner said she looked to the soldiers for help while Shop with a Soldier was still in its planning phase, as she sought a way to be constructively involved in these kids’ Christmas experience.
The military seemed a natural choice to her, because the soldiers were willing to help and because her own daughter is a marine.
“Soldiers are out here to protect us, and it’s not all guns,” Denner said.
The soldiers’ protective presence was especially welcomed by a few children who were initially apprehensive about their shopping experience, Denner said.
But it didn’t take long for their excitement to come through, Denner said. Most of the children bought toys — Legos were especially popular this year — but Denner said many chose to spend their money on new clothing as well. One girl bought a rainbow lollipop, but most memorable, according to Denner, was a 6- or 7-year-old who chose to use the $100 to buy gifts for the rest of the family.