Local firefighters and police officers treated more than 60 underprivileged kids to a special shopping day at the Outlets at Legends Sparks in its special Holiday with a Hero shopping event. Organized by the Washoe County Human Services Agency, the City of Sparks Police and Sparks Fire Department teamed up with local youth at Target and allowed them to pick out whatever they wanted to celebrate the holidays.
“It was a great event, to be able to take 60 kids shopping…anytime you can do that it feels really good,” Sparks Police Officer Damon O’Connell says. Each equipped with a $100 gift card, local kids were individually led through four lanes of the department store, exposing them a variety of items ranging in what they needed (like clothes), what they wanted (toys), and educational items (books). Target gave an additional 10-20 percent off on certain items available to the kids and in some cases the firefighters and police officers made up the difference in goods that went over the allotted gift card amount.
Officer O’Connell was paired up with two little girls, ages 5 and 8, to escort through the store that day. He says that the girls he was paired up with were very outgoing and appreciative.
“Both of them wanted L.O.L. dolls,” he says of the L.O.L. Surprise! dolls that are little dolls and accessories contained inside a layered surprise ball. “Fortunately my wife and daughter helped me with the shopping- I brought in the experts,” he adds.
Sparks Assistant Fire Marshal Chris McCubbins was also in attendance, out in front of Target along with Sparky the fire dog, to greet families, pair them up with local heroes, and hang out with the other kids while their siblings were in there shopping.
“(Holiday with a Hero) went really well, we were able to help 60-plus families and give them a little extra to help them throughout the rest of the year. I was outside managing everybody- we had eight firefighters and 10-12 officers show up. Washoe County Human Services Agency and the Nugget made sure that the kids got specialized attention and shopped independently.
We had a lot of respectful kids this year, they were all so appreciative and thankful. Even some of the older kids who had money left over on their cards gave them back to us and told them to use the balance to give to someone else who could use it. There’s a lot of forethought in that. The 6, 8, 10, and 12-year-olds are still 6, 8, 10, and 12…they’re just young, but I was impressed with how nice the older ones were,” McCubbins says.
This is the second year that the Washoe County Human Services Agency has hosted the event, and Family Engagement Center Supervisor Jesse Brown says that the best part of it is seeing the smiles on kids’ faces.
“The focus was to get them things that they can use for themselves; I wanted them to get things that they could wear, play with, and read,” Brown says. “They were very excited and matching them up a hero was fun,” he adds.
“It was a very successful event; the Nugget, Sparks Firefighters’ Association, and Sparks Police Protective Association all donated money to make this holiday a great one for these kids,” O’Connell says.
Between those three local entities and private citizens, more than $6,000 was raised for the Holiday with a Hero shopping event.