Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Students embrace independent holiday shopping at Van Allen’s ‘Kid’s Christmas’

Dec 04, 2017
Photo by: Grace King Aaliyah Allen shops for her parents and brothers during the Van Allen “Kid’s Christmas” on Saturday, Dec. 2. The elementary school hosts Kid’s Christmas every year as a time when students can shop for Christmas gifts for family members without their parents.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


It was like their own personal Black Friday for elementary students in Mt. Pleasant. When the doors of Van Allen Elementary School opened at 8 a.m., children and their parents were lined up to the end of the block anxious to start shopping for Christmas presents.

Parents waited in one room while their children went on to the school gymnasium where about 2,000 gift options awaited their perusal, said Bri Clark, co-chair on the committee for Kid’s Christmas organized by the Mt. Pleasant PTA.

The PTA does this fundraiser every year for the elementary and middle school. Parents drop off their children with money and a list of family members they are shopping for and “elves” help them shop, stay within budget, check out and get their gifts wrapped. The items range in price from $1 to $7, purchased by the PTA on Black Friday or donated by businesses in the community. Left over gifts are saved for next year.

“Kids are so excited they get to go shopping without mom and dad,” Clark said. While some children walked in and were clearly intimidated by the amount of options to choose from, they were all looking forward to giving their mom and dad a gift on Christmas Day they chose for them all by themselves.

Aaliyah Allen stood in the middle of the gymnasium, overwhelmed by the amount of choices she had for her mom, dad and brothers. “I don’t really know what they would like,” she said. “Some of my brothers are sometimes selfish. They don’t like what I give them.”

“My dad usually likes games, like sports,” she continued, as an elf helped her look through the gift cards donated by area businesses.

In the lobby, her dad Travis Jones sat proudly waiting. “It just teaches them responsibility and to give back for Christmas,” Jones said. “It makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing, teaching them the values.”

Beside him, Doug Adams waited for his son Austin. “It makes me think back to when I was their age,” he said. “It’s something you can’t really put into words.”

The shopping frenzy continued as Taniya Coleman picked at items on the table while Emma Welcher helped her go down the list of people she was shopping for. Welcher had done her shopping earlier that morning, and with her mom helping wrap gifts, decided to make herself useful too.

Coleman said it was “amazing” getting to shop for her brother and sister on her own, getting to choose gifts she thought they would like.

Melody McKenzie had a couple elves helping her shop as she shyly walked from table to table looking for gifts for her parents and grandparents.

“We are struggling to find a gift for dad, but she’s done very well so far,” her elf helper said.

In the lobby, her mother Amanda McKenzie was waiting for her daughter to finish shopping. Her son had already finished, picking out a gift for his father he knew he would especially enjoy.

“My son came out and was really excited and wanted to tell me what he bought for me,” Amanda said. “But I wanted him to wait. It’s special and surprising for Christmas. It gives me an insight into what they think of me, an insight into their mind of what they see other people enjoy.”

Back in the gymnasium, Donovan Bux was finishing helping Katherine Watson shop for her mother and sister as they walked over to check out. A member of the student council at Mt. Pleasant Middle School, Bux was spreading the Christmas joy and volunteering by helping other kids shop.

“A lot of the kids are happy about what they got,” Bux said. “They’ve also picked some really weird things. The weirdest thing they did was get presents for themselves,” he confided.

Over at the gift-wrapping station, Shelby Nichting was finishing her shift. As a new customer came up, she started fiddling with how to best package the gift. Her four-year-old daughter, Kinnley, peeked over the table into the basket someone had just brought up to be wrapped.

“I let her shop before we started helping (with gift wrapping),” Nichting said. “She wanted me to stay with her this time.”

Although not all the children are ready to shop for their parents on their own, they all found some really awesome gifts to surprise their family with on Christmas Day.

“I think the kids really love it because they get to be a little bit independent,” said Emily Dorothy, who was helping students check out. “They really take pride in buying gifts, even if they’re kind of goofy.”

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