Hometown Heroes treat kids to Christmas Eve spree
On every Christmas Eve for more than a decade, Hometown Heroes and a gaggle of sponsored children invade the Monroe Walmart.
This year, the charity brought about 20 children and their families into the store to shop the night away, Hometown Heroes boardmember Wanda Carraway said.
“Oh, it was wonderful to watch them,” she said.
Each year, the charity selects a number of children battling cancer to participate in a shopping spree. They come with one or as many family members as they want, Carraway said. Each sponsored child is given a pretty big amount of money to spend on anything in the store.
“Walmart graciously agrees, on Christmas Eve once they shut their doors, open the store to us and let the kids shop for gifts,” Carraway said. “And the Walmart employees volunteer on their own time to help the kids shop.”
There is a little competition among employees to be among the volunteers, she said.
“They say they love doing it because they get to watch all these kids at Christmas,” she said.
Hometown Heroes volunteers are also there to help the children shop and to generally cut up with the kids and their families.
“You’ll see some of them riding bikes around the store, trying on helmets and having fun with the kids,” Carraway said. “It’s a blast. We have a great time.”
The last presents were bought and carried out of the store at about 10:30 p.m., two and a half hours after the shopping spree began, she said.
“On average, the children are old enough to choose what they want, but we have some who are still little,” Carraway said. “A few of them were too sick, so they had parents come shop for them.”
The shopping trip is a yearly event for the charity. It works with local children’s hospitals to select kids battling cancer whose families need a big helping of Christmas cheer. Sometimes, volunteers will spend several Christmases with the same children. But there are times when one or more absences are bittersweet.
“It’s been a tough year for Hometown Heroes. We lost ten kids,” Carraway said. “You hope that the kids you see one year will be back the next year.”
But the joy these events bring to families experiencing tough times is more than worth it, she said. There are bunches of generous people happy to volunteer, like those at the Monroe Walmart, who make the events possible each year.
“And we are so thankful,” Carraway said.