Mesa County kids take part in school clothes shopping spree

Tracy Dvorak
Michelle Leon, 10, a Pomona Elementary fifth grader, high-fives her volunteer shopping partner, Dawn Cruickshank, a behavior specialist with School District 51.
Tracy Dvorak / | Free Press

Chipeta Elementary fifth grader Monique Franklin, 9, was antsy to buy some new back-to-school clothes.

She quickly commandeered a red Target shopping cart and, without direction, headed off like a pro to the girls clothing department.

“I usually crash the cart,” Franklin admitted to her adult shopping partner, Annette Abeyta, which true to her word she eventually did.

But Abeyta still let her drive: “She’s so excited to go shopping.”

Starting with they basics, they headed to the socks and underwear aisle.

“Grandma says I can’t get colorful ones,” she said.

Turning the cart right, they then hit the wide expanse of girls clothing — racks of items splashed with bling and bright colors. Franklin, 9, and Abeyta went to the clearance rack first to get the most for their money.

“No dresses,” Franklin stipulated, “and don’t pick out too much girlie-girl stuff.”

Similar scenarios played out like this July 23 for 20 local students ranging from kindergarten to high school, who were selected, based on household income and need, by the Salvation Army to participate in Target’s annual “School Spree.”

“These kids came through other (Salvation Army) programs such as family rental assistance, and popped up on our radar,” said Claudia Jackson, Salvation Army spokesperson.

Some are foster kids and many live with their grandparents, she added.

Each child was paired with a volunteer adult chaperone and given an $80 Target gift card, only to be spent on school clothing. (Many chaperones generously covered the difference if the amount went over $80.) School supplies were already covered by the Salvation Army’s backpack program, in which 750 local kids in need were given new backpacks stuffed with school supplies.

Yovany Leon, a Pomona Elementary first grader, and his adult shopping partner, George Delahanty, scored great deals in the boys aisle. Leon’s two sisters also participated in the shopping spree.

“Only $4 each!” Delahanty said, as he held up some collared, polo-type shirts.

Boys and shopping stereotypes aside, Leon, 7, eagerly tried everything on in the dressing room and came out to model his new items. Short on words but with a big smile plastered on his face, it was obvious when Leon had found a winning item.

Almost two hours later, Delahanty and Leon headed to check out with their haul, which also included shoes and shorts.

“It was a blast to see the excitement in these kids. These kids don’t need to do without, that’s for sure,” Delahanty said.

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