Annual event lets kids go on $100 shopping spree

The program had a budget of $32,500 this year. Dozens of volunteer shoppers escort the

  • The program had a budget of $32,500 this year.
  • Dozens of volunteer shoppers escort the children, helping them stay within a $100 budget.
  • Rio del Sol Kiwanis’ Coats for Kids program will be held this weekend at the Farmington Civic Center.

FARMINGTON — Bob Brooks eyed the long row of shopping carts set up inside Farmington’s Target location during the early evening on Nov. 3, as well as the quickly growing line of families forming to the side. On his face was a mix of anticipation and apprehension.

“It will be like herding cats in here in about 20 minutes,” he said, smiling and grimacing at the same time.

Brooks, the longtime chairman of the Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club’s Clothes for Kids Committee, was in the midst of organizing volunteers to assist the needy families participating in the organization’s annual holiday shopping event. The two-night event, which was scheduled to continue Nov. 4, allowed a total of 325 elementary school children to select $100 worth of clothing each, with the purchases covered by the club.

Watch: Kiwanis’ Bob Brooks talks “Clothes for Kids” drive

The families participating in the program are nominated by teachers and counselors at schools throughout the community.

Families participating in the Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club's Clothes for Kids program line up inside the Target location in Farmington on Nov. 3.

Brooks said the program had a budget of $32,500 this year. Rio del Sol Kiwanis comes up with the money through several fundraising events throughout the year, including its annual Dining with the Dead celebration, and through its normal fundraising channels.

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The organization has been conducting the program for 15 years, and Brooks has been the chairman for 13½ years. He said those duties keep him from doing any of the shopping with the participating children. But his favorite part of the experience is the stories he hears later from volunteers, who escort the children through the store, helping them find appropriate clothing in the correct sizes and keeping them within their $100 budget.

As the 5:30 p.m. start for the shopping spree approached on Nov. 3, Brooks gathered his dozens of volunteers around him and gave them a series of last-minute instructions. He wrapped up his presentation with reminder for the volunteers to enjoy themselves.

Bob Brooks, chairman of the Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club's Clothes for Kids Committee, gives some last-minute instructions to volunteers before the start of the event on Nov. 3 at the Target location in Farmington.

“Basically, just go out and have a good time,” he said.

The group of shoppers included two Animas Elementary School students, 10-year-old Autumn and 7-year-old Kai, who were escorted by Sarah Alcon and Jade Garcia of the Four Corners Ichigo Cosplay Group. Alcon was dressed in a Snow White costume, while Garcia was outfitted as Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.” They said they have been volunteering for Clothes for Kids for the past five years.

Volunteers Sarah Alcon, left, and Jade Garcia join 7-year-old Kai and 10-year-old Autumn in shopping during the Rio del Sol Clothes for Kids event on Nov. 3 at the Target location in Farmington.

Within minutes of the event’s start, the aisles of the children’s clothing department at the store were clogged with shoppers and their volunteers. As Alcon and Garcia weaved through the crowd with their shopping carts, Autumn and Kai led the way, looking for new jeans, shirts, shoes, socks and underwear. Autumn was the more efficient shopper, quickly filling her cart, while Kai seemed interested only in attire bearing the likeness of “Star Wars” characters.

It took some searching, but Garcia, who was Kai’s volunteer, finally located a display of T-shirts featuring images of pop culture figures. Kai’s face lit up as he selected three shirts before he grudgingly was persuaded to head off in search of such necessities as socks and underwear.

Decked out in a Grinch costume, Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club president Tony DiGiacomo interacts with two young shoppers during the Clothes for Kids event on Nov. 3 at Target in Farmington.

“We get to make dreams come true for people,” Brooks said, describing the feeling of satisfaction the experience gives him.

He recounted a story from a previous Clothes for Kids event during which a little girl who had already chosen $100 worth of items wanted to add a new pair of shoes to her cart. Her volunteer tried to explain to her she already was at her limit, but the little girl was adamant, Brooks said.