POWAY, Calif. - Service members and children scoured the aisles of Walmart in search of the perfect presents during the Summit for Children Worldwide Holiday with Heroes event, Dec. 7, in Poway, Calif.
This annual event pairs one of more than 50 Marines, sailors and police officers from the San Diego area with an underprivileged child from the Poway unified school district to shop for and wrap presents for the children’s family members.
“We give each child a $100 gift card to pick out gifts, with the help of heroes who manage their spending, for their family members,” said Merrylin Brichmann, an event coordinator with Summit for Children Worldwide. “We also have a party afterward where parents, kids and [service members] get to relax and celebrate.”
After making their final purchases, the children and their heroes returned to the event site to wrap the presents before enjoying a hamburger dinner, prepared by the Kiwanis Club of Poway, and a variety of activity booths.
Children enjoyed face painting, decorated cookies and filled bags with candy at a Candy Land booth throughout the evening. Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse were also available for pictures with the children and their heroes.
“This event lets us really see the impact our help is having on the kids,” said Pfc. Nico P. Ortega, an administrative specialist with Marine Aircraft Group 11 and a Delta, Colo., native. “I really like [the holidays] and helping them enjoy it too is great. You can see their smiles when they are able to pick out the gifts they really want.”
At the end of the event, each pair chose an ornament and frame for their joint photo with Santa Claus.
Handmade blankets were also given to each child before they left. Teenagers from high schools within the local area made each of the 50 blankets handed out.
Children and service members alike left with a smile at the end of the event. Some for the anticipation of gifts to be unwrapped, and others with a sense of pride in the help they provided.
For more information on future volunteer opportunities visit http://www.summitforchildrenworldwide.org/.