July 22 • 10:24 AM

Local heroes share Christmas spirit

Dozens of area youngsters spread joy at 'Shop with Hero' event at Meijer

Attica firefighter Bob Tanis and daughter Jerri help bring smile to 7-year-old Hunter Talbot’s face during ‘Shop with a Hero’ event at Meijer’s in Lapeer. photo by Catherine Brakefield.

December 19, 2007
A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger has affected millions with the universal tradition of giving presents and introduces a spirit of good will that generated more than $646 million in retail sales last year.

"It is more blessed to give than to receive," has become Christmas's underlining theme and hope for a troubled economy. For Lapeer residents, it means

"Shop with a Hero."

Last Tuesday Lapeer Meijer held their annual event spreading good cheer, good food, and lots of toys including all the trimmings for a Christmas dinner for 84 children and their families.

Meijer store director Sandra Molosky has managed Shop with a Hero for the past 10 years. Preparation for the event is huge; however, Molosky explains that every year secures new rewards with the Lapeer community willing to do their share in making Shop with a Hero a success.

"Once they hear about it," Molosky says, "People will say, 'we heard about Shop with a Hero, how can we help?'"

This year Lapeer Regional Medical Center is partnered with Meijer, matching their $5,000, so more children can benefit from the program. Omni Group of Lapeer East and West High Schools put on a powder-puff football game and raised $1,400 and Chase Bank gave $500 toward the event.

On Dec. 11, 84 children, their parents, Lapeer Regional Medical Center CEO Bart Buxton and Vice President of Operations, Clarence Sevillian, Justin Ewald, manager of Meijer's Chase Bank, and Probate Judge Justus C. Scott of Lapeer County Probate Court and 29 agencies across Lapeer County and outlying districts volunteered a Hero to shop with a child.

Fire and police departments from Almont, Attica, Burlington Twp, Capac, Columbiaville, Deerfield, Dryden, Elba, Goodland, Hadley, Imlay City, Lapeer City, Lapeer County and Lapeer EMS, Metamora, North Branch, Michigan State Police, Family Probate Court, and the Prosecutor's Office volunteered to be Heroes for the evening, passed out pizza slices, strolled down aisles pushing kids in shopping carts, making sure their young shoppers had enough money to purchase all their presents.

"Volunteerism from the heroes is magnificent," Molosky says. "The firefighters and others look forward to this and they always come through for us each year."

A visit with Santa, a Christmas stocking with a teddy bear and a $100 gift certificate poking out brought a smile to every child's face as they hurried down the aisles.

Eva Wood couldn't believe her eyes, looking at the smiling faces adorned in their personalized Christmas hats.

"This is great!" Wood exclaimed. "How wonderful!"

She accompanied sons David, 8, and Martine, 6, both Dryden Elementary students, mainly because of Martine's shyness. But when Martine found his dream gift, his shyness disappeared into joy.

"I don't need training wheels!" Martine exclaimed, his fingers clasping around the handles of a shiny new bicycle.

It wasn't long until 11-year-old Abbey Dineer of Almont and her mother Dawn were smiling into the camera with their new addition into the Dineer Family, 'Little Cheerleader,' who knew all kinds of cheers she could recite to Abbey.

With a box as big as she was, 9-year-old Daramis Nuez of Imlay City found the doll which simply cried out to her, one that really needed a 'mother's' loving touch which only she knew how to provide.

Columbiaville Firefighter Richard English reached to the top shelf for fourth grader Dona Rierson for a baby doll that was caught in her loving arms to rock her to sleep.

Fifteen-month-old Gavin King of Dryden had only one thing on his mind. He wanted to perfect his motor skills and became immediately engrossed with "Drive 'N Grow Walker."

Attica firefighter Bob Tanis, accompanied by his daughter Jerri, helped 7- year-old Hunter Talbot complete his shopping list in record time, and Hunter smiled contently knowing that he just made his family's Christmas complete.

Shopping list in hand, 8-year-old Trevor Nolet of Dryden Elementary School carefully walked down the aisles. Trevor brought his little brother along so he could pick out the perfect Christmas present for himself.

"He's really good about this," explains his proud dad, Alain Nolet.

Six-year-old Timothy Silman of Imlay City pointed to the doll aisle in search of the perfect present for his 3- year-old sister.

Sara Kenitz of Burlington Twp. loaded her shopping cart with perfumes and flowers and Alex Firmingham of Lapeer could hardly be seen beneath the king size pillows he hefted onto the cashier's conveyor belt for his Aunt Tina and Aunt Sara.

Children armed with either a list in their hand or in their head carefully searched the aisles for that perfect gift, be it for themselves or siblings. The aisles of toys resembled a parking lot of overflowing shopping carts, and home appliance and electronic aisles saw their share of children shoppers throughout the evening as well.

There was more to be had as the heroes and children pushed their overloaded carts to pick up a food basket. That basket proved to be a brimming shopping cart as well, complete with turkey, potatoes, milk, a box of candy and everything each family would need for Christmas dinner.

"It is hard work but nothing is more gratifying than to help 84 families and seeing the faces on these kids shopping with their heroes," Molosky said.

Good will and giving proved the driving force behind the children and hero shopping spree.

"I've never seen anything like this," Molosky said. "It brings tears to our eyes and we will continue to do this as long as we're here."

Christmas is about sharing and these children last Tuesday were throwing themselves into the equation by bringing smiles to their loved one's faces on Christmas morning. The youngsters share their joy in the true spirit of giving, a universal tradition brought about by a tiny baby wrapped in swaddling clothes born on Christmas day.

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