On Saturday morning just before 6 a.m., a line of more than 100 eager children– some still wearing pajamas–stretched across the front of on Elk Grove Boulevard. The children were selected through the Elk Grove Unified School District’s Healthy Start, Project Act and Foster Youth Services to participate in Childspree, a back-to-school shopping spree sponsored by Kohl’s, local Optimist clubs and several other community groups.
The doors opened and the children paired off with volunteer chaperones, each with a budget of $110 towards clothing, shoes and school supplies.
In the girls’ shoes aisle, volunteer Lori Dacayo helped 7-year-old Mayana Dilworth pick out a pair of sneakers.
“These cost almost half of our budget,” Dacayo explained to Dilworth, passing over vibrant pink shoes. The pair settled on a pair of classic white running shoes after Dilworth quietly nodded her approval.
Carmen Bird, a volunteer chaperone from Lyon Real Estate, held a bag full of goods selected by 10-year-old Yecenia Cervantes while the fifth-grader got a free haircut.
“We went over (budget) a little,” Bird said. But, she pointed out, chaperones can have the option of covering the difference.
Outside the back of the store, Tina Valadez and her husband Stephen Hatch watched their son enjoy a pancake breakfast, sponsored by the Elk Grove Lions Club.
Valadez had four children and one grandson participate in the morning shopping program, which she said saved her over $500. Valadez said she had been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and some friends at her children’s school suggested she sign up to help offset some of her family’s back-to-school costs.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Valadez said.
Children were also offered free haircuts from Great Clips and bicycle helmets from UC Davis. Families could get free booster seats and training from the Children’s Safety Coalition. The Soroptimist International of Elk Grove also provided backpacks and supplies to children as they exited the department store.
Gary Palmer, president of the Elk Grove Optimist Club, said the club raises funds throughout the year for the program.
“It was a little tougher raising money this year, but we got there,” Palmer said. “It’s our club’s biggest thing of the year that we love to do.”