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Hitting the Target


Fundraiser provides holiday shopping jaunt for elementary students

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Westview High student Jenny Fandel helps William Walker student Rodolfo Portillo wrap a gift he bought with the $20 Target gift certificate he received. This is the 11th year the two schools have come together for the 'Target Kids' program during the holidays. In the space of a couple hours on Saturday morning, about 80 William Walker Elementary School fifth-graders headed to the Tanasbourne Target to pick out Christmas gifts for family members. Returning to the school, the students had the presents wrapped up with bows and labels on top — all before 10:30 a.m.

Whether those putting off their holiday shopping chores find this level of efficiency inspiring or guilt-inducing is up to them, but the eager participants in the 15th annual Westview High School “Target Kids” program were all smiles on Saturday morning.

About 90 Westview student volunteers accompanied the fifth-graders to the Target store, where each was given a $20 gift card to purchase presents for family members or to donate to another family. After the spree, they returned to the cafeteria at William Walker, 11940 S.W. Lynnfield Lane, to wrap the gifts they’d picked out.

“One boy said he got up at three in the morning. He was so excited,” said Sheryl Lindenberg, a counselor at the school for 19 years. “For a lot of these guys, some have never had money to shop. Some have never been able to shop (for family members) without mom or dad with them.”

For William Walker fifth-grader Rodrigo Salgado, 10, the trip to the retail variety chain was fruitful.

“I think the nice thing is most other students never get to go to Target,” he said. “I found stuff for my family, my two brothers. One’s older, and one’s younger.

“I knew what I was looking for.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Westview High student Kenneth Do and Luis Germond-Mejia wrap gifts with the $20 gift certificate they spent at Target. Do is the organizer for this year's annual event between the two schools.

Westview started its nonprofit “Target Kids” program 15 years ago to help William Walker students from less economically privileged households buy holiday gifts. Students and teachers raise money throughout the fall, with proceeds going to the Target Kids program. This year, Westview students sold enough talent show tickets, holiday-themed cards and candy canes to raise $1,000.

Kenneth Do, a Westview junior, got involved with the program three years ago and now serves as coordinator.

“William Walker is one of the less wealthy schools, so we decided to help,” he said. “Ever since, we’ve built a strong relationship with them.”

With help and cooperation from student volunteers as well as the Tanasbourne Target staff, the 15th year marks another successful outing.

“Things have gone really smoothly,” he noted. “There’s been a lot of participation from (Westview) students.”

Hayley Pearson, a fellow Westview junior, has enjoyed participating in the event for the first time.

“I think it’s really nice,” she said. “I love meeting the little kids. It warms my heart. I’m a kid person. If I was in fifth grade, I think it would be cool for someone to do this for me.”

Some students tend to be cautious about exceeding their $20 gift card limit.

“We tell them don’t be afraid to go a little over,” said Do, 17. “We have more than enough for everyone.”

William Walker Principal Joann Hulquist said the two schools and their volunteers have refined the shopping event in the three years they’ve collaborated. Hired school buses transport students to Target around 8 a.m.

“We’ve had some practice,” she said. “It’s really fun at Target to watch the kids choose their gifts. I asked one what was in the big bag. He said, ‘It’s a pillow for my mom and dad.’ One boy bought Monopoly to play at home, and another got a toy for his dog.”

Customers and employees at Target, she added, don’t seem to mind the Saturday morning deluge.

“At Target, first thing in the morning, you see the customers just smiling and watching the interactions between the high schoolers and their elementary school friends,” Hulquist said. “It doesn’t seem to bother them to have to share the store with the kids.”

About 86 percent of William Walker students come from families whose incomes qualify them for the free and reduced-cost lunch program, but all fifth-graders are invited to participate.

“For many kids, this will be the extent of their shopping,” she said, praising the efforts of the high school volunteers. “Westview students raise all the funds for the gift giving and to pay for (school) buses. They’re sponsoring five William Walker families. It’s pretty amazing.”

Do, noting Sunset High School participates in its own Target Kids program, joked about the two groups converging on the store at the same time this year.

“We thought we’d claim the whole store,” he said with a smile. “We gave them some dirty looks.”

Seeing the kids’ faces once the presents were wrapped reminded Do why he devotes time to the effort.

“It was definitely worth getting up at 7,” he said.by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Natalie Kochanowski, left, and Jessica Villa finish up wrapping their presents during the 'Target Kids' event bringing together Westview High and William Walker Elementary students.