The holidays should be a magical time for all children, a time for making wishes and believing that they’ll come true. For financially struggling families, granting those wishes can be tough. Fortunately, Chicago Public Schools has partnered with many generous corporations that are eager to help.
One such company is Target, which has a reputation for giving back to the communities where its stores are located. This year, a newly opened Target store gave 25 CPS students the holiday experience of a lifetime through its Heroes & Helpers Program, a project that brings children together with both corporate sponsors and local law enforcement. Target provided these children with a day that was all about them. In a heartwarming twist, the children made it all about others.
Early in December, the Target store at 1101 W. Jackson partnered with the CAPS Office from Chicago’s 12th Police District to launch Heroes & Helpers, a program that gives kids the chance to go shopping at Target with the help of a local police officer. “They contacted us about the program,” said Officer Mary Beth Godinez of Chicago’s 12th Police District, “and we reached out to the local elementary schools in the neighborhood.”
The store had only been open since early October, so this was one of their first community outreach projects. Twenty-five students from Perez Elementary and Smyth Elementary were selected to participate in the holiday event.
“They didn’t know until that morning that this was going to happen,” said Dorene Vaughan, a clerk at Smyth Elementary. “They knew they were going on a field trip to Target, but they didn’t know what it was all about until they got there.”
The children, who were selected based on need, arrived at Target in the morning and were greeted by police officers and store employees. After enjoying a snack, the police officers accompanied the children around the store to help them with their shopping. Each child had $100 to spend courtesy of Target.
Among the dozen Smyth students, a group that included several homeless children, one boy had his heart set on a particular type of watch. “I couldn’t find it,” said Vaughan, “but one of the Target people did, and for the rest of the day, that little boy just kissed and hugged that watch.”
Casey Shirrells, Executive Team Leader of Asset Protection for Target, described the experience as amazing. “It was fun to see how excited the kids were about getting to shop,” he said, “and I was really impressed by how generous they were. They didn’t even care much about buying things for themselves. It was all about other people.”
Officer Godinez, who was one of the police officers helping the children find their way around the store, agreed. “One boy came back with a toy purse and a little doll for his sister,” she said. “And one of the girls had a shirt for her brother and some jewelry for her mom. It was so nice to see them thinking of their families that way.”
Tamara Sanchez, a 7th-grader from Perez Elementary, described the experience as joyful and exciting. “I was so excited because I never had $100 to spend at Target before and I never knew how much I could buy with that amount of money,” she said.
Tamara did buy a t-shirt for herself, as well as pajamas and candy for her sisters, but her favorite thing was the gift she got for her mom. “I bought earrings for my mom, and I really like them,” she said.
The generosity on display made the adults enjoy the shopping spree nearly as much as the children. “It was so nice to see them having such a great time,” said Officer Godinez. “And their attitudes about giving were wonderful. It got us all into the holiday spirit.”