As the holidays inch closer and the semester comes to a close, students donated their time and money to the 18th annual Shop With A Warrior event. The program allows students to provide for underprivileged children in the community in the form of Christmas gifts for themselves and family members.
Following in the footsteps of their neighboring high school, Kennesaw Mountain, NC began their own adoption in 2005. The tradition became a staple of the holiday season, with students racing to sign up for the event each year. Rachel Connell, NC teacher, heads up the event and with the help of Kennedy Reece, NC’s athletic department clerk. Together they make the tradition one to remember.
“Many of our students will never be truly hungry or come down Christmas morning to find little or nothing under the tree, and this event opens their eyes. I believe kids should learn to give, whether it’s their time or their money, early in life so that they carry that reminder forever. For me, it’s also about learning not to judge. We don’t know what has brought families to the situation they’re in. Regardless, the little shoppers deserve to have a great day,” Reece said.
In order to participate, students form groups of 4 and round up $100 ($25 each) to pay for the gifts. After submitting permission slips and receiving information about the event, students arrive at the cafeteria early Saturday morning and collect a t-shirt and their shopper.
This year Baker, Acworth, Big Shanty, and Kennesaw Elementary Schools all participated in the event and allowed their students to sign up. The counselors at each school work with staff to nominate students to participate. Typically, those nominees come from families who struggle to make ends meet. In addition, numerous counselors helped by gathering the required forms and attending the event to assist if needed.
This year, fewer elementary-aged children participated in the event than usual. Reece believes this might mean fewer families need assistance this holiday season. Due to this, NC also purchased items for Awtrey’s and Barber’s giving trees, from which people can sign up for and purchase items for students in need. Items vary from clothing to food, but all drastically help those in need.
Derek Easterling, Kennesaw’s mayor and NC’s ROTC teacher, drove one of the numerous buses transporting students to Walmart where they bought their gifts. In the spirit of the holidays, he encouraged students to sing Christmas songs to uplift the children on the bus. Their voices filled the vehicle and the kids belted out the words to signature songs such as Jingle Bells, Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer and Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.
Once at the store, customers could see smiling faces and kids racing around trying to grab toys. Groups kept track of their money and checked out at specific lanes for NC. They gathered their bags and headed outside, where members of the marching band played cheerful music.
At the school, students wrapped the presents with supplies donated from the community. The children also took pictures with Santa and told the white-bearded man what they wanted for Christmas.
“I had never done Shop With a Warrior until this year, but I wish I had done it sooner. I loved being able to help these kids and buy them simple gifts that would make their holidays so much better. They were all so happy to be able to buy gifts and just spend time with us,” sophomore Christain Farfan-Hernandez said.