by Tim Jagielo
Fenton — Torrey Hill Intermediate School student and artist Nilah Smith, 10, has never made pottery before, but thanks to “Shop with a Hero” she’ll get to try it this holiday season.
Nilah was one of 55 students from Lake Fenton Community Schools (LFCS) ages 4 to 11 who got to shop with Fenton Township Firefighters Association members and emergency medical technicians (EMT) on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Target store on Owen Road.
Students from West Shore Elementary and Torrey Hill Intermediate School were selected by teachers based on need.
It’s facilitated by the Fenton Township Firefighters Association. Firefighter Kristy Polidan said the 2019 event was funded from past golf outing fundraisers. This is the 12th year of the event and Polidan hopes to do it for the next three years at least.
Overall, the budget was $3,500. Children could spend between $55 and $75 and those with more practical needs had a larger budget.
West Shore Elementary School Principal Sonya Shaughnessy said teachers make recommendations, however parents can opt out of such special considerations. She added that Target is “amazing” to work with.
Fenton Township firefighters, STAT EMS and Mobile Medical Response (MMR) members took children and family members around the store helping them keep within budget. They took them back to a specific checkout line set up for participants.
Nilah chose a pottery-making kit, clothes and gum. Unfortunately, her “hero” was away on a call.
Polidan said, “It’s awesome, it’s the best experience ever; the kids light up.” Uncle Ray’s Dairyland was on hand with free sundaes and Don and Sue Carmer were Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Richard Guyzik Jr. of Linden came with his wife, Brandi, and their two daughters. “I think the program’s excellent,” he said. This is their first time taking part in such an event. “We’re so grateful; the girls were so excited.”
Bella, 6, chose an L.O.L. Surprise! Doll and Brooklyn, 4, chose Peppa Pig. Guyzik wished to thank all involved who made it possible.
Once the shopping was done, volunteers and family members wrapped presents in the conference room. Some children shopped for their siblings and kept the items hidden from the intended recipient.
“Programs like this help build a solid alliance between the children in our community and our heroes, the firefighters and police,” Torrey Hill Principal Kathleen Conover said.
Fenton Township Fire Chief Ryan Volz said he started the “Shop with a Hero” program in 2004. “Hats off to the people that were there last night. I it was a great thing,” Volz said.
The Fenton Police Department held its “Shop with a Cop” event the following night, See story on page 14.