In keeping with their holiday tradition, the Catalina Mountain Elks Lodge #2815 sponsored its fifth-annual shopping event on Dec. 3, bringing Christmas cheer to 35 students from the Roadrunner Elementary School.

The event kicked off at 8:15 a.m. at Tucson Mall’s J.C. Penney Co., as the students between kindergarten and sixth grade lined up outside the store’s south entrance. Joyce Garcia, co-chair of the event, paired each student with at least one Elks Lodge member.

With their partner, the students went on to spend $175 each.

Preparations for this shopping spree began in August for the Elks. Students participating in the program were selected based on need, and were notified three weeks ago, allowing excitement to grow.

“Two of my students have been talking about this all week,” said third grade teacher, Courtney Sneyd. “They’ve hardly been able to contain their excitement.”

Roadrunner Principal Elizabeth Armenta explained that each student also came prepared with a list of things they needed. These lists, complete with items and sizes, were intended to guide Elks members during the shopping adventure.

Garcia also mentioned that she had been urging her fellow Elks members to purchase practical, good things.

“These students need basics. In my heart, I know the things we buy today are going to be handed down to siblings in the future,” she said.

Once the shopping began, J.C. Penney’s aisles were filled with excitement as the shopping pairs gathered items, which were mainly from the shoe and clothing departments.

After the final transaction was tallied just before 11 a.m., the celebration moved on to the Catalina Mountain Elks Lodge #2815 headquarters for a pizza luncheon.

Upon arriving at the Lodge, students were greeted with fire trucks carrying presents, and two Elk members, Tom Teal and Gail Markwell, posing as Santa and Mrs. Claus.

After bellies were filled, each child was individually called to sit on Santa’s lap, discuss what they want for Christmas, and receive a gift.

Gifts were personalized for every student, and smiles filled the room, while Bobby Hurt, co-chair for the event, snapped photographs of the students.   

Hurt also explained the event would not be possible without the help of store managers.

“They are most generous and they do everything they can to give us their maximum discount,” he said.

This season, J.C. Penney granted Elks members a 20-percent discount for all items, including items already on sale.

Hurt said the Elks Lodge also spent $600 in toys, and that Toys “R” Us helped by allowing them to use the employee discount.

The Elks have sponsored the shopping spree for Roadrunner Elementary for five years, and it has become a tradition the Elks and the students look forward to each year.

“This is what Christmas is truly about,” said Hurt. “We will do anything we can for this school.”


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