8/4/2012 REDLANDS – Kids had their hands full on Saturday.
The day began at sunrise when 60 children lined up at the doors of Kohl’s Department Store to take part in a shopping spree hosted by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Redlands – they were fed breakfast and then given $100 gift cards they used to buy back-to-school clothes and other supplies.
Later that morning, hundreds of kids and their families strolled up and down Oxford Avenue to take part in the annual Micah House block party – almost 700 kids were given free backpacks filled with school supplies.
“I thought it went great,” said Kohl’s manager Ray Ojeda. “I know our associates and our volunteers were real happy. This is for the children and we gave them an experience they won’t ever forget. It was just such a great feeling in the morning.”
Kohl’s brought in volunteers from its other stores to help. In addition to the gift cards, Kohl’s also provided family discounts and tax relief coupons.
In all, the kids spent no money on their items.
“Everything was so exciting,” said Andrea Lodato, a store manager at Kohl’s. “It was really great to see the community come together like this. It was awesome.”
Kids picked backpacks, lunchboxes, shoes and other basics.
“It literally was like watching kids in a candy store,” Ojeda said.
It was the seventh straight year for the Micah House block party.
And all it took was one passionate gesture to put it all into perspective.
Joshua English, 8, had the winning raffle ticket, and he left with a bicycle.
But he chose one for his 10-year-old sister – her name is Heaven.
“Yea, she might go crazy,” Joshua said.
The bike was pink. She’ll like it.
“I think she will say `thank you,’ Joshua said.
It was the kind of gesture that made the effort worthwhile, especially for Diana Lawson – one of the program coordinators at Micah House.
“This year is real special,” Lawson said. “It’s a block party and there are kids, parents and volunteers. We are blessed at many levels. We aren’t just handing out backpacks. We are having a full-on party.”
The theme of the block party was `back to school’ and 650 backpacks filled with school supplies were given away free.
“We want to celebrate that they are going back to school,” said David Wilson, Micah House director. “We wanted to honor them and challenge them to do better things. We gave them a backpack filled with school supplies because we want them to succeed. We want do anything we can inspire the kids to want to do good in school.”
The block party featured various forms of entertainment: there was a DJ, a team of mimes from the High Desert and a puppet show. The Redlands Police Department raffled off 10 bicycles.
“We spend a lot of time loving this community because that is what these people need,” Wilson said. “Events like this where you have so many people volunteering demonstrates where (the) greater Redlands area really shows it cares about the community. It’s a real blessing.”
Ed Castro, Staff Writer