Ten kids got a special opportunity to fill their shopping carts Tuesday with back-to-school clothes and other supplies at no charge thanks to a generous donation by Target.
The giant retailer partnered with The Salvation Army to donate $1 million nationwide for students in need. Each student in Merced received an $81 gift card to buy must-have items for the new school year.
Joel Harmon, captain with The Salvation Army in Merced, said this is the first year the organization was included in the Target shopping spree.
"I'm happy the kids are able to come get some things they might have missed out on," Harmon said. "To start the school year with new clothes it feels good. I just had a smile on my face the whole time."
Sierrah Barnett, 15, used her money to buy a few new blouses for school, and was excited about scooping up the latest fashions. "I feel excited for new stuff, and hope I have cool stuff," she said. "It was fun, and it got me out of the house."
Valerie Noble, 13, said the best part was browsing the store and looking at all the new items. "Just to walk around and look at stuff," Noble said. "It's great because it makes you feel special."
Harmon said the kids participating in the shopping spree ranged from age 5 to 15, and were selected by The Salvation Army staff. "The families that we work with at Salvation Army don't have much, so they're excited to get new things," he said.
For 12-year-old Noah Ramirez, it was all about replacing old and outdated items from last year. He ended up filling his cart with a couple pairs of pants, shirts and a stapler.
"Your old things might not fit anymore or they're broken," Ramirez said. "It was really nice for them to let us do this. I was just amazed they would do it."
Katelyn Sanders, 11, also replaced something she'd outgrown her old pair of shoes. "The first thing I thought was to get new shoes for P.E. because these ones hurt my feet," said Sanders, pointing to her sneakers. It was fun for Sanders until "we couldn't buy any more," she said with a smile.
Since 2009, the Target School Spree has helped kids gear up for the new year with back-to-school supplies. This year, nearly 500 stores across the country will participate in the shopping spree.
"Target is excited to partner with The Salvation Army on the Target School Spree in 2013," said Laysha Ward, president of Target Community Relations, in a statement. "The program provides thousands of students in need with back-to-school supplies that will help them start a new year on the right foot."
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.