What children wish for

Angel, 4, wants a jacket and a bike. Daniel, 8, asks for shoes and a Dallas Cowboys jersey. Marshala, an 11-year-old girl, really wants a digital camera, as well as pants and shoes. Itxa, 8, has her heart set on warm clothes, dolls and a dollhouse. Jesus is 10 and needs winter clothes.

All are among the 1,140 children on tags that remain this week on the Soroptimist Community Christmas Tree outside the upper level of Forever 21 at Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto. Soroptimists from the Modesto and Modesto North clubs gather names, needs and wishes from organizations that work with children. They began the season with 3,200 names.

The program works like this: Shoppers take a tag with a first name, age and sizes, and shop for the two kinds of items — usually clothes or other necessities, along with one or two "wished for" gifts. They then return the tag with the unwrapped gifts, which are delivered to the children in time for Christmas.

Sometimes the "wished for" gifts are expensive — a new computer or Wii, for example.

"Sometimes (shoppers) are looking at tags and say, 'These are expensive things,' " said Patty Good, co-chairwoman of the project. "I always say, 'They're children. They ask for things. You don't have to get those things. You can choose another gift. They'll like anything you give them.' "

Notes on display at the tree from the children and their teachers or parents reveal the depth of thanks these simple gifts fulfill.

"Thank you so much for making our Christmas the best ever," wrote one child.

"I loved my kids' gift almost as much as they did," said a parent.

"My children were blessed for Christmas this year because you took the time to care," added another parent.

— Sue Nowicki