PITTSBURG — Carts were filled with toys on Monday as eight lucky children walked down the aisles at Wal-Mart.

The children, from Westside Elementary School, were given an opportunity to buy themselves gifts through the Pittsburg Fire Department, a tradition which has continued since 1998.

Pittsburg Fire Department Captain Rich Wood said the event is paid for through a charity fund which local firemen put together out of their own pockets. Near Thanksgiving, the department buys a meal for a family or organization in need and the rest of the funds are used for eight to 10 lucky students from Pittsburg schools.
The children can spend between $75 to $100 on whatever they choose.

“We’ve bought anything from games, to basic clothes they want and candy,” Wood said. “A lot of them will buy stuff for their siblings and parents.

“We encourage them to get stuff for themselves because a lot to them want to buy gifts for their moms and dads.”

Last year, one child wanted a bicycle which was $85 — leaving little money left for any other gifts, Wood said. Someone came up and gave another $20 so the child could have a little more spending money.  

Wood said it is a great way to give back to the community, especially in this manner, because when firefighters see people it is usually because of an emergency.

The students being able to visit with the firefighters is beneficial for the children, Westside Elementary School Counselor Megan Dixon said.

“I think this is really good … it helps them build a relationship (between) our students and heroes of our county,” she said.

Just one hour before the trip the lucky students were made aware of what would be happening.

“Today when I told them they were going shopping with (the firefighters) they hugged me,” Dixon said. “They were so thankful and so happy — their whole face lit up.”

First grader Brenton McMullen said he was excited when he heard the news. He bought a fishing pole and a tackle box. He said he is ready to play now that he has new baseball gloves to go with his baseball and bat at home.

He also bought a gift for his brother and one for his whole family to enjoy.

First grader Sylas Herndon bounced up and down in excitement down the aisle on his way to pick up pillows with characters on them.

Down another aisle, his brother fourth grader Blaze Herndon was browsing toys to put in his cart.

He said he was surprised when he received the news.

“I was kinda surprised when they told me,” Blaze said. “I was like ‘are you sure it’s not that guy?’”

Fifth grader Julio Rueda said he got just what he wanted this year, a Nerf gun, along with a few gifts for his sisters, of course.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.