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Santa Protectors take area youth on shopping spree

Raising the funds to make Santa Protectors a reality can be challenging. Finding first responders to volunteer to take area youth shopping is no problem at all.

A local tradition now more than two decades old continued Saturday with the annual Santa Protectors event in Shelbyville.

Area youth were selected by school counselors then the Santa Protectors took over.

We use the school system for that. We try to stay hands off with that since the counselors work with the kids everyday and are around them a lot more than we would ever be,” said Jared Wilson, a Shelbyville paramedic that helps organize the event. “So they get the names to us and we set them up for today.”

A total of seven elementary schools in Shelby County are asked to submit four names of children in grades K-5. The goal is to provide for 28 children but the list only made it to 27 this year. Twenty-five of those children took part in Saturday’s event.

Families of the children involved provide a shopping list to help with the selections. And the two children that could not attend Saturday still had Santa Protectors filling up shopping carts.

Saturday morning started with breakfast at fire station No. 1 courtesy of Linne’s Bakery and Moore. Then the children were loaded into fire trucks, sheriff’s vehicles and police cars and paraded to Walmart with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

On their way into Walmart, the group was met by a wall of Walmart employees applauding their arrival.

“I am pretty sure we have almost every county volunteer fire department, plus the sheriff department, the police department and emergency management was in the building this morning,” said Wilson of those involved with the Santa Protectors this year. “We try to incorporate all our public safety first responders.

“This year we actually had more volunteers than kids. We had a very good turnout this year. It’s pretty neat to watch.”

Typically each child is provided with $125 to spend but a strong fundraising effort netted enough to bump that limit to $175 per child.

“We had a really good year,” said Wilson. “It all depends on donations and we had some really good donations come in this year. It is really rewarding to see.”

The Santa Protectors typically start in the clothing aisle to make sure each child get some necessary clothing. Then it’s time to head to the toy aisle.

“We get all the necessities first – clothes, tennis shoes, some not so appealing stuff like underwear and socks,” said Wilson. “Kids aren’t really into that but we want to make sure we provide the necessities they need. But, it’s Christmas, and we save money on the back side to get them a couple smaller toys.”

After the shopping spree, the youth are taken back to fire station No. 1 for lunch provided by the Tri Kappa sorority group and Santa Claus paid a visit.

“By far, this is absolutely the most fun day for everybody,” said Wilson. “It’s fun for the community to stop and see it. I think the community really enjoys seeing the big line of 30 different fire trucks and cop cars this morning (headed to Walmart).”

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