For the 49th consecutive year, the La Porte Jaycees hosted their Deserving Children’s Shopping Tour on Tuesday night to ensure that every child in the county has a very special holiday.
Hosted at the La Porte County Fairgrounds community building, the event invited more than 300 La Porte area children to collect CompressAir drawstring bags stuffed with goodies, devour a yummy dinner, and take photos with Santa and Star Wars Stormtroopers. After the festivity, each child received $125 to spend on shopping at Walmart with their designated chaperones.
Kim Snyder, a lead organizer and preschool facilitator at Crichfield Elementary School, said that the event grows more every year. The following Wednesday night, the La Porte Jaycees were expecting around 250 kids to partake in the Michigan City leg of the tour.
“We would love to take more kids, we just have to find more chaperones,” she said. “Sending them all to one store on one night is already a lot, but maybe we’ll prepare for more in the future.”
The chaperones are all volunteers, mostly teachers and first responders. Snyder coordinates with the county schools, who select the children and send home permission slips for their parents to sign. Once Snyder and the Jaycees secure enough volunteer chaperones, the schools and Jaycees work to pair off each child or family with two chaperones, then inform the children’s parents of the chaperones. All told, planning for the event takes about two to three months, usually beginning in late September.
“It’s a lot of work to put this on, but it’s worth it in the end, just seeing all those smiles,” Snyder said.
Along with coordinating comes the fundraising. Each year, businesses in the county work to raise the money needed to make this event such a special occasion for the children. This year, CompressAir purchased goody bags for children to collect their treats; the Jaycees provided and purchased blankets, stockings, and books; PetSmart donated stuffed animals; Maple City Dentistry purchased toothbrushes for the stockings; McDonald’s purchased dinner; and Garwood Orchards provided apples to accompany dinner.
Kristian Metcalf, a Jaycee member and event organizer, said that CompressAir is a significant supporter of the Deserving Children’s Shopping Tour.
“This is the second year they’ve participated,” she said. “They’re a fantastic family. Very involved in the community, and we appreciate their support in this event.”
Metcalf said they were looking forward to seeing Kelly Crowl, wife of CompressAir owner Andy Crowl, chaperone for the following night’s Michigan City event.
“Being asked to be a chaperone for the Deserving Children’s Shopping Tour is an experience I would highly recommend. The pure joy on the children’s faces is hard to beat. Knowing Compress Air realizes the need and donates as they do, makes me even more proud to help others in our very own community," said Crowl.
Other key organizations help secure the funds for the children to go shopping. Dennis Siddall of 96.7 The Eagle, La Porte’s community radio station, hosts a Roof Sit fundraiser every year to raise awareness and donations for the Deserving Children’s Shopping Tour. After sitting and standing on the station’s roof for three days, Siddall raised $42,000 this year. In addition, the La Porte County Association of REALTORS also hosts a large auction for the tour. This year, they raised about $52,000.
“The community comes together as one for this,” Snyder said. “All the different businesses are coming together to donate, and more than 600 chaperones are donating their time. It’s just cool to see all the community come together for these families that might not be able to provide a Christmas for their kids this year, or maybe they’re going through a hardship at this time, and this extra step helps.”
Deputy Derrick Deck, serving his first year with the La Porte County Sheriff’s Department, served as a first-time chaperone for the event.
“I love kids, so anything the department does to get involved with kids, I’m all about that,” Deck said. “I think it’s wonderful. The La Porte Jaycees and everyone who put this together did a great job.”
Deck has been a La Porte resident since 1999, but his decision to join the sheriff’s department is a fresh one.
“Our department is very big on community, which is why, in these later years of my life, I decided to join them,” Deck said. “This sort of activity that they get involved with plays directly on my heartstrings, if you will.”
Will he chaperone again next year?
“Absolutely,” Deck said.
For chaperones and kids alike, the Deserving Children’s Shopping Tour is the perfect example of how far community support can propel someone’s spirits.
“Just seeing the kids,” Snyder mused. “They’re so happy to go out shopping and experience this night. They feel special that they were chosen. And a lot of times, the kids want to [use their shopping money to] get extra gifts for family members, too, so that just makes it all even more special. You’ll hear, ‘I want to get this for my little sister,’ or ‘I want to get this for my mom.’ It’s so endearing.”
The La Porte Jaycees, CompressAir, and other community supporters look forward to next year’s milestone 50th Deserving Children’s Shopping Tour.
“Being able to be a part of the Jaycees Deserving Children’s Shopping Tour is exciting. It’s one of the largest community events in our community and CompressAir is so gracious to play a part in it. We can’t wait to help celebrate their 50th year next year!” said Brittany Fisher Director of Marketing Communications at CompressAir.