The annual event lets kids go on a $100 shopping spree

  • The program budget was $32,500 this year.
  • Dozens of volunteer shoppers accompany the children, helping them stay within $100.
  • The Children’s Coats Program will be held in Rio del Sol Kiwanes this weekend at the Farmington Civic Center.

FARMINGTON – Bob Brooks looks at the long line of shopping carts that set up inside the Farmington location early on the evening of November 3, as well as the rapidly growing group of families forming on the side. There was a mixture of anticipation and apprehension on his face.

“It will be like cats grazing here in about 20 minutes,” he said, grinning and smiling at the same time.

Brooks, longtime chair of the children’s clothing committee at the Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club, was in the midst of organizing volunteers to help families in need participating in the organization’s annual holiday shopping event. The two-night event, which was scheduled to run November 4, allowed a total of 325 elementary school children to choose outfits worth $100 each, with purchases covered by the club.

He watches: Bob Brooks of Kiwanis talks about the ‘Clothes for Kids’ campaign

Families participating in the program are nominated by teachers and counselors in schools throughout the community.

Families participating in the children's clothing program at the Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club line up inside the target site in Farmington on November 3.

The budget for the program is $32,500 this year, Brooks said. Rio del Sol Kiwanis comes with money through several fundraising events throughout the year, including the annual Dining with the Dead Celebration, and through regular fundraising channels.

Eating with the deadHistory comes alive

The organization ran the program for 15 years, and Brooks was president for 13 and a half years. He said these duties prevented him from doing any of the shopping with the participating children. But his favorite part of the experience is the stories he hears later from the volunteers, who accompany the kids through the store, help them find the right clothes in the right sizes and keep them within their $100 budget.

As the 5:30 p.m. shopping spree approaches on November 3, Brooks gathers dozens of volunteers around him and gives them a series of last-minute instructions. He finished his presentation by reminding the volunteers to enjoy themselves.

Bob Brooks, chair of the Rio del Sol Kiwanis Children's Wear Committee, gives some last-minute instructions to volunteers before the event begins on November 3 at the target site in Farmington.

“Basically, just go out and have fun,” he said.

The group of shoppers included two Animas Elementary School students, 10-year-old Autumn and 7-year-old Kai, who were accompanied by Sarah Alcon and Jed Garcia of Four Corners Ichigo Cosplay. Alcon was dressed as Snow White, while Garcia was dressed as Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.” They said they have volunteered for children’s clothing for the past five years.

Volunteers Sara Alcon, left, and Jade Garcia join 7-year-old Kai and 10-year-old Autumn shopping during the Rio del Sol Kids' Clothing event on November 3 at the Target location in Farmington.

Within minutes of the event starting, the aisles of the store’s children’s clothing section were filled with shoppers and volunteers. While Alcon and Garcia were sewing the crowd with their shopping carts, Autumn and Kai led the way in search of new jeans, T-shirts, shoes, socks, and underwear. Autumn was the most competent shopper, quickly filling her cart, while Kai seemed interested only in an outfit that resembled Star Wars characters.

It took some research, but Garcia, who was a volunteer with Kay, finally identified a display of T-shirts featuring images of pop culture figures. Kai’s face lit up as he picked out three shirts before he was reluctantly persuaded to walk away in search of necessities like socks and underwear.

Dressed as the Grinch, Rio del Sol Kiwanis club president Tony Digiacomo interacts with two young shoppers during the November 3 kids' clothing event at Target in Farmington.

“We make dreams come true for people,” Brooks said, describing the sense of fulfillment this experience gives.

He told a story from a previous children’s clothing event during which a young girl who had already selected $100 items wanted to add a new pair of shoes to her cart. Brooks said her volunteer tried to explain to her that she was really on her limits, but that the little girl was adamant.

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