Stacey Simmons walked around the Clinton Walmart Thursday evening, searching for a Tic-Tac-Toe game she knew one of her students wanted for Christmas. Simmons, along with other exceptional children’s teachers from across Sampson County, were given the opportunity thanks to the Civitan Club of Sampson County to shop for gifts to give to students this holiday season.
Each child who is a part of the Champions Program of Clinton City and Sampson County schools will receive a present from Santa Claus during the Christmas celebration next week. The gifts are made possible through funds given to each teacher by the Civitans.
“Members of the Sampson County Civitan Club met at Walmart with the teachers of the special needs programs in the Sampson County and Clinton City school systems to purchase Christmas gifts for their students,” Jerry Merritt, president, said.
Students who have either a physical of mental disability and are part of the exceptional children’s program with either school system are part of the Champions Program. Each year, the Civitan Club holds two fundraisers and uses money raised to purchase gifts for the students.
Simmons, along with Ashley Melton and Crystal Blanchard, fellow Sampson Middle School teachers, said they were shopping for 11 students, mostly boys, in the sixth through eighth grades. A few weeks ago, Simmons said they brought the students into Walmart and let them look around, not telling them why, to pick out some items they may want for Christmas.
There nearly 200 kids who are part of the Champions from all five schools in the city’s district and 15 schools in Sampson County’s district. All teachers are invited out to Walmart, given an amount to spend per child, and then released to their shopping.
“The teachers know the students better than we do,” Terry Williams, Civitan member, said. “That’s why we invite the teachers to do the shopping.”
The gifts will be given to the students during the Champions Christmas party at Midway Elementary School.
Simmons said she was excited about the opportunity to shop for her students, and pick out things she knew they would love.
“We all talked about each student and decided what gift would be the best for them, and something they wanted,” Simmons shared. “It will be such a wonderful sight to see their eyes light up when they receive their gifts next week.”
Age appropriate gifts are purchased for the children and then given to them by Santa during a celebration.
“For many of these children, the gift they receive through the Civitans is the only present they will get this Christmas,” Melton said.”It’s nice to know that each child will receive something and make their Christmas that much better.
For the Civitan’s part, both Williams and Merritt say the event would not be possible without the businesses and individuals of Sampson County who show a great deal of support in the fundraising efforts held throughout the year.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.