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Santa wise to enlist Rotary for help

It's a busy time of year for Santa Claus. Not only does he need to put finishing touches on the many thousands of gifts he will be delivering this year, his presence is requested in hundreds of locations so that children can give him their wish lists.

Fortunately, he has many elves to help with the task.

Early on the morning of Dec. 3, those elves came in the guise of Rotarians as members of the Boulder City Sunrise Rotary Club and Rotary Club of Boulder City joined with members from seven other clubs from around the Las Vegas Valley to spread some holiday cheer to underprivileged children.

That cheer was undeniable.

You could see it on the faces of the children and adults as they partnered for a shopping spree as part of the 20th annual Santa Clothes project.

Everyone's eyes sparkled, and their smiles beamed, as they wandered through the J.C. Penney at the Galleria at Sunset mall in search of much-needed warm winter clothing. More than 100 youngsters were brought to the Henderson store, where each was given $200 to spend on items such as new shoes, socks, winter coats, pants, shirts and pajamas.

The children in Henderson were joined by another 200 at two other locations, with each child accompanied by a Rotarian or friend or relative of a Rotarian. In all, 330 children were given a special holiday present this year.

For the first time in several years, Boulder City children were able to participate in the shopping event.

"It's really phenomenal," said Kevin Lampman, president of the Sunrise club, about the group's participation in the Santa Clothes project.

Not only do club members have the opportunity to help a child in need, they fund the project from their own pockets, he said. No club money is used to sponsor the program.

Josh Brimhall, who coordinated efforts for the Sunrise club, said members gathered $4,700 for the holiday program. And more than 30 made the trek over the hill to help the kids shop.

This year marked Sunrise member Brad McKinley's third shopping trip for the holiday. He said he is keenly aware of how many underprivileged kids there are in the area as he helps with another group's clothing program for needy children once a month.

"I, we, everyone in the club is so fortunate to have a job, career, income. I wish we could do this once a week," he said.

"It gives me chills," said Robert Pavlowski, who is a member of the noon club. "I've always had a heart for this; I love helping underprivileged kids. It brings more joy to me."

It was a day of firsts for Pavlowski and Thomas, the young boy he was paired with. Both experienced Santa Clothes for the first time, and it was the first time Thomas had participated in a Boys and Girls Club event or gone on a field trip.

Thomas was overwhelmed with the notion of picking out so many new things. But there was one thing he had to have: a pair of shoes that fit. Color and style was unimportant.

"It's the highlight of the year," said Dr. Bob Merrell, who was joined by his wife, Lori.

The two have been participating in Santa Clothes since the Sunrise Rotary joined the project about 10 years ago. They have become experts and were among the first to check out, selecting the perfect items and spending every dollar in just 30 minutes.

"The stressful part is checking out," Lori Merrell said, cheering after seeing the final tally.

Though they were armed with calculators, it can be tricky getting all the items to total $200. In fact, before they were paired with the children, J.C. Penney employees suggested each Rotarian grab an extra shirt or package of socks to make sure they spent every available cent.

In addition to a bag full of new clothing, each child left the store with a bundle of holiday goodies that included books, a wooden car and personal hygiene items.

But the gifts didn't stop there. After shopping, the children were taken to UNLV for a chance to meet some of the athletes, enjoy activities and have lunch.

The elves' good work surely made Santa proud.

— Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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