EDWARDSVILLE -- As 4-year-old Nicholas Bednar stood on tippy toes to reach a giant Leggo Dino set at Kmart on Sunday, his dad lunged as it started to fall.
My family's been asking him all weekend what he wants for Christmas, and he just say ‘toys,' said Nicholas Bednar Sr., 23, as he guided his son through the toy department.
Nicholas was one of 120 economically disadvantaged area children who were treated to a holiday shopping spree sponsored by the Plymouth Rotary Club. The children were referred by area churches, schools and the Plymouth and Edwardsville chapters of Head Start.
It's nice seeing the children light up when they go down the toy aisle, said 17-year-old Devin Ryman, who along with her fellow members of Wyoming Valley West High School's Student Council, served as chaperones to help the kids choose gifts for themselves and family members.
They get really excited.
This is the 17th year the Plymouth Rotary has sponsored Kids @ Kristmas, said event founder Buddy O'Malia, who is also the past district governor of the Rotary.
Throughout the year, the organization holds several fundraisers to help finance the event, which also included snacks and a visit with Santa. Teachers and staff from the two Head Start chapters were also on hand to wrap the gifts.
This is for the underprivileged kids that don't really have a Christmas, as we know it, said O'Malia. It's like putting a little bit of magic into these kids' lives. A lot of them may not even have a tree at home.
Although the children can buy what they want, O'Malia said he's been touched by the selflessness demonstrated by many of them, as he recalled one 6-year-old girl some years ago.
I said, ‘Elizabeth, I see you're buying for everyone in your family, but what are you going to buy for yourself?' She said, ‘If there's enough money left over, I'll buy something for myself.'
The two-hour morning event has been held every year at the Edwardsville Kmart, with the exception of last year, when the store was still closed after the September flood. It was held at the Wilkes-Barre store.
At 11 o'clock we go home knowing we made a difference in the lives of many children, said O'Malia.
Service above self is the Rotary motto, and this project exemplifies that motto. Our reward is in here, he said, pointing to his heart.