By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ
COOKEVILLE – Thursday morning, as their way to celebrate National First Responders Day and to help out the community, Academy Sports + Outdoors surprised 36 local children with a $115 gift card to shop with a P.A.L. (Police Athletic League) police officer, and other first responders and military personnel from around the area, to select new gear, clothes, games and more.
“This is just Academy’s way of bonding with the community and showing our care for law enforcement, first responders, military and the care for the kids,” said Shane Nelson, Store Director. “We’re making sure the kids get to enjoy a sports and outdoors product for the holidays, and really looking forward to seeing how they do.”
The store’s $4,000 donation to the community is the third event like this since the store opened in October 2018.
“We did this when we first opened the store,” said Nelson. “We worked with Sgt. Mike Herrick (CPD) and brought in a bunch of kids for a shopping spree, and we also did a local bike donation to 30 or 40 kids. Each one of them got a bike and helmet. It’s about being involved with these local kids. Some of them might not have a Christmas, and this is a great opportunity for them to have that.”
The children were selected from schools across the county and transported to Academy on buses Thursday morning. Participants were selected by school guidance counselors.
“You think about the children who it would make the most emotional and life impact on,” said Chloe Callis, Counselor at Prescott South Middle School. “You get to know kids and build relationships with them and know their families. The two we chose… it was obvious immediately that this would mean a lot to them.”
“There’s a kid that’s never been to Academy before. This is their first experience here – the first time,” shared Hannah Davis, Director of Communications for Putnam County Schools.
Each student was accompanied by a first responder who assisted in locating items the student desired. There were also 15 Academy employees available to assist with any additional needs.
“The best part was seeing so many smiling happy faces. On the kids obviously, but the adults too, remarked Callis. “It was just so much joy, and at a time when there’s so much negativity and so much dread, fear and conflict, it’s so nice to see just unrestrained connection and joy and fun. And for kids to get things that maybe they don’t feel like they can get or should get, to just feel guilt free, and to know that all the things they are getting now will be memories that they will get to have forever.”