One by one selected Shelby County elementary students walked into Walmart Saturday morning accompanied by an emergency responder.
After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Santa Protectors was back to a full slate of activities in 2021 that included helping area youth.
“I am in my 15th year and I’ve been involved with it since I came in,” said Shelbyville firefighter Jared Wilson, who spearheads the effort in Shelby County. “This is the greatest day of the year. Last year, we didn’t get to do it so it was abnormal for everybody. This is the time of year where everybody puts everything aside and comes in here as one.
“This is the greatest day of the year for us, the police department, the fire department and everybody involved. We love it.”
Santa Protectors contacts local schools seeking youth that need holiday assistance. This year, 20 boys and girls were selected to spend the day with local emergency responders and have a shopping spree.
The morning started with breakfast at fire station No. 1 in downtown Shelbyville.
Jeff Brown photos
A fleet of emergency response vehicles filled a section of the Shelbyville Walmart parking lot Saturday morning for the Santa Protectors shopping spree. (Top photo): Mike Cleveland, with the Shelby County Sheriff's Department, shops with Trey, age 9, to find some toys to purchase. Cleveland was joined by his wife, Kristina, to assist Trey in making his holiday selections.
The boys and girls were then loaded in emergency responder vehicles for a parade across town to Walmart, lights flashing and sirens blaring.
Once inside Walmart, each youth and designated emergency responder had $200 to spend on clothes, winter apparel and toys.
Once shopping was completed, the youth were returned to the firehouse for a catered lunch.
In 2020, emergency responders had to shop without the designated youth because of pandemic protocols. The gifts were then delivered to each family.
The 2021 event included members of the Shelbyville Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, numerous volunteer departments in the county and, of course, the Shelbyville Fire Department.
Wilson found organizing the 2021 event came quite easy.
“We have groups that want to help every year,” said Wilson. “The Tri Kappa sorority in town takes care of all our food. They provide lunch and drinks and Bill Moore at Linne’s (Bakery) generously donated the donuts for breakfast.
“A lot of organizations and businesses in town look forward to helping, not only the tangibles but monetarily as well. We don’t really have to ask for donations. There are times they come in willingly and we don’t have to seek anything.”