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Kids enjoy virtual 'Shop with a Hero'

Henderson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Rich Simpson helps Daemon, an Etowah Elementary student, buy Christmas presents on line. Henderson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Rich Simpson helps Daemon, an Etowah Elementary student, buy Christmas presents on line.

For the seventh consecutive year, local elementary students were able to ‘Shop with a Hero’ by pairing up with first responders and selecting gifts for themselves and their families.

Because of pandemic precautions, there wasn’t the same level of hustle and bustle, but the interactions and smiles shared between officers, firefighters, and students were brighter than ever.

“This is one of our favorite events of the entire year and we knew we had to find a way to make it happen,” said Hendersonville Police Lt. Mike Vesely. “Bringing 65 kids and dozens of first responders together in one place wasn’t an option this year, so our School Resource Officers helped students with their online shopping spree at their respective schools.”
Every year five students from each of the thirteen Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS) are selected to participate. Instead of being bussed to the Hendersonville Wal-Mart, the students met their SRO, along with another first responder hero, in the school’s media center or computer lab. With the help of the heroes, the students spent a $100 gift card in Wal-Mart’s online store. The purchases will be delivered to their homes before the holidays.
Lt. Vesely works with the Henderson County school system's Director of Student Services, Matt Gruebmeyer, and school counselors, teachers, Wal-Mart associates, fellow first responders, and local businesses and non-profits to organize the annual event. Students are selected for a variety of reasons including those who display leadership potential, have financial need, would benefit from a boost in self-esteem, or have consistently served their classmates and community.
“We were thrilled to get creative with the planning of this year’s event,” Gruebmeyer said. “Our media specialists got to play an important role this year since the shopping moved to an online experience. The joy this event brings everyone involved is terrific and it has been wonderful to involve additional staff so they can see a bit of the holiday happiness.”
While students didn’t have the bustling shopping experience, schools like Etowah Elementary went out of their way to make the experience fun for students by adding individual crafting and snacks to the mix.
This year’s Shop with a Hero event was funded through a Wal-Mart Foundation Grant and the city of Hendersonville. For their collaboration in the charity, Hendersonville police thanked Henderson County Public Schools, Hendersonville Police Department SRO’s, Henderson County Sheriff’s Office SRO’s, Hendersonville Fire Department, Dana Fire & Rescue, Mills River Fire & Rescue, Valley Hill Fire & Rescue, Edneyville Fire & Rescue and Etowah-Horse Shoe Fire & Rescue.