More than 300 children shown love from ROHO

More than 330 underprivileged children from 28 schools in five counties participated in the ROHO Christmas Shopping Spree at the Walmart in Middlesboro yesterday, a local Christmas tradition that has been rising in popularity since 1970.

This year, children were given $150 apiece with a stipulation that $110 of that amount be allotted for clothing of their choosing and $40 that they could spend on toys or other items.

The children were also given a pair of new shoes donated by a local business that chose to remain anonymous.

Children from Bell and Harlan Counties in Kentucky, Lee County Virginia and Claiborne and Union Counties in Tennessee were selected by the faculty at each school.

“As a teacher it’s the most rewarding experience because I worry about some of my kids not having Christmas and this takes that fear way because I know that they’re going to have a coat and new shoes this year,” said Jessica Jones, a teacher at Springdale Elementary. “I even came to ROHO in middle school when I was in Beta Club and helped other student’s shop, so I have loved ROHO close to twenty years now.”

One of Jones’ students, nine-year-old Rylee Greer, was so excited about the day that her aunt did her hair for the special day and bought her a new dress and boots.

“I felt happy, grateful, and thankful and I’m really glad that I wasn’t left out,” Greer said. She encouraged her fellow students who were not chosen to take part this year to keep up hope. “If you don’t get picked this year, maybe you’ll get picked next year, and I really hope that you will.”

Greer was accompanied during the shopping spree by Tyra Sanchez, amember of the Lincoln Memorial University bowling team.

“This is my first year helping and I’ve really enjoyed doing it,” Sanchez said. “I love Rylee, she’s so cool and it’s really nice to see the children of all ages around. It’s amazing walking around here seeing the smiles on their faces; it’s really heartwarming and I’m so glad to be a part of it.”

Each student was assisted by an adult volunteer from a local business, school, or civic organization who helped guide them through their day of shopping. Store aisles appeared full of LMU athletes who had volunteered to accompany the children as they shopped.

ROHO spokesperson Lawrence Tuck said Walmart is an outstanding supporter of the program.

“They go above and beyond the checkout lane to make this a very memorable day for all involved,” Tuck said.

“We always look forward to the event and we love being a part of an event that touches the lives of so many children in the community,” said store manager Doug Napier. “We love seeing each child’s smiling face and we just appreciate being a part of the ROHO event and thankful for what they do.

“So many of them want to buy Christmas presents for others but we really drill in the fact that this is their day, this is about you,” Jones explained. “They get so excited and they want this to be the greatest day ever.”

ROHO raises funds for the annual event with a fishing tournament in May with all proceeds going to the shopping spree. The Middlesboro-based organization was started in the 1960s to provide services to underprivileged members of the community.