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Annual Winter Express Event teaches kids giving

MCKINLEYVILLE- Rows of presents are lining the room at Dow’s Prairie Grange waiting to be picked, wrapped, and given. It’s all for an annual event providing kids with the opportunity to give presents, instead of receive.

“We are going to get presents and have as much fun as we can because it's Christmas, almost,” one excited student said.

It is almost Christmas, and elementary students across the North Coast are getting their holiday shopping done just in time, thanks to the McKinleyville Lions Club.

“It started as a way for the children to feel like they're giving to parents or their family,” Cyndi Bainbridge, said.

It’s the annual Winter Express Program put on by the eight member Lions Club plus a village of around 200 volunteers. It’s a three day event that’s been running for the past eight years, giving kids an experience they aren’t necessarily used to.

“It gives the children the opportunity to shop without their parents present and when the child makes the choice to get a gift and the parent is not involved, it's just a totally different feeling for the kids,” Bainbridge said.

More than 700 kids will get to come down these aisles each getting to pick out four gifts for family or friends. If you do the math, that's nearly 3,000 items donated to the Lions Club for this year's Winter Express. 

The items are provided by local businesses or purchased from grant money. After students shop, elves help them wrap and tag the presents. Students also get a picture with Santa, someone who is in tune with the purpose of this program.

“I think one of the great things is it shows the spirit of sharing of Christmas,” Santa Claus said.

And he’s grateful for the help too.

“With all the pressure I have around the world, this does take a bit of the strain off,” Santa said.