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Rocklin High students host children’s holiday shopping event

By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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To donate to the Thunder Galleria

What: Gifts for parents and older siblings

Where: Rocklin High School office, 5301 Victory Lane, Rocklin

When: 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday and Monday

On Monday night, the Rocklin High School cafeteria will be transformed into a makeshift shopping mall for an annual holiday shopping spree for elementary school students.

The school’s annual Thunder Galleria allows elementary school-age children to shop for Christmas presents for their families. Amber Tillery, a college and career counselor at the high school and the event’s faculty advisor, expects 150 to 200 children will shop.

“Students from the Rocklin Unified School District elementary schools have been invited,” Tillery said. “A notice went out to elementary school teachers in the district asking them if they knew students who could benefit. This started as a student project 15 or 16 years ago and it was so successful the school has held it since.”

Children will select from donated items all priced at one Thunder buck and each child starts with 10 Thunder bucks. Donations of fathers’ gifts are still needed and can be dropped off at the school’s office, 5301 Victory Lane, Rocklin.

“We’re looking for gifts for any family member: moms, dads and older siblings,” Tillery said. “We will take gently-used items but no clothing or perishables. Accessories are OK.”

The event is completely student-run and organized, according to Tillery.

Senior Alec Pitts, 17, has participated in the Thunder Galleria all four years at the school and is the event’s student director.

“I do it because I like seeing the faces of the kids when they come in and know they are able to give presents to their families,” Pitts said. “Their joy fills me with pride for my school and community. Next year I will try to be involved with a similar program wherever I go to college.”

Pitts and 19 other students have met weekly since October planning the Thunder Galleria. Nearly 200 volunteers will help Monday night.

“There are about 140 students, or elves, who will take kids shopping and about 40 students who will be shopkeepers,” Pitts said. “We have a gift-wrapping station run by the California Scholarship Federation Club.”

Keir Van Nieuwburg, 14, a freshman, and Daniel McElhinney, 16, a junior, are two Thunder Galleria board of directors.

“This is my third year volunteering for this great program,” McElhinney said. “I really like helping others and my family always volunteers at Christmas. I love working with kids and it’s an overwhelmingly joyful experience to watch They care so much about getting gifts for their parents.”

Van Nieuwburg volunteered “to get more involved” with her school.

“I want to spread the joy of giving to families who can’t afford to and to help them have a great holiday season,” Van Nieuwburg said. “I would do it again next year.”

Tillery said a parents’ waiting room, hosted by the Placer Valley Sunrise Rotary Club, will be available so gifts remain a surprise until Christmas.