Thunder Galleria gives children chance to shop

By: Lauren Weber, Placer Herald Associate Editor
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More than 200 shoppers who haven’t spent time at the Galleria at Roseville to pick out their Christmas gifts, recently ventured to Rocklin High School’s version of a mall – Thunder Galleria. And instead of dishing out the dough for the gift-giving season, children were able to go from station to station, gathering gifts for their family, at no cost. Hundreds of items were donated to this year’s Thunder Galleria, an annual event at Rocklin High School that gives underprivileged children the opportunity to pick out free gifts for their family members. One child wasted no time filling the shopping bag – it took two Rocklin High student “elves” to carry the gifts including stuffed animals and lotions. Among the donated gifts were picture frames, television sets, movies, books, board games, jewelry, knitted items by the Textile Arts club and much more. Stations were also set up for more personalized gift giving: a card-making station, cookie decorating, frame decorating and photos with Santa Claus. A gift-wrapping station was also set up. More than 200 children showed up to shop at this year’s event, with the help of approximately 300 Rocklin High students, said Cindy Cutts, faculty advisor for the event. Cutts estimated between $10,000 and $20,000 worth of merchandise filled the cafeteria this year, all donated from friends and families of Rocklin High students. Cutts said they discourage asking businesses for donations. With their zero dollar budget, the young shoppers still found desired gifts including bikes, remote control cars and 15 television sets, Cutts said. “Thunder Galleria is about giving,” she said. One of the things the event gives children is the power to purchase, Cutts said. Senior Rosie Perrot, co-director of Thunder Galleria with Jacqueline Burg, said she finds the event rewarding. “I was an elf my freshman year and I just loved it,” she said. “You kind of see your classmates in a totally different light.” Perrot admits that being in a privileged community, people are sometimes unaware of less fortunate children and families. Part of her role as co-coordinator was to send invitations out to all Rocklin elementary school principals as well as in Lincoln and Loomis, inviting children. From there, teachers passed the invitations out to students in need. “Teachers know which kids need help,” Cutts said. Each child came equipped with a shopping list for their immediate family and was assigned an elf to shop with. Cutts said elves go through elf training to earn their elf license, teaching them to stay with their shopper and how to reunite the children with their parents afterward. During Thunder Galleria’s first year, there were 75 shoppers. Eight years later, the number has almost tripled, becoming a holiday tradition for not only the high school, but the community as well.