By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
MOORE – Dylan wore a smile on his face and new Puma tennis shoes on his feet Friday morning at JC Penney’s.
The Soldier Creek Elementary School student picked out new clothes as part of an annual holiday shopping event with employees from Tinker Air Force Base. And he didn’t need too much help finding things.
“He knew what he wanted, he knew what size he wore, and we moved through it and were the first ones to finish,” said Randy Mitchell, a Tinker employee who helped Dylan shop.
The pair had a good time shopping together, despite getting a little lost looking for finger skateboards, Mitchell said.
“We had a lot fun and had some laughs,” Dylan said.
It was a similar experience for June Decker, a student at Epperly Heights and self-described “fashion girl.”
“I found a lifetime of stuff,” she said.
June picked up shirts, shoes, gloves and more. She loved it all, but her favorite were her new sparkly pink boots. Tanya Henson and Shala Reinche helped June shop.
“We’ve done this four or five years and we love it,” Henson said.
“And we’re boy moms so we enjoyed the opportunity to shop with a girl,” Reinche said.
Thirty children from each of the 13 elementary schools in the Mid-Del School District took part in the event called Clothe-the-Children. At least one boy and one girl were selected from each school.
Each child had $150 to spend on clothes. JC Penney’s provided discounts for the young shoppers. Children also received breakfast and snacks afterwards.
Employees with the Commercial Derivative Aircraft Division office helped students pick out new shirts, pants, shoes and more. Rachel Ridlen works at Tinker and helped organize the event. She said employees in her department enthusiastically volunteered and donated for the annual event.
“We love it every year and I always have people come up and say thank you and how much they enjoy it,” Ridlen said. “It’s just a really good way to reach out to the community. I love working with the schools and JC Penney’s. It’s a joy every year.”
“We’re still in a telework environment but people know this comes up every year so they’re always ready for the emails to come out,” she said.
They had more volunteers than in the past few years.
“We had enough volunteers to pair up with all the kids, so we didn’t need to have any of the counselors shop with kids,” she said.
The current Clothe-the-Children program started in the early 1990s after a Tinker employee saw a young boy walking to school without a coat. After seeing the same child several times, the employee bought a coat and tried to give it to the boy. But the scared child wouldn’t accept it. The employee shared his experience with his co-workers and they decided to start the event, a tradition that continues to this day.