She didn’t know who she was shopping for – just that for the person represented by the age and gender notation, the gift she was selecting might be one of very few – perhaps the only gift – the person might receive this holiday season.
But it didn’t put extra pressure on Mariah Sallee as she looked over the selections at a local big box retailer”.
“This is really cool,” she said after posing with her fellow WyldLife members with a shopping cart full of gifts for those less fortunate in the Chugiak-Eagle River area. WyldLife is the middle school division of the high school group, Young Life Alaska, which is part of the national Christian-oriented youth ministry.“I just really like shopping for other people.”
And shop she did – along with another 10-plus middle school students who are part of the youth organization that gets tweens together for supervised fun activities intermingled with Bible study and service.
The fun for the Dec. 12 gathering was a photo scavenger hunt at Wal-Mart in which the participants had to get photos of Santa doing a variety of activities. The service part was shopping on behalf of the children of eight client families affiliated with the Eagle River Love, Inc., for the gifts the adults in their lives cannot afford to provide.
WyldLife is specifically targeted for middle schoolers – an age bracket the national Young Life organization indicates is a time full of decision-making for young people.
For its local leaders – several of whom have children involved in the organization – that decision-making process took a philanthropically-oriented turn this holiday season as the tweens convinced their parents to collectively give the group $500 designated for the photo scavenger shopping trip.
“It is so refreshing to see these kids have a heart for someone else; a heart for something bigger than themselves and a vision of service to others,” Maria Hopkins, one of the group’s adult leaders, said.
That thought was echoed by Caitlinn Davies, a member of WyldLife.
“My favorite part was how we got to buy gifts for people who could not afford them,” she said.
Of course, these are young people and the group’s name – WyldLife can give some indication of the “wild” fun they look to have if only in their tween-age dreams.
Not that this happened – the ECHO News noted no destruction occurred during the frenzied photographic search – but to the tweens getting to cruise Wal-Mart as fast as their feet could carry them without hearing their parents telling them to stop running, slow down or watch out for others was pretty much the same as “getting to do damage” at Wal-Mart.
For clarity sakes, “getting to do damage” at Wal-Mart isn’t actual physical damage in tween lingo.
Malia Batchelder, a WyldLife member, explained, “It is more like we got to run around a lot, which generally is not allowed,” she said with a glee only defined by a tween-age smile and sparkling eyes. “I loved (emphasis on loved) getting to do the scavenger hunt.”