Young children run joyfully into the room, their steps quick and bouncy and their smiles wide. They take their first step inside, amazed at the wonders in front of them: hundreds of rolls of shiny wrapping paper, tons of sparkly bows, curly ribbons and the enormous mountain of gifts from which they have to choose. One little girl runs to the jewelry section, her eyes set on the necklace: its gold coating reflects the light, its rhinestones sit perfectly in the center and its chain is ever so perfectly dainty. Her brother darts for the toys, immediately selecting the largest one on the table: a figurine of a wrestler with clenched fists and a red face. At the end of their trip, the brother and sister skip happily to their mom and dad who wait outside.
The Wayland Holiday Shoppe is an annual holiday event where over 200 children from kindergarten through fifth grade can buy gifts for their friends and family. Held at the town building, this event is also a volunteer opportunity for older student ‘elves,’ who act as a buddy to shoppers while their parents wait in the lobby. This year, the Wayland Holiday Shoppe celebrated its 32nd anniversary in town and hopes to linger for many generations of families to come.
“Our goal is to create this heartwarming, intergenerational experience that fosters a great sense of community,” Director of Wayland Council on Aging (COA) Julie Secord said. “Children just beam as they carry out their beautiful gift bags lined with tissue or wrapped boxes.”
Secord believes families enjoy the tradition particularly because of its accessibility to parents with young children.
“I particularly love how the older kids help the younger kids,” parent Barbara DiCristaforo said. “They really look forward to that part of it, and it gives them a sense of independence without it being overwhelming.”
Gift prices at the Shoppe are allowance-friendly, giving the shoppers plenty of leeway to buy affordable gifts. Similarly to past years, this year’s top price was $7. Students were able to purchase a variety of gifts, ranging form handmade jewelry to board games and toys.
“[My] favorite part is seeing the delightful children with the bargains that they are able to buy with their money,” volunteer Pauline DiCesare said.
Karen Stamuli is one of over 100 volunteers necessary to make the Shoppe run smoothly. With this being her first year helping the program, Stamuli helped by hand making pillows with abstract designs and sports teams’ logos.
“We sewed them [ourselves], and stitched them,” Stamuli said. “They’re just beautiful, and they’re selling like hot cakes.”
This event requires volunteers coming from the fire and police departments, elementary schools, Girl Scouts and school sports teams. Secord praises volunteer coordinator Ann Gordon, who works to coordinate 22 wrapping stations, 19 sales tables, a ticket table and live music.
“This event is a massive undertaking but so worth it when you see the excitement of the children when they return to their parents with wrapped gifts that they have thoughtfully selected for friends and family,” Secord said.
Dozens of local parents have expressed their love for the program, touching on its friendly environment.
“We were excited to bring the kids here so that they could do some Christmas shopping,” parent Catherine Kiernan said. “We love the fun and friendliness and that the kids can be independent and do their shopping on their own. They are super excited to come every year.”
At the end of the day, this program is designed for elementary school kids’ enjoyment, and the Shoppe has proven to succeed at just that.
“It was just a lot of fun, and it was just really fun shopping for people,” shopper Andrew Kiernan said. “I shopped for my aunt and uncle, my baby cousins, my mom and my dad and my friend Dean.”