It was a special day for visually-impaired children at Omaha’s Westroads Mall. With help from volunteers, they made their way through the holiday throng shopping for gifts.
It took a lot of volunteers to make this event happen. Navigating the aisles of a department store, Phoebe Perry and Ryan Brehm were on a shopping spree.
Kalin Murphy suffers from a disease that requires her to use a wheelchair at all times and her vision is impaired, meaning she needs mom and dad to help her constantly.
“For her to be treated like a normal kid, it's just I know that she really enjoys it,” said her father, Dan Murphy. Dan and wife Kari lost Kalin's younger sister Georgia this summer. Georgia was a familiar face around the volunteers. “It's just hard, the first time without her.”
For Kalin, mom Kari said Sunday was all about being independent. “For them to get out and be with friends and fun, cool kids and get to go shopping and look around and be on their own, it's so much fun for them."
At checkout, Kalin was cashing in on a new shirt. The money was donated with each child receiving $100 worth of mall gift cards. “It really puts things into perspective because you think you are out here to buy things, which we are buying presents for her, it puts it into perspective and that is time with Kalin,” said Brehm, a Central High School student volunteering his time.
“It's fun to help someone out and to get to spend time with Ryan and her, it's nice,” said Perry, also a Central High student and volunteer. “Gets you in the Christmas spirit."
There are about 130 children who benefited from the event. There's over 200 high school volunteers that help them not only buy the gifts, but wrap them as well. Organizers said it's all about seeing the smiles every year. “I feel blessed to continue on my mom and dad's tradition,” said Karen Sokolof Javitch. “It's wonderful. Did you see all the smiles on their faces? That's what we look forward to every year."
Volunteers and the children were also treated to a pizza party and a visit with Santa. This was the 52nd year of the Ruth Sokolof Christmas Shopping Party, sponsored by the Nebraska Foundation for Visually Impaired Children.