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Northside ISD spreads holiday cheer with gift-giving program

"I actually had a parent call me in tears and (they) said without this, her kids would have had nothing."

SAN ANTONIO — 8-year-old Jonathan spent his Wednesday morning combing through aisles and scouring shelves with his sister Naomii—searching high and low for the perfect toy.

They were among 150 students chosen for the Jay High School Shoe and Toy Drive. Kids are selected from seven elementary schools in Northside ISD and given $50 at Walmart to spend clothing, shoes and toys. Each child must spend at least $25 on shoes, with the rest of the money to be used how they wish.

The program has been around for 51 years has helped thousands of families who may need a little help during the holidays.

"They get a Christmas which they may or may not get at home," explained Calvin Buchholtz, a teacher in the district. "I actually had a parent call me in tears and (they) said without this, her kids would have had nothing."

Buccholtz has been involved in the program since the beginning, but one thing never ceases to amaze him.

"What surprises me is how much they buy for the people in their families, too," he said.

Oftentimes, these kids will use their gift money to purchase gifts for others.

The program has left a powerful impression on kids who are a part of it over the year. Denise Ayala, a junior at John Jay High School, said she still remembers her experience nearly a decade ago.

"I remember getting off the bus, getting all the toys, being so excited," she said with a laugh. "It was cute."

On this day, Ayala dedicated her morning to chaperoning the elementary school shoppers. With her guidance, she gave the kids a little something extra—something they can't put in a cart, or scan at the register.

She gave them something to aspire to.

"She was so nice, she helped us very much," Naiomii said. "When I'm her age, I might be at John Jay school. That's the school I wanna go to."