HUDSON — No doubt Harley Ambrowsky, 11, was feeling pretty good Nov. 16 when he arrived at Hudson Elementary School carrying a thank-you card and some brand new duds that he picked out himself.
"I got a two-for-one deal," he said. "Three shirts, two pair of pants, a belt, a long-sleeved shirt and a beanie hat."
Mary Wescott, 12, said she did pretty well, too, though she did have a bit of a time deciding between two sets of pajamas before opting for the less expensive pair that would leave enough money to get a few pairs of fuzzy socks and slippers, too, all for the same price.
Harley and Mary are just two of some 50 local kids who were recently treated to a morning shopping spree at the Port Richey Walmart, courtesy of the Hudson/Bayonet Point Lions Club. For four years now, the service group has picked up the tab for a select group of students from Hudson, Chasco, Gulf Highlands and Schrader elementary schools. Twice a year that organization doles out $50 apiece to about 100 fifth-grade students who have been making some great strides at school.
There are criteria and a few rules to follow, said John Fiore, the Lions Club treasurer who got the shopping spree idea from a club in the Miami area.
The Lions Club, he said, "is all about making life better for people and helping the community. So first and foremost, we want to help those in need."
Students selected by their teachers should have also shown improvement in their efforts in academics or their social behavior. The $50 can be spent only on clothing items or shoes, and parents are not allowed to shop with their own children.
"We want the kids to make the decisions about what they want to buy," Fiore said.
And maybe teach them something about the value of a dollar.
With calculators in hand, students typically head for the clearance rack first, said Irene Araneda, a guidance counselor from Schrader Elementary.
"They usually try to get a big bang for the buck," she said. "Some kids might buy the one thing they really want that they know their family can't buy for them. Then again I've seen kids who know they need underwear get that. It's about making decisions on what to buy or why."
The spree also gives an esteem boost for kids who have been giving it their all.
"It's great," said Mary Whitehead, the parent involvement assistant at Hudson Elementary who coordinated the shopping spree activity at her school. "It's good for the kids to get something for their hard work."
"I love it," said Schrader parent involvement assistant Janice Montaldi. "I love the smile that the children have on their faces the next day when they come to school and show me their outfits. They're so proud that they've been picked and they're just beaming with it."
And grateful, too.
"I think it was pretty awesome how the Lions Club helped us out," Mary said. "And I'm pretty thankful for that."