CEDAR FALLS — With just weeks to go before Christmas, eighth-graders Sydney Stokes and Paige Wageman were up and down the aisles of the Cedar Falls Walmart, adding pink and purple curling irons and cushy bedrest pillows to their carts.
“What do you think about nail polish?” Wageman asked.
The two St Patrick’s Catholic School students wheeled their way over to the beauty aisle, but were slightly disappointed: Nail polish was just $9 or less.
“We could get more kits,” Wageman said.
“Like these ones?” Stokes said, finding gift sets on the aisle cap.
Wageman frowned. “They’re not very expensive,” she said of the $10 gift sets. “But that’s cool.”
The girls loaded up a few into their overstuffed cart and went to get a new, empty cart. They had only spent about half of what they were given, and it was proving to be a difficult task.
But they and their St. Pat’s classmates weren’t greedy teenagers. They were tasked with spending $10,000 at the Cedar Falls Walmart on Wednesday afternoon in order to buy gifts for children in need through Toys for Tots.
The $10,000 was a gift from David Prescott, an alum of St. Pat’s who now lives and works in New York. It’s Prescott’s second year donating that amount, though this year he wasn’t able to be on site for the Walmart trip.
“He gave St. Pat’s a check for $10,000 and gave us a check for $10,000,” said Lisa Vry-Lageschulte, who was running the Toys for Tots initiative for the Cedar Falls Exchange Club this year.
The toys students picked out on Wednesday’s trip were being trucked to the local St. Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army, who would deliver them to about 500 children next week.
Each student had to spend $425 buying toys, games, scooters, beauty products and other gifts, most with a range between $25 and $30, and especially for infants or teenage boys and girls.
“I think it’s probably harder than you think it is to spend $425,” said Bev Mach, principal at St. Pat’s.
Because the students were paired off, however, they actually had to spend $850, which meant multiple carts and multiple items. Although Exchange Club volunteers stressed that students should pick out multiples of a few things, many students preferred a variety — and the adults let them decide.
“They know what they like — that’s the big thing,” said Joanne Heath, president of the Exchange Club.
Eighth-graders Ivan Zdilar and Tyler Sigwarth kept track of every purchase with their phone’s calculator. With $849 spent, they picked out a little, 94-cent Hot Wheels car, a Porsche, to make sure they left no dollar unspent.
“It’s really fun, and something you never really get to do — spending this much money, but also buying toys for kids that would otherwise not get them,” Sigwarth said.
“It’s the excitement of doing it for a good cause,” Zdilar added.