McALLEN — Two-hundred children from local schools were given the shopping opportunity of a lifetime Tuesday.

The students, ranging from kindergarteners to fourth-graders, were allowed to shop at the Target store located in the Las Tiendas plaza — this as part of the retailer’s second annual “Heroes and Helpers.”

Louie Rodriguez, event coordinator and regional manager for the Targets of South Texas, said the kids can “get what they truly want and not have anyone interfere with that.”

Students from 20 McAllen ISD elementary schools were gifted store cards with $100 to spend on their heart’s desires.

The event commenced with speeches from McAllen officials who were sure to thank Target for its generous donation of $19,900 to give to school children “in need.”

Santa Claus also made a guest appearance, pulling up in a police car to a swarm of children shouting his name. Bullseye, Target’s famous bull terrier and official mascot, was also present to take photos with children.

Victor Rodriguez, police chief of McAllen, was present with the department’s community affairs staff, along with the fire department and volunteers for the four-hour commitment.

“All of us come together to try to lighten up the holiday season for the kids,” he said, adding that another community outreach event is in the works for Saturday to be held at the McAllen Municipal Park.

As children entered the store, a fire truck hoisted a supersize U.S. flag.

According to Louie Rodriguez, the inspiration behind the name comes from the notion that police officers are the “heroes of our community” and the desire for the children to “look up to these individuals.”

The officers, fire officials and school staff (teachers and principals) accompanied the children to help them navigate the store and stay within their budget.

Seven-year-old Jose Bravo from Sanchez Elementary shopped with Ernesto Chavez from the McAllen Fire Department. The first items in his basket were sports balls, one for him and one for his older brother.

From the athletic department he made his way over to the toy section, the most student-packed area of the store.

“One of the interesting things,” said Victor, is “some of these kids don’t shop for themselves, they shop for grandma; they shop for grandpa.”

Christian Cruz, an 11-year-old boy from Milam Elementary was found in the clothing department with his mom. Cruz intended to use the money to buy school clothes, but was allowed one toy.

“I really want a drone,” he shared hopefully.

Upon the approval of the grant to provide funds for McAllen students, McAllen ISD joined with the police department to help identify the kids that are most in need.

“It’s just to spread some Christmas cheer with our kids in our community,” said Louie Rodriguez.

rvillalobos@themonitor.com