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Shopping with the Dogs Annual Tradition Comes Full Circle

'Shopping with the Dogs' an Annual Holiday Tradition


An annual trip to Walmart with a group of seniors and elementary school students is becoming a heart-warming holiday tradition in the Hart County Charter System.

For the past 10 years just before the holiday break, Hart County High School Principal Kevin Gaines has challenged his senior students to give back by going on the annual "Shopping with the Dogs" trip.

High school seniors pitch in money and then are placed in groups to take second-grade students at Hartwell Elementary School holiday shopping at the local Walmart.

"We try to pair the groups based on common interests," Hartwell Elementary School Media Specialist Erin Gaines said.

For example, one of the elementary school students who went shopping is an avid sports fan. So, he was grouped with several standout varsity athletes at the high school who helped the youngster find new sports equipment and clothes.

Other elementary students perused the toy aisles intensively and made their selections with the help of the high school students.

"Obviously it's an opportunity for them to give back," principal Kevin Gaines said. "It's an opportunity to impact a younger child in our own community and make that connection with them and really make a difference in some other students' lives."

The annual trip has come full circle for several of the participants. Three of the seniors who participated this year were actually among the first group of elementary students to go "shopping with the dogs" when they were third-grade students 10 years ago. One of the counselors at the high school, Augusta Murphy, who also went on the trip this year, was a senior at Hart County High School 10 years ago and took those same students shopping.

Even during the pandemic, Hart County kept the tradition alive. While they couldn't take the elementary students shopping, they still managed to get wish lists and do the shopping for them.

"It's a tradition we started and each senior class looks forward to it every year," principal Gaines said.