Campaign Brightens Holiday Season For Local Kids

BERLIN – A local group is hoping to share the “Christmas experience” with area children through the 4th Annual United Christmas Spirit Campaign.

The Young Professionals of Ocean City will host the United Christmas Spirit Campaign on Dec. 6. Each year the event provides 50 underprivileged children with a $100 shopping spree at Walmart.

“It’s really a great event,” said Rob Mattie, chairman of this year’s campaign for the Young Professionals. “It’s one of the most heartwarming events I’ve ever had the privilege to take part in.”

Mattie’s group spends months fundraising to come up with the $5,000 needed to give each child $100 to spend at Walmart the morning of the trip. While donations have been a little harder to come by this year, Mattie is confident that the group will reach its goal.

“We’re coming down to the wire but we’re going to make it,” he said.

The day of the shopping trip, the children — who are selected by guidance counselors at Buckingham and Ocean City elementary schools — meet volunteers from Mattie’s group at the Outback early in the morning. From there, they are taken by buses provided by the Town of Ocean City to Walmart, where each of them is given $100 and a chaperone to help them as they browse the giant store.

Though most of the kids are intent on using their money to buy Christmas gifts for their families, Mattie said volunteers urge them to purchase at least one item for themselves. Mattie said that way, regardless of whether they receive any gifts at home during the holidays, the kids would have something to tell their friends about when they went back to school following winter break.

“You’d think these kids would go wild,” he said, “but I was amazed. The last thing on most of their minds is buying something for themselves.”

When  finished shopping, the kids, who range in age from five to 12, are sent off to an activity room at Walmart organized by volunteers from SonRise Church. In the meantime, members of the Young Professionals wrap and bag the gifts.

The kids and their purchases eventually make their way to Outback, where they are treated to breakfast.

Mattie said he was thrilled that Teron Lewis, Outback’s new proprietor, was happy to continue the tradition his predecessor had started at the West Ocean City restaurant.

“Teron welcomed us back to Outback with open arms and a strong desire to see this event go off without a hitch,” Mattie said.

He said the Christmas campaign was only possible with the support of local donors and volunteers. He encourages anyone who wants to help but can’t afford to donate to volunteer their time. Those who are interested can sign up via by searching for the United Christmas Spirit Campaign or can contact Sara Sabia at 410-289-0883 or Alison McCarty at 410-641-6470.