Bright and early Thursday morning, the Medford Target store had all the excitement of back-to-school shopping, albeit with the addition of gun belts and shiny badges from area emergency services personnel.

Bright and early Thursday morning, the Medford Target store had all the excitement of back-to-school shopping, albeit with the addition of gun belts and shiny badges from area emergency services personnel.

A nationwide partnership between 500 Target stores and 39 Salvation Army divisions enabled some 12,000 students all over the country to shop on Thursday morning for jeans, shirts, shoes, socks and other necessities.

After posing for a group photo with about three dozen police, fire and emergency medical personnel, 30 tiny shoppers in Medford received $80 gift cards, reusable Target shopping bags, and an hourlong shopping session with newfound friends who helped them pick through the racks.

Armed with a list and sizes, and sipping coffee from his Oregon Ducks coffee mug, Jackson County Sheriff's Department Capt. Terry Larson nudged his tiny blond shopper toward a rack of sale shirts and suggested a look at clearance deals.

"This says you're a size seven," Larson told 7-year-old Nena Showalter.

"What does that mean? Maybe we should ask someone."

Before calling for backup, Larson's attention was diverted by the third-grader's plea for brightly colored tops — one in hot pink and another with a monkey printed on front.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, this one," said the girl, adding the shirt to a bundle dangling from her small hand.

"I have two girls, so thank goodness they paired me with a girl, because I've never bought boy stuff in my life," Larson pointed out.

Nearby, Medford police Detective Diane Sandler assessed the available budget for 8-year-old Jocelyn Belew as the girl tried on a blazer with added bling.

"We've got $80 to spend, so we've got to kind of figure out what the price is," Sandler told the girl.

The third-grader knew exactly what she was looking for Thursday.

"I want something sparkly," she said.

"I'm all about the sparkles. I love sparkles."

Posted in the boys department, Salvation Army Corps Assistant Lisa Marie Richard watched a pair of firefighters and some Central Point police officers help a group of boys select shoes and jackets.

Richard said the excitement made the morning worthwhile.

The retail store provided about $1 million nationally in gift cards for the annual shopping spree. With local Fred Meyer stores offering school supplies via customer donations, Salvation Army officials had shoppers focus solely on needed wardrobe items versus backpacks and crayons.

"Since they're getting school supplies at Fred Meyer, they were able to get even more clothes than they would have. It's really nice for Target to set this up, and it really helps these families."

Helping first-grader Austin Showalter try on pairs of tennis shoes, Medford firefighter Josh Allphin took a laid-back approach.

"He's a pretty easy shopper," Allphin said of the boy. "He just throws stuff in the cart."

The 6-year-old was only partially focused on his need to select socks and maybe a jacket.

"Are you a firefighter? Because you look like just a police officer," said the boy.

"I'm a firefighter, so I don't have a gun. But my brother's a police officer."

Asked what he was shopping for, the boy checked with his camp director about whether backpacks could be shopped for, and he settled for "just clothes."

Target store manager Casey Didericksen said the kids' enthusiasm was her favorite part of the annual event.

"Most of the time we do this for Christmas, so it's cool being able to do this for when kids need back-to-school stuff," she said.

"It's really fun with so many of the guys over there. We had a lot of them asking us about the difference between skinny and boot-cut jeans. It's fun to help make sure the kids get all the latest styles."

Mercy Flights supervisor Rodney Blake and 10-year-old Deja Nunez required minimal fashion advice as they filled their cart with neon-colored fabric and discussed the style of pants the girl needed.

"We are finding that she is a colorful person, so we're looking for stuff with bright colors," Blake said of the fifth-grader.

When Nunez was ready to try on her selections, Blake suggested grabbing some pants to match her brightly colored tops.

"So, what kind of pants do you wear? Are you thinking candy stripes or maybe jeans?" he asked.

"Um, I think just jeans," the girl said with a laugh.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at