The Salvation Army’s Angel Giving Tree is decked out for the Christmas season at Valley View Mall — except for the final step of kindly souls checking its boughs to pick tags with names of children who need clothing.
The tree, which Salvation Army staffers and volunteers decorated Thursday, will light up Saturday, when people will be invited to don Santa Claus personas to choose a tag with a child’s name for whom they will buy a new shirt, pants and shoes.
Each tag will have a child’s name, age, clothing sizes and some of the child’s interests to help choose a toy or other gift.
The tree will stand in the mall’s center court with care — in the hope that St. Nicks soon will be there to pluck all of the names by Dec. 8. The corps was able to provide presents for about 1,000 children last year and hopes to do the same this season, said Nick Ragner, the agency’s public relations coordinator.
“A lot of us sometimes take Christmas for granted,” Ragner said. “The presents, the giving, the celebration — some families don’t have the means to recognize Christmas as the holiday that many of us have come to know and love.
“This program would not be possible without the community’s support,” he said.
The annual effort helps provide parents with the comfort that their children will be getting gifts so they can concentrate on their families’ day-to-day needs without fretting about whether anything will be under the tree at home, Ragner said.
Trees with tags also will be featured at every Shopko store in the La Crosse area beginning Nov. 17.
Presents can be left at the Valley View Mall tree or taken to Salvation Army headquarters at 223 N. Eighth St. Shoppers are asked to include the original tags and gift receipts with the gifts.
The presents will be distributed Dec. 14 at the National Guard Armory at 910 Oak Forest Drive in Onalaska.
Also Saturday, The Salvation Army will also kick off the bell-ringing portion of its Red Kettle campaign at 9:30 a.m. at Festival stores. Students and staff members of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse will be stationed at bell-ringing sites at Festivals and other stores throughout the county from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. that day.
For more information on The Salvation Army’s Christmas programs, go to the agency’s website.
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Family members of a 14-year-old boy fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy on a northern Wisconsin reservation questioned on Thursday why the teen, who they describe as loving and kind, was gunned down.
Holly Gauthier said authorities have provided few details about the death of her son, 14-year-old Jason Pero, an eighth-grader who died on the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s reservation Wednesday.
Dispatchers received a call about a male subject walking down the street armed with a knife about 11:40 a.m. Wednesday, said the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office, which provides law enforcement services on the reservation along with the tribal police department. A responding deputy fired shots, striking the male. He was treated at the scene but died at a hospital.
Neither the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which is investigating the shooting, or the sheriff’s office have identified Pero.
Gauthier tells Duluth station WDIO-TV she believes her son was murdered.
“(There is) no reason you can justify shooting a 14-year-old boy,” Gauthier said. Her son was home sick from school Wednesday and staying at his grandparents’ house, she added. Gauthier said she doesn’t know why Jason was outside.
The state Justice Department said a knife was recovered at the scene of the shooting. Family members questioned whether Pero had a knife.
Pero’s grandfather, Alan Pero, described Jason as someone who “never had one mean bone in his body.” Gauthier said her son was “a big teddy bear” and “everybody loved him.”
Bad River Band Chairman Robert Blanchard said he has not heard directly from sheriff’s officials about why Pero was shot and he questioned why the deputy had to take the teen’s life.
“This is a tragedy that should not have happened. There’s other ways to do things than to pull out a gun and shoot him,” Blanchard said.
Sheriff’s officials said the deputy was not injured and referred further questions on the shooting to the Department of Justice. The agency said its Division of Criminal Investigation continues to collect evidence and will turn over its reports to the Ashland County District Attorney’s Office, hopefully within 30 days.
Blanchard said Pero came from a good family and attended Ashland Middle School.
“It’s hard to talk about it without getting emotional,” the chairman said.
The superintendent of the School District of Ashland, Keith Hilts, said some students are struggling with their classmate’s death, but mental health professionals from the community are on hand to help them. Hilts said Jason was involved in the school band and was a member of the drumming group which will honor him at a Veterans Day assembly Friday.
Freedom Honor Flight and the UW-La Crosse Athletics Department will host its seventh annual Veterans Day Breakfast for all area veterans from 7 to 10 a.m. Saturday at the Mitchell Hall Fieldhouse.
The event is free for all veterans and their families.
A memorial ceremony will take place inside the UW-La Crosse Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex at 8:15 a.m., followed by the event program at 9:15 a.m. in the Mitchell Hall Fieldhouse, featuring retired Navy Capt. Doug Peterson. Music will be provided by the UW-La Crosse Brass Quintet and North Woods International School.