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Kids discreetly buy gifts for family at annual Secret Santa Shop

Dozens of local kids visited the Cyber Cafe last Thursday and Saturday for Secret Santa Shop, an annual event aimed at offering children a chance to discreetly buy gifts for their families.

"They get to take their wrapped presents home and put them under the Christmas tree," said Becky Costner, president of the Wadena Area Volunteers, a group of women more commonly known as WAVe, which organized the festivities. "The kids have an opportunity to shop in secret so nobody in their family knows what their presents are."

The gifts - from fishing lures for dads and screwdrivers for brothers to travel mugs for mom and puzzles for sisters - ranged in price from 25 cents to $5. There were different stations set up for each family member, "so it's just like they're shopping in a store," Costner said. "There's a huge variety."

Each WAVe member donated a minimum of 10 items for the Secret Santa Shop, while other Wadena residents and organizations offered up many more items. In total, Costner said, the group sold at least 600 gifts over two days.

"We were super, super busy," she said.

All of the money raised, Costner said, is donated to local causes and charities, including Empty Stocking, the Maslowski Wellness Center and an annual scholarship.

It's a good time for both volunteers and children, too.

"We always have a lot of fun," Costner said. "It's always exciting to help kids pick out presents. They are definitely excited when they leave."