Boy nets prized DSi in shopping spree

July 26, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

ROUZERVILLE, Pa. -- How much money can a 6-year-old spend in 15 minutes? $854.50.

Nathan Rhodes, 6, had all of Wal-Mart's merchandise available to him Sunday in a shopping spree organized by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He threw items into shopping carts so fast the associates scanning bar codes could hardly keep up.

When finished, Nathan walked to the cash register with at least three shopping carts full of merchandise, two bicycles and a ride-on toy car behind him. Soon he was handed the Nintendo DSi that was his prized purchase.

"I get home and I get to play with my DS, and when I'm in the car," Nathan said.

His car for the day was a Hummer limousine from Phantom Shadow. Nathan arrived at Wal-Mart to the sounds of Waynesboro (Pa.) Stallions cheerleaders, and left an hour and a half later for his favorite area restaurant, Ponderosa in Chambersburg, Pa., followed by rides on Greencastle, Pa., firetrucks and a police car.


A birth defect required Nathan, of Lemasters, Pa., to have his first heart surgery as an infant.

"His two valves were together," said Heather Gray, the boy's mother.

Brother Dustin Rhodes, 11, watches for signs that Nathan is having health issues when they play.

"He starts breathing heavy," Dustin said.

Stepfather Brad Gray said not much holds Nathan back, though.

"He plays hard. You can't tell he has heart problems," said Brad Gray, who submitted Nathan's name to Make-A-Wish after learning more about it at work.

Wal-Mart Manager Jody Clark said she enjoyed watching Nathan run through the store.

"A few days ago, Staci called me from Make-A-Wish Foundation and told us Nathan's situation and what they wanted to do," Clark said. "The associates here are very, very happy they chose our store."

More than 300 associates signed a card for Nathan, who received a gift basket and cake, in addition to $1,500 in merchandise. Wal-Mart also made a $1,000 donation to Make-A-Wish.

"Wal-Mart has been amazing. Since the first day I called them, they said, 'Absolutely, we'll do this,'" said Staci Hull, a volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Hull said she found it heartwarming when Nathan said he wanted to get a bicycle and Nintendo DSi for his brother.

"The child has a medical condition with his heart, but he has the biggest heart of any 6-year-old I've ever met," she said.

Nathan, who will be going into first-grade at Mercersburg (Pa.) Elementary School, rejected Hull's suggestions for a trip or meet-and-greet with a celebrity when she first met him. Instead, he said he wanted the Nintendo DSi and mentioned Wal-Mart is his favorite store.

He looked to the side bashfully when someone asked why he hadn't grabbed the Nintendo DSi immediately when shopping.

"I don't know where to get it," he said.

Anyone who knows children that might benefit from Make-A-Wish should visit the Web site at, Hull said.

"I want people to know Make-A-Wish exists locally. They need to get more kids in touch with us," she said.

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