Urban League’s ‘Shoes for School’ shatters records

Ana Juan-Pascual and her brand new pair of shoes.

New shoes will be on the feet of 1,270 children when they go back to school this week, thanks to the Knoxville Area Urban League, its sponsors and 300 volunteers.

That’s because the annual “Shoes for School” event was held Saturday at Caswell Park. According to the Knoxville Police Department, 6,400 people showed up to pick up the shoes and school supplies and to visit booths set up by 38 organizations giving away everything from book bags to socks to notebooks and pencils. Some enjoyed hot dogs and snow cones, some got their picture made with a dinosaur, and some played a game against a robot.

The largest sponsor this year was Covenant Health, which brought a photo booth with a green screen, allowing folks to be photographed with a choice of backgrounds, including the dino. Other sponsors included East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and Comcast, among others.


Akuma Mercandante shows off his new school shoes.

“We are so grateful for financial support from Comcast and Children’s Hospital. But we could not have served the record number of kids without our major sponsor, Covenant Health,” said Phyllis Nichols, CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. “I also was touched that so many volunteers thanked us for allowing them to participate. Isn’t it amazing what good we can do working together?”

“Phyllis Nichols, the Urban League board members and staff all deserve enormous credit for a fantastic day,” said Debby Saraceni, Covenant’s vice president of marketing and physician services. “We got to meet so many sweet, adorable families, and we felt so honored and privileged to get to be part of their very special day!”

“Covenant Health was proud to be a part of this wonderful event,” said Patrick Birmingham, Covenant’s vice president of philanthropy. “As a community-owned, not-for-profit health system, and one of the region’s largest employers, the success of our citizens, young and not-so-young, is critically important to us. ‘Shoes for School’ was a perfect way for us to partner with the community and contribute to the good health of our children in body, mind and spirit.”

The line to get in to Caswell Park before the event opened at 9 a.m. was an early clue that attendance would break records this year.

Urban League CEO Phyllis Y. Nichols and Covenant Health Vice President Patrick Birmingham getting ready for the balloon release to open the festivities.

There they go!

Urban League staff member Andrea Crouse captured the moment.

A big tent full of school supplies was the first stop for many.

That’s where the University of Tennessee’s Jim McIntyre, a member of the Urban League board, was handing out items.

As was board member Sheldon Green of State Farm.

Board member Rev. Harold Middlebrook Sr. was on hand.

Covenant Health Vice President Debby Saraceni was passing out rulers in the Covenant booth.

Colin Barnes was working in the Covenant booth, too. He was a good sport and posed for me with the mascot for the Covenant Kids Run.

Over at the Children’s Hospital tent, Donna Ballenger and co-workers were giving away the softest looking socks! Kids had a wide choice of colors.

Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas dropped by. She’s pictured here with Patrick Mack, left, and Eric Reeves.

Sheila Hayden from Pellissippi State Community College dropped by the U.S. Cellular booth to talk to Tom Catani. She used to work for Catani, a former Urban League board member.

This is Rachel McFarling, Miss Watauga Valley’s Outstanding Teen. Last year, she attended “Shoes for School” as a youth participant in Leadership Knoxville. This year, she collected hundreds of books, sorted them by appropriate ages and distributed them at the event.

At the DENSO tent, Reagan Hart, Matthew Puryear and Matthew Valderrama were passing out tote bags.

But these folks were in charge of “Henry,” a game-playing robot who almost always wins! From left: Lashelle Hamilton, Hiro Masuo, Chris Masuo and Bob Booker, who is senior manager at DENSO.

Here’s Henry. He takes all comers! Whoever can get four tokens in a row first is the winner. (Advice: Put your money on Henry!)


Joshua Jones of SunTrust making snow cones.

Christy Brooks of TVA passing out water bottles.

Thanks to the local media for the great coverage. Here’s Megan Jamerson of WATE-TV, left, and Pam Rhoades of Moxley Carmichael. Maria McHale of Moxley Carmichael also worked the event. (Thanks, folks!)

Brittany Coggins of WVLT-TV.

Carmen Hicks and her daughter, Maria Hicks Ware, were helping hand out the shoes.

Anthony Ware with daughter, Ariel, also were in the shoe tent.

Which is really what it was all about. Here’s Isabella Houndshell with her new shoes.

Ja’Miyra Woods with her pretty pink ones.

All in all, a near perfect day.

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10 Responses to Urban League’s ‘Shoes for School’ shatters records

  1. Bob Alcorn, on August 6th, 2018 at 4:33 pm said:

    What a great event, I liked the smiles on everyone’s face!

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on August 6th, 2018 at 4:44 pm said:

    Bob: Thanks for your comment. I agree. It was very touching to be there.

  3. Monique Anderson, on August 6th, 2018 at 5:04 pm said:

    Cynthia: I think this is so wonderful. New shoes for school is such a big deal. This is such a great story.

  4. Alan Carmichael, on August 6th, 2018 at 5:08 pm said:

    Thanks to the Knoxville Area Urban League for programs such as this one that really reach out and touch community needs.

  5. Cynthia Moxley, on August 6th, 2018 at 5:15 pm said:

    Monique: Thanks. Alan’s right. This is a wonderful program.

  6. Georgiana Vines, on August 7th, 2018 at 5:07 pm said:

    This is a fabulous event. Happy for everyone who has a role.

  7. Gay Lyons, on August 7th, 2018 at 8:18 pm said:

    Love this! What a great program.

  8. Phyllis Y. Nichols, on August 7th, 2018 at 10:37 pm said:

    Hundreds of dedicated volunteers help the Urban League to hold this event. Thanks Cynthia and to your team for sharing the story.

  9. Diana Salesky, on August 8th, 2018 at 11:25 am said:

    I attended this year with my “Little Sister” and her real-life little brothers. It was beyond wonderful!!! Not only did all three kids get brand-new shoes and school supplies, the boys actually got haircuts!!! There was an entire area where stylists-in-training were giving free haircuts to the kids. It is a truly amazing event that gets our children set for the school year. Thank you, Urban League! (And, thank you, Cynthia, for writing about it.)

  10. Cynthia Moxley, on August 8th, 2018 at 11:30 am said:

    Georgiana and Gay: Thanks for your comments.

    Phyllis: Congrats!

    Diana: I wish I had seen you! So glad “your” kids got their shoes and haircuts and had fun. Thanks for doing that.

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