East Knoxville’s Caswell Park was filled with about 7,000 people Saturday morning as the Knoxville Area Urban League held its 17th annual “Shoes for School” event to distribute athletic shoes and school supplies to students on the last weekend of summer vacation.
The event, with Covenant Health as its largest underwriter, distributed more than 1,500 pairs of shoes to children who had been pre-qualified by area civic organizations. About 4,000 picked up all kinds of school supplies and enjoyed hot dogs, snow cones, games and other activities on a beautiful day.
“Sending kids back to school with new shoes and the supplies they need for the year is a morale boost for the kids and removes a financial hardship for parents,” said Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. “We thank every partner, including Covenant Health – our presenting sponsor for the second year in a row – every volunteer and every person who made this possible. Smiles all around indicate that we’re doing the right thing.”
Gary Young, manager of community outreach for Covenant Health, said, “Part of Covenant Health’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve, so we welcome the opportunity to serve local families through ‘Shoes for School.’ The Knoxville Area Urban League executes a fun and engaging event every year, and it’s encouraging to see so many local volunteers and businesses willing to support our students as they head back to school.”
The festive atmosphere featured 34 booths sponsored by local businesses, civic and nonprofit organizations, church groups and others. The event is a community effort that families and volunteers eagerly anticipate each year.
“Amazing things can happen when we all do our part,” Nichols said. “The smiles on the faces of children make every moment worth it.”
The balloon release opening the event was substantially scaled down this year from previous years when hundreds of people released hundreds of balloons. “We wanted to be more mindful of the impact we were having on the environment,” Nichols said. “Plus, there’s a helium shortage!”
About the Knoxville Area Urban League: Since 1968, the Knoxville Area Urban League has assisted disadvantaged people in attaining social and economic stability and self-sufficiency through direct services and advocacy. The League works to provide a skilled and diverse workforce; to increase home ownership; to support economic and small business development, and to enhance education efforts for young people. The Knoxville Area Urban League is a United Way partner agency and affiliate of the National Urban League.