About 6,000 people packed Caswell Park on Saturday for the Knoxville Area Urban League’s annual “Shoes for School” event, which provided local children with new shoes and school supplies and connected families with valuable community resources. The back-to-school bash — in its 20th year — was presented by sponsors Covenant Health, Pilot Company and TVA.
Knox County students stocked up on items before returning to school today. With the help of community partners, the Knoxville Area Urban League doubled the number of children who received shoes compared to 2021. Nearly 1,700 pairs were distributed to students who pre-qualified with local nonprofits, and the organization estimates that more than 3,000 picked up school supplies.
“We are grateful to our sponsors, booth sponsors, non-profit partners and community for helping us make the 20th anniversary of Shoes for School bigger and better than ever,” said Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. “This event isn’t just about shoes – it’s about breaking down any financial barriers for parents so their students can start the school year on the right foot with school supplies and confidence.”
East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and Boston Government Services also supported the event. Booth sponsors included Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, which distributed food and fresh produce to families to prepare for the busy school year ahead.
Nurses with New Direction Health Care Solutions administered free COVID-19 vaccinations while Knoxville Area Urban League Community Health Navigators offered educational information to attendees. Additionally, representatives with the Knox County Health Department were on-site to verify which vaccinations children need to start school, as well as where and when to get them.
Attendees enjoyed food, games, inflatables and free items set up by 44 booth sponsors representing businesses, civic and non-profit organizations, church groups and others.
The event is a community effort that families and volunteers eagerly anticipate each year.
“A new pair of shoes and school supplies excite children and inspire them to be more confident and successful in the classroom,” Nichols said. “The Knoxville Area Urban League is proud to put smiles on the faces of deserving students for 20 years and counting.”