Free School Supply Kits Distributed To Needy Chicago Children

Lisa Fielding
August 08, 2018 - 2:10 pm

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Four semi trucks filled with school supplies lined up outside the Broadway Park Armory early Wednesday morning. A forklift dropped off hundreds of boxes filled with school supply kits.

"This is our biggest event of the year. We're giving out 10,000 of our signature back-to-school kits to children from low income families through the state. Today we are also hosting about 350 kids from the YMCA, The Vietnamese Association of Illinois, The Chicago Park District and The Boys and Girls Club of Chicago," said Matthew Kurtzman, CEO, Back2School Illinois.

"There are about 1.2 million kids in Illinois that live in low income households every year so that's who we focus our efforts on. So we partner with a lot of government agencies, as well as community organizations to distribute the kits to those who fall into that category."

350 children, ages 6-12, from all over the city were bussed to the Edgewater neighborhood to get their kits and take part in activities at the Armory.

"There are four different kits. Each one is grade appropriate. Each kit has about 30 of what we call your core of basis supplies. The younger kids will get construction paper and crayons. The older kids will get things like a ruler, protractor, lined paper, notebooks and folders, etc.," Kurtzman said.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

Dylan Cooper, 7, will be a second grader at Goudy Technology Academy this fall.

"There's a ruler, color pencils, scissors, Kleenex in case I need some tissue, paper, book and binders," she names off what she received in her supply kit.

"I got mostly crayons and pencils and folders and pencils," said Mirabella Duran, 11. She will be in 6th grade at Stone Scholastic Academy.

"I love it. It's really nice because I love art," she said.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

After the students picked up their kits, they were able to participate in other fun activities throughout the day.

"There are six different rooms and activities including an exotic petting zoo that the kids get to meet and play and talk and learn about these animals. We have an arts and crafts area, we've got them doing aerobics, there's a financial literacy class where they learn about money and the value of saving.  By the time they go home, they've had a great time and learned something," Kurtzman said.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

But Kurtzman said the event goes further than just free stuff.

"It's about self-esteem. When they go back to school they know somebody is looking out for them that they are prepared to learn. Imagine what it would be like if the students, if a child goes back in the classroom because his family can't afford supplies and does he have to ask the teacher, does he have to borrow from a friend and how that makes him or her feel," he said.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

Since it's inception in 2005, 200,000 kits have been given away to low income children and Kurtzman said they are expanding beyond Illinois.

"We've had so much success with Back2School Illinois, that we're excited that we just launched Back2School America so for everybody outside of Illinois, they'll be seeing that name soon. We just had an event in Phoenix, we have one in San Antonio coming up this weekend. The need is great everywhere that's the sad reality so what we're trying to do is help as many kids as we can across the country."

This is the 13th year of the Back2School Illinois school supply giveaway.