By Lisa Fielding

Four semi trucks and a forklift lined up outside the Broadway Park Armory in the Edgewater neighborhood Tuesday, filled with hundreds of school supply kits for kids in need.

“We’re giving out 14,000 of our signature back to school kits to children from low income families through the state,” said Matthew Kurtzman, CEO, Back 2 School Illinois.

The organization hosted 450 children from the YMCA, the Chicago Park District and the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago across the city Tuesday.

“We work with our partners to make sure they come from families in need. Unfortunately there are about a million in Illinois that qualify so we’re not there. We hope to do about 30,000 this year so we’re doing about half of them today and the other half we hope to distribute throughout the season.”

Kids pet animals at the Back 2 School Illinois free school supply kit giveaway.

Kids pet animals at the Back 2 School Illinois free school supply kit giveaway.

They visited the Armory to get their kits and participate in fun activities.

We’ve got a petting zoo and art classes for the kids. We are giving out 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 protractor, lined paper, notebooks and folders, etc.” said Kurtzman.

Back 2 School Illinois hosted 450 children from across the Chicago Tuesday and gave them free school supply kits.

Back 2 School Illinois hosted 450 children from across the Chicago Tuesday and gave them free school supply kits.

The distribution was quite the undertaking and planning took months. After the four semis unloaded the kits Tuesday morning, workers divided them up and 50-60 vans and busses delivered the kits to facilities.

During the past two years alone, more than 50,000 children from low-income families have received a signature Back 2 School Kit. This year marks the 12th year of the Back 2 School Illinois school supply giveaway.

Seven-year-old Alex Huber opened his supply kit, amazed what he saw inside.

“Wow, there’s pens, erasers, glue, rulers, it’s cool.”

“I’m ready to go back to school so I can see my friends. My favorite part of this kit is the pencil holder. Green is my favorite color,” said Claire Cowie, 8.  

“My parents will be so happy to see the free supplies,” said Makayla Victory, 8.

But Kurtzman says the donation goes further than just free stuff for kids.
“It’s about self esteem. What it’s like for a child who doesn’t go back into the classroom that day and sees other kids who have supplies has to ask the teacher or has to go to their parents and tell them they don’t have this and they think something’s wrong and they are already starting off the year behind the eight-ball,” said Kurtzman. “It’s very important for us to help as many kids as we can so they start the school year off right.”

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