It has quickly become one of the highlights of my summer, every summer.
There is so much we take for granted in our lives, especially those of us fortunate to never have had to worry about having new clothes for school, or new notebooks, or even toothbrushes. But of course millions of American kids don’t have those things, don’t have the kinds of basic items that can mean so much in terms of self-esteem, educational opportunities, and simply being able to succeed.
For the fifth year in a row on Long Island, Sunday was Back 2 School Store day in Woodmere, the small community where my wonderful in-laws live. This event, sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women (an organization my late, beloved grandmother volunteered for), has a simple purpose:To provide free clothes, school supplies, books and other merchandise to underprivileged children in the Nassau County, N.Y. area.
Thanks to grants and donations, more than 500 kids each year (mostly aged 5-13) get to go on a shopping spree (this year held inside a middle school gymnasium) where they pick out new pants, shirts, sneakers, winter coats, backpacks full of school supplies, and so many other goodies that they otherwise might never see.
I volunteer for this wonderful event every year, and Sunday brought so many smiles. This year I got to do a variety of jobs, including shoe fitter (I channeled my inner Al Bundy on that one), pajamas assistant (I learned pretty quickly to size up what size each child needed, and I also gained a new appreciation for retail salesmen and women who have to re-arrange all the clothes once the customers leave them all over the place) and most excitingly to me, personal shopper.
The personal shopper gets matched up with one child and then spends the next 20 minutes walking them around and letting them pick one type of every item. Seeing one of the little girls I helped’s face when she found the perfect pink coat, and then pants to match, was so rewarding.
The best story I heard Sunday came not from me, but from a friend of my mother-in-law. The woman was told by this pre-teen boy’s parents at the start that shopping for him “will take hours,” because he suffers from ADD, has trouble making decisions, is never happy with anything, etc.
Twenty minutes later, the personal shopper emerged from the gym with this boy smiling ear to ear. He had loved making decisions on everything he wanted, was incredibly appreciative, saying “thank you” every time he put an item into his bag, and had the time of his life.
His beaming parents told the personal shopper, “He came out of that room a different kid from the one who walked in.”
That’s the kind of small difference just one program, on one day of the year, can make.
The NCJW holds Back 2 School Store events in many cities across the country; for more info, check out www.ncjw.org
**Next up today, I’m sure most of you have had this experience: You’re texting with someone you know, they write something you think means one thing, but thanks to their being no way to tell “tone” with texting, you take it to mean something completely different. I had that experience with a friend last week, and then coincidentally saw this clip in an online column I read. It’s from the often-hilarious “Key and Peele” show, and it’s fantastic. Enjoy…
**Finally today, this from the intersection of medical miracles and sports passion. A huge Ohio State fan, from Dublin, Ohio named Zach Lawrence was in a serious car accident in April, and was in a coma for quite some time. His doctors at the Dodd Hall Rehabilitation Center at Ohio State University gave him a series of tests to try to gauge his responsiveness and alertness, even while in the coma.
He was unresponsive to many questions where he was asked to push one button for yes, and another for no.
Finally, “Do you like Michigan?” was asked.
Lawrence immediately pushed the “no” button. And then — just to make sure everyone had heard him the first time — he pushed it again.
Man, that’s some rivalry. Even in a coma the dude manages to convey hatred for all things maize and blue. Best news of all, is that he’s recovering slowly but surely.
If UM football coach Jim Harbaugh reads about Lawrence, I’m thinking he should send a whole treasure trove of Wolverines gear to the rehab center. Can you imagine how many times he’d press the “no” button then?