“Every dream deserves a champion, and so does every child.”
These words flit across the frame of a video on the KidSmart website. The first part of the phrase is enough to inspire any soul; it alludes to those motivational phrases that surround us as we walk through our lives. But the second half directs that phrase towards the children that KidSmart supports; by using the word “champion,” they have elevated the phrase from a motivational saying to a call to action. Most people think of a champion as someone who wins, who achieves their goals and then some. But the word has a second meaning, and it’s one that KidSmart has offered to the people of St. Louis ever since the charity’s conception.
KidSmart was founded in 2002 by Jennifer Miller, a teacher in the Rockwood School District. She was taken aback by the fact that most of her students came to school and didn’t possess the tools and supplies needed for learning. After further research, she realized that there were more children in St. Louis without the money to purchase school supplies than she could have possibly imagined. After that she founded KidSmart, and for the last eighteen years it has supported tens of thousands of underprivileged children and will continue to do so.
In an article written last year by Community News, a director at the organization states that “education is the way to break the cycle of poverty.” That phrase holds true in every sense, as a proper education prepares every child for the world and the opportunities it presents them with. Every day, the KidSmart store opens its doors to teachers, encouraging them to fill up a cart with school supplies. Each cart holds approximately one thousand dollars’ worth of supplies; as long as the teachers sign up ahead of time, they are free to take these supplies to their students.
However, KidSmart was dealt a swift and heavy blow by the COVID pandemic and the lockdown rules that followed. Despite this incredible nonprofit aiding 161 schools in 12 different school districts, there are only eight employees working there. Usually they are assisted by a whopping 4,000 volunteers, a force for good to be reckoned with. Now they have limited the number of volunteers to a measly ten in order to maintain the proper rules of social distancing. Because of this, their funding has decreased by 75 percent and the demand for more school supplies has been higher than ever before.
But even in the face of this extreme difficulty, their resolve has not wavered. Usually, they would use their program “On the Go” to personally deliver supplies to classrooms, but for obvious reasons, they have switched to other programs. Now they have taken to setting up “pop-up shops” in a remote parking lot where teachers can receive supplies without breaking the rules the lockdown has imposed.
This month, KidSmart has put a neat twist on the Halloween tradition “Trunk or Treat” by using an event they call “drive-thrus.” Teachers will drive up to the location and KidSmart volunteers will fill their trunks with as much supplies as a regular trip to their store. And they are fast—their record is serving 200 teachers in 4 hours. It’s clear that they will stop at nothing to extend a helping hand to children; their conviction, drive, and passion are some of the main reasons why we’ve decided to support them.
Which brings us back to the beginning. We’ve become a champion for KidSmart by encouraging participation in the STL 50/50 raffle, so that you may share in the victory this amazing company can claim over COVID. That’s what a champion is, after all. A champion is a supporter, a defender. Someone who can—and will—fight for a noble, valiant cause with all of their heart.