SURPRISE, ARIZ., July 29, 2015 – Approximately 100 children living in foster care homes in the Northwest Valley will start back to school next month, sporting new shoes and backpacks filled with school supplies, thanks to a “Back To School” drive organized by Sun Health’s community outreach group.
The SHINE (Sun Health Involvement Never Ends) committee handed out the supply-stuffed backpacks to 55 kids, ages 7-18, at a party held last week at The Colonnade in Surprise. The children live in group homes in Surprise. The event featured refreshments, an art project, games and line dancing. It was topped off with the “picking of the packs” where each child chose their own backpack, selecting from a variety of colors. Gift cards also were given to group home managers for the purchase of new shoes for their charges.
Incoming sophomore Emily (last name withheld) sat at a table with her house mates, meticulously coloring an illustration of a backpack. “Thanks for supporting us; for being our #1 fans,” the 15-year-old said to a SHINE member.
Chris, 13, will enter the 7th grade next month. He’s excited about going back to school and the new supplies are an added bonus. “I like learning new subjects and meeting new people and my teachers are very nice” the polite young man said.
Sun Health employees and residents from its three senior living Life Care communities at Grandview Terrace (Sun City West), La Loma Village (Litchfield Park) and The Colonnade (Surprise) donated the funds used to purchase the new backpacks, supplies and gift cards. The Wal-Mart Super Center in Surprise worked with Sun Health to order the merchandise in bulk.
“It means everything to have new things for the school year,” said Sarah Turney, event manager for Sunshine Residential Homes. “We want the kids to feel as normal as possible at school, and this really helps.”
The drive was coordinated with OCJ Kids, an organization founded in 1992 to provide foster and at-risk youth with tools, resources, and positive role models to help them succeed. OCJ enjoys close ties with Sunshine Residential Homes. The leftover backpacks will go to other children living in foster care.
This is the third year that SHINE has provided new school items for children living in foster care. They donated 242 filled backpacks in 2013 and 384 last year. This year’s total (approximately 100) was deliberately lower because of the requested addition of gift cards for shoe purchases.
“It’s great for them (the kids) to know that people care about them,” said Turney.
About Sun Health
A long-standing champion of healthy living, research and superior health care, Sun Health is a community-based health and wellness organization comprised of Sun Health Foundation, Sun Health Senior Living and Sun Health Community Wellness, including the Center for Health & Wellbeing. Learn more at www.SunHealth.org.