Knoxville area Urban League’s ninth annual Shoes for School draws in 1500 kids

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For the past nine years, the Knoxville Area Urban League has helped thousands of area children start the school year with new shoes and school supplies, as well as a sense of excitement and confidence.

On Saturday, Aug. 11, an estimated 3,500 people gathered at Caswell Park for a back-to-school celebration where 1,000 children received new athletic shoes. Thirty booth sponsors representing area businesses, nonprofit organizations, church groups and others helped create the carnival-like atmosphere that featured a balloon release, inflatable amusements, food and games. 

The event is a joint effort by Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the Knoxville Area Urban League, who work together to raise funds and handle the many details involved in providing 1,000 pairs of new athletic shoes for area children. The process begins each spring, when the Urban League works with 20 area non-profit agencies to identify children ages 5-12 throughout the community who need the help most.

Knoxville Area Urban League President and Chief Executive Officer Phyllis Nichols said she is thrilled that the event gets more elaborate each year, thanks in part to the generosity of corporate sponsors.

“Shoes for School grows every year, as we reach more children and their families. We appreciate our sponsors, volunteers and donors, who keep returning to support it,” Nichols said. “I think what brings all of us back is seeing the excitement on the children’s faces when they realize they get to start school with new shoes and supplies.”

Enterprise Regional Vice President and Urban League board member Tim Romero said his company sponsors this event each year to fill a simple but widespread need in the community. He said growing up in an impoverished area of Louisiana, he remembers how embarrassed children can feel starting school without new things.

“Every child deserves a fresh start at the beginning of school — that great feeling of everything being brand new,” Romero said. “Many of us, even as adults, can still remember how it felt not having the same things as other kids.”

About the Knoxville Area Urban League: 

The Knoxville Area Urban League, founded in 1968 and an affiliate of the National Urban League, promotes equal opportunities for African-Americans and others. There are more than 100 affiliates of the National Urban League located in 35 states and the District of Columbia providing direct services to more than 2 million people nationwide through programs, advocacy and research.

For more information on the Knoxville Area Urban League and its programs, call 865-524-5511 or visit

From Staff Reports

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