Florida Massacre

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Running an education nonprofit that focuses on providing children, particularly ones from low-income households with educational opportunities, our primary program is to provide the basic school supplies kids need for school. I never imagined, that even something more basic, safety in school would become a major issue in this country.

As the list of mass shootings in and around schools continues to mount it is no longer a problem that needs to be addressed long term but one that requires immediate action. While it will take time to implement some changes, there are clearly some changes we can make almost immediately.

Sadly, the children, families, teachers, staff and community members in Parkland, Florida had to first hand feel the effects of this terrible tragedy for something to change. This particular school tragedy feels different. The reaction is different, the number of people that are responding to what happened is large and growing by the day. There is a momentum that is building. The town hall meeting on CNN last week was just one example of how it feels different. It was so powerful and for those of you who watched it, you know what I am saying.

Carpe Diem. This is an opportunity for us, as a society, to rise up and make ourselves better, make ourselves stronger. We have an opportunity to show the world how great the citizenry of the United State can be when faced with real adversity.

While I don’t want to get my hopes up, it is possible that we can not only make great strides to address school safety and safety in our communities overall, but perhaps this movement will help shift the political process. It will get more people to vote. It will remind people that everyone has a voice, and that we need to use it. Maybe we will start to listen, really listen to one another. Maybe this shooting and the 17 lives lost will not be in vain.

Let us use the tremendous courage we’ve seen from the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and those that have stood beside them to inspire us to join the movement for change. Let us all work together to make sure our children can go to school without fear for their lives. Let children focus on learning. Let teachers focus on teaching and providing guidance to them, so that they can grow up to be happy, healthy and contributing members of society. 

Matthew Kurtzman, CEO

B2SI Hosts “Notes of Inspiration” Happy Hour at Sidetrack

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An Evening of Fun, While Doing Good

On Thursday, February 8, we held a “Notes of Inspiration” Happy Hour at Sidetrack (3349 N Halsted St, Chicago). The purpose of the night was to write notes of encouragement to be included in our signature Back 2 School kits.

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These notes are designed to let the children who receive our kits know that someone is out there rooting for them to succeed in school and in life. Sometimes all it takes is a simple, “You can do this!” or “This is going to be your year!” to get these children excited and eager to take on the school year. 

 

During the happy hour, people conversed over cocktails and snacks while writing note after note! There were laughs and selfies, and everyone enjoyed the time together! We featured a raffle drawing where we encouraged people to follow us on social media and use our hashtag, #b2si, when posting pictures to receive tickets. The prizes were from The Chicago Diner, Wood, and Starbucks.  We were so pleased with the success of the event and over 250 notes written, that we are going to schedule more “Notes of Inspiration” events, though out the year. So, if you couldn’t join us this time around, there will be plenty of opportunities later in the year, so stay tuned! 

2018 College Scholarship Program Launches

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Record Number of Scholarships Offered

As 2018 approaches, it’s that time of the year again for our College Scholarship Program to launch. We are excited to announce we will handing out ten $2,500 scholarships to high school seniors. Funding for the scholarships is provided by the Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois, The Tufano Family, Payline Data, Kits for Kidz and the Hugo Sonnenschein III Charitable Fund. With over 44 million Americans with student loan debt, we are happy to be able to lessen the financial burden with this program.

The application process is very simple and can be accessed Here, and mailed back to our offices at 3959 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL 60613. Our scholarships go to deserving Illinois high school seniors. If that’s you or someone you know, make sure to apply by April 1, 2018! Winners will also receive two complimentary tickets to our Kickoff Dinner at Galleria Marchetti on Wednesday, August 9, 2018.

For more details on the 2018 College Scholarship Program visit: College Scholarship Program.

 

Back 2 School Illinois Launches Holiday Campaign

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Tis the Season For Giving

On November 27, we launched our first official holiday fundraising campaign so that we can increase the number of Back 2 School kits we distribute during the season of giving. The campaign, which runs through the end of the year has already been featured in interviews with CEO Matthew Kurtzman on WBBM-AM and iHeartMedia radio stations, 103.5 KISS FM, 93.9 MYFM and BIG 95.5.

The holiday season is increasingly becoming a time of year when kits are being distributed by the organization. December distribution events include:

  • December 3rd - Camp Duncan YMCA, Ingleside - 550 kits
  • December 8th - DCFS Holiday Party, Springfield - 225 kits
  • December 9th - DCFS Holiday Party, Party Kroc Center - 500 kits
  • December 11th - Great Lakes Naval Station (In partnership with Operation Homefront - 283 kits
  • December 14th - The Harbour, Park Ridge - 25 kits
  • Assorted locations & parties - YMCA Early Childhood Development - 300 kits

One of the many benefits of giving out kits during this time of year is that parents who can’t afford Christmas gifts can use our kits as a gift to go under the tree.

With additional donations, Back 2 School Illinois hopes to add more kits to the end of year distributions. Donating $15 puts a signature Back 2 School kit in the hands of a child in need. To donate visit: www.b2si.org/holiday

A little donation can make a big difference:

$15: Provides school supply kit to 1 Illinois student for the new year
$30: Provides school supply kits to 2 Illinois students for the new year
$75: Provides school supply kits to 5 Illinois students for the new year
$120: Provides school supply kits to 8 Illinois students for the new year
$300: Provides school supply kits to 20 Illinois students for the new year

Back 2 School Holds Its Fourth Annual POWER UP! Boot Camp

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Another Year, Another Successful Boot Camp!

On the morning of Saturday, October 14, Back 2 School Illinois in partnership with the Chicago Park District kicked off its annual POWER UP! Boot Camp at the West Lawn Park. 150 kids ages 6-12 enjoyed a fun-filled day of activities and received a nutritional education on how to live a healthy lifestyle. Activities included an obstacle course, aerobics, yoga and kickboxing. The kids were also taught how important it is to get regular exercise and make healthy food decisions. The kids received instruction on how to read packaged goods labels, how calories are burned and how to make healthier choices when eating out. In the Build-A-Snack session, the children made trail mix to show them how to create a healthy snack to give them sustained energy.

Participants took a pre- and post-Boot Camp exam so we could measure what they learned throughout the day. Before leaving the event that day each child received a fitness/nutrition backpack filled with a frisbee, water bottle, jump rope, paddleball, tea, and healthy snacks. We also hosted a session for the parents to let them know what their children were learning and the critical importance that they reinforce those lessons on a day in and day out basis.

We want to send a big thanks to all of the volunteers who came out and chose to spend their Saturday with us, especially because of the steady downpour of rain. The Boot Camp would not have been such a success without the kind hearts of people willing to lend their time.

Another thank you goes to our major sponsors, MoneyGram, Community Currency Exchange of Illinois and Chicago Athletic Clubs as well as Honest Tea, Skinny Pop, GoGo SqueeZ, Kits for Kidz, Whole Foods, KIND Snacks, and Mariano’s. 

“Win School Supplies For An Entire School” Contest Winners

Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy and Washington Irving Elementary School Receive Back 2 School Kits

On September 8, students were surprised the first week of school when we showed up with school supplies for every student in the school. Thanks to a passionate and caring 8th grade teacher, Mari Mendoza-Ramirez, 1,000+ of our signature Back 2 School kits were distributed, one to each and every student in the school at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy.

The essay Ms. Mendoza-Ramirez wrote, as part of her application in our annual “Win School Supplies for and Entire School” contest, conveyed the dire need of the kids and the importance to the community to receive school supply kits with no other option. She said that normally many students show up to the first day of school with nothing. What was the secret to writing a captivating essay? Ramirez said she just “told it like it is” in the essay. Our Education Director, Dr. Christopher Palmi, was moved by her story and that he made the determination that the school should be one of this year’s contest winners.

Two separate assemblies were held for the student body who was addressed by Ms. Mendoza-Ramirez, Principal Ginger Hiltz, Assistant Principal Juan Lugo, Alderman George Cardenas and our very own B2SI CEO, Matthew Kurtzman. The joy and smiles on the kids’ faces that day reiterated why we do what we do.

The second contest winner was Washington Irving Elementary School, which was nominated by Sean Moody, devoted husband to 1st grade teacher Randi Foust. All 455 students at this school also received one of our Back 2 School kits.

The Private Bank Participates In Build-A-Kit

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Signature Back 2 School Kits to Go to DFSS

On Tuesday, August 8th, The Private Bank took part in one of our Build-A-Kits, where almost 2 dozen volunteers helped put together 500 of our signature Back 2 School Kits. The event build took place at took place at Victor Hall Chicago, a new, hip urban and industrial space located on the south side of Chicago.

The completed kits are being donated to Chicago’s Department of Family & Support Services (DFSS). This is the city’s agency that works with all the homeless shelters in the Chicago. DFSS will receive a total of 1,500 kits from us in 2017.

The Private Bank, is one of our new partners in 2017. In addition to doing the 500 kits they build and donated, the bank is also a Silver sponsor of our Back 2 School program. 

Back 2 School Illinois Holds Its “BIG” Distribution & Activity Day Event

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14,000+ Kits Distributed and 300 Kids Enjoy a Fun-Filled Day of Cool Activities

On August 9, we held our annual “BIG” Distribution & Activity Day Event at the Broadway Armory Park. Over 100 volunteers showed up to help facilitate the day as 300 children (from the Carter Boys and Girls Club, Vietnamese Association of Illinois, and McGaw YMCA) rotated through a series of six activities and received signature school supply kits. The activities included aerobics and nutrition taught by our good friends at the Chicago Park District, fire safety courtesy of the Chicago Fire Department, arts & crafts hosted by Kits for Kidz, science & chemical experiments run by students from UIC,  and an exotic animals station.
 
We gave away 14,000 Back 2 School kits filled with more than 420,000 supplies to underserved Illinois students. The kits were brought in on four semi-trucks and then sent back out to more than 50 area YMCA’s.

We would like to say another thank you to all of the volunteers who came out to make the event run so flawlessly, as the event would not be possible without their help.

Scott Air Force Base Hosts Summer Event

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Families Brave 100 Degree Heat to Get School Supplies

Our Armed Forces are trained to deal with difficult and often life threatening situations. So, it’s no surprise that triple digit temperatures didn’t keep the Scott Air Force Base military families for coming out to get our Back 2 School kits so their children would go back into the classroom this fall with the tools they need to succeed in the classroom.

In addition to getting school supplies, families were treated to a fun lunch of hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, soda, and sweet treats. A number of organizations were on hand, to offer
to a variety of services; services that make the challenging life of serving in the military, a lot easier.

The Scott Air Force Base kit distribution is the largest of our summer Operation Homefront events. We distributed 600 kits to families in just a few hours. There are seven other distributions scheduled in the next two months. 2017 represents another year of growth for our support of the men and women that protect our country.

Deloitte Employees Assemble 2,000 Kits

Kids from area YMCA’s and military families benefit

Now in its third year, we are proud to be one of the volunteer program supported by Deloitte as part of their annual global Impact Day. On June 9, fifty of their employees gathered to support our Back 2 school program by assembling 2,000 of our signature kits at the Irving Park YMCA.

Half of the kits went to the National Guard to be handed out at three army bases as part of our partnership with Operation Homefront. The other 1,000 kits are being divided up amongst the Irving Park, Des Plaines, McCormick, and Northbrook YMCA’s.

Working like a well-oiled machine, the in six hours time, 11 pallets filled with 60,000 school supplies were unloaded, organized, assembled into kits, packed into shipping cartons and sent off to their final destination. Kudos to the all of the Deloitte employees and Irving Park YMCA staff for doing a flawless job of executing a massive Build-A-Kit initiative, in less than six hours time!