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:

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


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


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


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


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!

Our Back 2 School Kits Reach Texas


The MoneyGram Foundation Funds Build-A-Kit in Dallas

Over the years, we’ve received support from MoneyGram in several different ways including being a sponsor of our POWER UP! Boot Camp. This year, they pulled out all stops and awarded us a grant for more than $60,000 that will allow us to put 4,000 of Back 2 School kits into the hands of kids that really need our help. While virtually all of the kits will end up here in Illinois, The MoneyGram Foundation, decided to kick off the grant with a small Build-A-Kit event in their hometown of Dallas.

Vogel Alcove, a Dallas-based nonprofit that does amazing work with homeless children from several weeks old through 5th grade, served as host to the Build-A-Kit because they too are supported by MoneyGram. Over 100 kits were assembled for the kids in this facility. Aside from the standard school supplies that go into the kits, these kits also included a MoneyGram drawstring backpack and a personalized note from a volunteer. These notes, are part of our newly launched “Notes of Inspiration” campaign that aims to include a message of hope into as many kits as possible.

2017 College Scholarship Winners

Take a moment to acknowledge the accomplishments of our 2017 College Scholarship recipients and wish them the best of luck on their next journey in life.


CCEA Winners:

Andrea Bossi:

Andrea is a recent high school graduate from Lindblom Math & Science Academy where she graduated with a 4.94 GPA. She was the Secretary of Nation Honor Society and was a member of Fish Spies, a group whose main project involved building a camera apparatus to record first-ever footage of icefish in Antartica. Additionally, she was captain of the Varsity Girls’ Soccer team as well as the Cross Country team and a member of Computational Thinking 4 Girls. 

Her extensive list of academic achievements includes being a National Hispanic Scholar, Illinois State Scholar, AP Scholar, and the NCIWT Award for Aspirations in Computing. She also received the CPS City Science Fair Silver Award and the Ron Brown Scholars Captain.

Andrea has been extremely active in the environmental impact of her community with involvement in Go Green and Hermitage Veterans Garden, creating a community garden in one of Englewood’s food desert pockets. She was involved with the Lindblom Ambassadors program as a student mentor/tutor and Girls in the Game, a workshop designed to teach young girls about body positivity and fun in sports.

Andrea will attend Harvard University this fall.


Carolina Cannon:

Carolina is a recent high school graduate from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School where she graduated with a 3.78 GPA. She was involved with Acting for Gender Equality (Co-Founder & President), The Young Company-Theatre Department (Production Stage Manager), Seminary Class President, Unisex Bathroom Advisory Committee, and the Young Feminist Advisory Board.

Carolina’s academic accolades include being a member of National Honor Society, Illinois State Scholar, and the Personal Progress Service Medallion. She also received the Illinois Seal of Biliteracy and the Bishop’s Award for Early-Morning Seminary.

On top of her academic accomplishments and activities, Carolina remains active in her community. Carolina has been involved with the Teen Advisory Board at Ronald McDonald House, Refugee One, The Crib (LGBT+ inclusive homeless shelter), LDS Church Community Service Group, Off the Sidelines Chicago, and as a 2016 Fellow of ANNpower.

Carolina will attend Columbia University this fall.


Catherine O'carroll:

Catherine is a recent high school graduate from Lane Technical College Prep High School where she graduated with a 4.94 GPA. Catherine was a member of the National Chinese Honor Society and German International Club, both of which she served as President during her senior year. Furthermore, Catherine was a member of the Swim and Water Polo teams, ACES Mentors, Key Club, and the Science Olympiad.

Among her academic achievements, Catherine was a member of National Honor Society, an Illinois State Scholar, AP Capstone Program Diploma recipient, and Scholastic Art Recipient. She also received the President’s Volunteer Award for her 250+ hours of volunteer service.

Her list of service work includes aiding the Red Moon Theatre Program at After School Matters, being a member of Chicago Scholars, and volunteering with Chinese American Service League (CASL).

Catherine will attend the University of Chicago this fall.


Joshua Park:

Joshua is a recent high school graduate from Naperville North High School where he graduated with a 4.21 GPA. He is the president and founder of both the Korean Club and the Yoyo Club. Additionally, Joshua has been involved with Technical Crew for Theatre Productions, Auto Club, Peer Tutoring, High Strung/Camerata Orchestras, as well as being a member of the Tennis and Soccer teams.

During his high school years, Joshua achieved a number of academic highs, including National Honor Society, AP Scholar Award, and Illinois Student Assistance Commission State Scholar. Joshua was also maintained a 4.0 GPA for seven consecutive semesters and participated in over 100 hours of non-National Honor Society sponsored service hours.

In addition to his community service sponsored by National Honor Society, Joshua has volunteered at Camp Pride, a Korean cultural camp for adopted Korean children in Illinois, Itasca Korean Language and Cultural School, and Hanmee Church Youth Group, as part of their welcoming committee and their praise band.

Joshua will attend Wheaton College this fall.


Tufano Family Winners:

Marc Johnson:

Marc Johnson is a recent high school graduate from Lyons Township High School where he graduated with a 5.33 GPA. His involvement with extracurriculars includes Math Team (Vice-President), Business Professionals of America (Treasurer), National Honor Society (Co-President), and Math Peer Tutor.

His extensive list of academic achievements includes Cook County Sheriff Youth Medal of Honor, National Merit Finalist, Illinois State Scholar, National Honor Society, AP Scholar with Distinction, Mu Alpha Theta, Spanish Honor Society, and Academic Gold “L” Award, recognizing his 12+ consecutive quarters on the honor roll.

Community involvement has been very important to Marc as seen through his work with Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital, Center for Independence Through Conductive Education, Wellness House, Lyons Township High School Bookstore, and St. John of the Cross Family Festival. Marc’s volunteering hours went above and beyond the minimum requirement for students in National Honor Society.

Marc will attend University of Notre Dame this fall.


Delnaz Patel:

Delnaz is a recent high school graduate from University of Chicago Laboratory Schools where she graduated with a 3.97 GPA. She was nominated by fellow students and faculty to serve on the school’s Disciplinary Review Board, acted as the Assistant for the Dean of Students Office, and was a member of the Science Olympiad Team. She was also Head Captain of the Varsity Tennis team.

In addition, Delnaz was an Illinois State Scholar, presented research at the American Clef-Palate Craniofacial Annual Meeting, was a Chicago Area Music Teachers Association Gold Medal Winner, and published scientific research on Cleft Skeletal Asymmetry.

Her contributions to her community include serving as the Junior Board President for Face the Future Foundation, translating medical brochures for Shriner’s Hospital for Children, developing online seminars on social ethics for Baha’i Faith Service Projects, and tutoring for High Jump Chicago.

Delnaz will attend University of Pennsylvania this fall.


Margaret Polk:

Margaret is a recent high school graduate from Amos Alonzo Stagg High School where she graduated with a 4.99 GPA. She was a member of Student Ambassadors, Social Action Club, Student Council, and Youth Government. She was also a member of the Volleyball and Soccer teams.

Margaret ranked in the top 1% of her class and was a member of National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, as well as Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society. 

She was also very active in her community through her work with her church. Margaret is part of the leadership team for the youth ministry, which involved two mission trips that she was a part of. Additionally, she spent time volunteering with Palos Community Hospital and helping with various activities around her school.

Margaret will attend Boston College this fall.

B2SI's 2017 Kickoff Event is Biggest Yet

Guests Experience An Evening Full of Inspiration at Galleria Marchetti

On May 4, we came together with a record numbers of guests to celebrate the work of Back 2 School Illinois and to thank all our sponsors, partners, family, and friends who make our work possible. The festivities began with a lovely cocktail reception which allowed for everyone, from this year’s college scholarship winners to our growing list of sponsors, the chance to mingle and get to know one another. 

Our program got underway with emcee Marley Kayden, NBC5 Weekend Traffic Anchor, introducing the string quartet from Chicago High School for the Arts as they welcomed guests with a series of classical tunes. The Chicago High School for the Arts performers were also featured in our dinner break when they played some calming background music for our guests. Next up, Alan Mather, Chief of the Office of College and Career Success of the Chicago Public Schools, took to the stage to accept his 2017 Education Award and gave a powerful speech on the success of Lindblom Math & Science Academy and the hope for CPS. 

We then took guests back to high school as Marley began our pop quiz which tested their knowledge of art, history, literature, math, and science. Later in the program, the Chicago Children’s Museum accepted our second 2017 Education Award of the evening. Board Chair, Jeffery Perry, accepted the award and spoke of the importance of their museum and how they are igniting children’s interest in the arts and creative endeavors. 

This year we had two additional special guests. The first was Principal Aquabah Gonney of Lewis School of Excellence, the 2016 recipient of our “Win School Supplies for an Entire School” Contest. Mrs. Gonney spoke on the struggles that many CPS administrators face as well as how our school supply program positively impacted their school. Michael Hans, former Board Secretary, was acknowledged for being a founding member of Back 2 School Illinois and helping shape the organization. 

Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois Board President Marty Lieberman and Back 2 School Illinois Board Vice President Jerry Tufano presented checks to the winners of the CCEA and Tufano Family Scholarships. Andrea Bossi, Carolina Cannon, Catherine O’Carroll, and Joshua Park are the recipients of the CCEA Scholarships, and Marc Johnson, Delnaz Patel, and Margaret Polk are the recipients of the Tufano Family Scholarships. 

To round out the evening, Matthew Kurtzman, B2SI’s CEO, addressed our largest crowd yet. Matthew noted the continued success of B2SI and pledged between 35-40,000 kits to be distributed in 2017, surpassing our record of 29,714 kits in 2016.

We thank all those who were able to attend, and we hope to see you next year.