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West Valley City Journal

Shopping for a successful school year

Oct 18, 2018 02:38PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Volunteers from Discover Financial Services act as shopping buddies to the young students, helping them find clothes that fit at Granite Education Foundation’s Kids Shop-A-Thon. (Picture courtesy of Discover Financial Services)

By Whitney Cox | [email protected]

It’s not often that an elementary-aged student leaves a department store most excited about a package of new socks, but that was the case on Saturday, Sept. 15 at Granite Education Foundation’s Kids Shop-A-Thon at Kohl’s in West Valley City. 

“Granite School District has 65 percent of its student population living at or below the poverty level, meaning many kids face incredible and overwhelming challenges before ever entering the classroom, including such basic needs as underwear, clothes, socks and shoes,” said Brooke Porter, communications director at Granite Education Foundation. 

Granite Education Foundation teamed up with Discover Financial Services in West Valley to give 200 of the neediest students in the Granite School District a two-hour shopping spree. Each selected child was given 150 dollars, a shopping buddy from Discover, and two hours in Kohl’s department store for their own back-to-school shopping spree.

“It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. It was just about finding the right business partner that would share the same vision and wanted to make a difference in the lives of kids. When we pitched it to Discover and they called us back saying they were in we were elated, and it was bound for success after that,” said Brent Severe, CEO of Granite Education Foundation. 

“The whole event was geared toward kids, making them feel special,” said Severe.

Over 200 Discover employees volunteered to help kids feel special at the Kids Shop-A-Thon. 

“Discover has two main values that we believe in: one is volunteerism, the other one is doing the right thing, and I think this event covered both of those,” said Steve Peck, spokesperson for Discover Financial Services. Peck was the shopping buddy of the little girl who was most excited to get a package of socks. “I was just so proud, and almost cried. It really was a heartwarming event that I think touched the lives of at least 200 small children,” said Peck. 

“Not only physical needs were met, but emotional needs were met as well,” said Severe. 

Kerrie Owen, a Discover volunteer from North Salt Lake, experienced just this while volunteering in the dressing rooms. She met a young man who touched her heart. He was so excited to be there and told her it was the best day of his life. As she worked with him, he shared why he had had a lot of bad days: his dad was killed and his mom was in the hospital. He was unsure if she was going to recover. Kerrie gave him a hug to offer comfort and the boy kept returning for more hugs. After the shopping spree, he insisted on sharing his breakfast with her and giving her his Burger King crown. It was clear to her that he needed somebody to hear him and give him a hug as much as he needed clothes for school. 

“I just kind of thought, that was only one kid I actually spoke to properly, how many other stories are out there? He can’t be an isolated case,” said Owen. 

After finishing their shopping, the students met back in the parking lot where Burger King provided breakfast, Malouf from Cache Valley gave out pillows, Granite Education Foundation gave out backpacks with school supplies and volunteers painted faces and led fun activities. 

“The whole event was geared toward kids, making them feel special,” said Severe.

“The most rewarding part was seeing the kids’ faces as they came out of the store with clothing that they knew they needed that mom and dad couldn’t afford and to see the tears in the parents’ eyes knowing that their kids were having their needs met,” said Severe. “That was the rewarding part for us.”