continued “Kids get excited about playing a sport, but they have to put up the grades in order to play,” he said. “So that’s a good motive for them to go to school and succeed. They’re only young once; we want to help make sure that they have the opportunity to succeed on the field and in school.”
Johnson recognizes that school supplies aren’t the only thing kids need to be ready for school, and for the past five years, Tillie’s Touch has been collecting gently used clothing year-round to hand out at the ESM Youth Picnic. “We had about eight table stacked to eye-level height with clothes and we went through almost all of it,” Johnson said.
Additionally, employees from the Shear Concept barber shops have been on hand every year to provide free back-to-school haircuts for ESM kids. Representatives from Fidelis were present to help families with questions about health insurance. The ESM Varsity Boys soccer team held a practice and worked with any interested kids on soccer skills. And members of the Syracuse University Girls lacrosse team were also at the picnic to paint the kids’ faces.
Johnson said his team purchased about 600 backpacks for the event. By the time the last backpack had been handed out, there were less than 100 remaining. And he said he didn’t know how many school supplies were purchased, but because each grade requires different supplies, Tillie’s Touch had to rent a truck to bring everything in.
“So if you sign your son up and he’s going into second grade, he receives a backpack with items specifically for second grade,” said Johnson. “Our main target is East Syracuse Elementary, so we pull everything off of their website. Whatever they ask for is what we put in the backpacks.”
Students entering pre-k through twelfth grade found backpacks stuffed with everything they’ll need for the school year. Johnson said that as an East Syracuse native, he feels a personal connection to kids in the ESM district.
“I grew up going to Heman Street Elementary and more than anything else, I want to make sure the kids in this area have the right school supplies and that they’re prepared for and excited about the first day of school,” he said.
For more information about Tillie’s Touch, visit tilliestouch.wix.com/tillies-touch