The last thing 5-year-old Sebastian wanted to do, on one of the final days before school started, was get school supplies.
But his attitude changed when he spotted something he didn’t anticipate.
“Come on mom,” Sebastian said to his mom, as they entered the First United Methodist Church, in Blue Springs, the site of this year’s Community Services League Back-to-School event.
The soon-to-be Blue Springs kindergartner rushed past the backpacks and school supplies to a sea of brand new, brightly colored tennis shoes.
His 4-year-old brother Demitry was tugging at his mother Ashley’s hand, and their 11-year-old sister Apple was already standing in the middle of the shoes – which nearly covered the floor in front of the north wall of the Blue Springs Church.
Watching all this was Melodie Chrisman, the senior site manager for the Community Services League in Blue Springs and Oak Grove, and her eyes were getting misty.
“We’ve had the Back-to-School event for a lot of years,” Chrisman said, as Sebastian, Dimitry and Apple sorted through the shoes, “but this is the first year we’ve offered shoes to our kiddoes.
“And I think they’re a big hit.”
That might have been the understatement of the morning, as every child who entered the Back-to-School event rushed over to the shoes.
“Do you know what it will mean to my kids to go to school on the first day with a new pair of shoes?” asked Ashley, a mother who said the CSL has made a positive impact on the life of her family.
“A few years ago, Apple didn’t even have any shoes for the first day so she wore a pair of my shoes.”
The sixth grader winced at the memory.
“They were too small and really hurt my feet,” Apple admitted, “but I wore them anyway. Now, I get to go to school with new shoes. That’s so cool.”
Sebastian finally found the perfect pair of school shoes and held them high so everyone could take a look.
“They’re red!” he cried out joyfully. “I love red shoes. I thought I was coming here to just get stuff for school and I get red shoes. I love my shoes.”
And Chrisman loves memories like the one Sebastian, Dimitry and Apple provided earlier in the week.
“We collect these items all year long, so we’ll have them for the opening of school,” Chrisman said. “And I am so proud to say that 99.9 percent of everything you see has been donated by area businesses and the type of individuals that make Blue Springs and Eastern Jackson County so special.”
More than 350 children were signed up for the event, and each received the 25 items the school district designated as must-have items for all students.
“I don’t think there’s anything quite as important as feeling good about yourself the first day of school,” Chrisman explained, as parents, children and volunteers looked over the wide variety of items. “If you look good, you feel good.
“We were all talking and our amazing CEO Doug Cowan asked about providing shoes for the kids. What a great idea – and we made it happen thanks to everyone who helped make this possible.”
Dinah and her daughter, who is also named Dinah, looked through the variety of backpacks, pencils, markers and binders and their smile grew each and every moment.
“We looked at the cost of some of these things in stores and couldn’t believe how expensive they were,” young Dinah’s mother said. “This is amazing, just amazing.”
Her daughter nodded in agreement, never taking her eye off the never-ending table of supplies.
As more and more parents and children entered the event, Sebastian was getting adamant with his mother.
“Can I PLEASE put on my new shoes?” he asked, as Ashley made sure he and his siblings had everything they needed for the start of school (Dimitry was entering pre-school). “I want to put on my new red shoes.”
As he walked out, wearing his new red shoes, he cast a quick glance back and waved – to no one in particular.
“Thanks for my shoes,” he said. “I love them.”