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More than 1,200 children get new shoes, attendance skyrockets to 6,400 at Knoxville Area Urban League’s annual ‘Shoes for School’

August 6, 2018

A total of 1,270 children happily walked away with new tennis shoes, and a record 6,400 people attended the 16th annual “Shoes for School” event Saturday, Aug. 4, presented by the Knoxville Area Urban League and sponsored by Covenant Health.

Knoxville Area Urban League President and CEO Phyllis Y. Nichols and Covenant Health Vice President of Philanthropy Patrick Birmingham, center, kick off the 16th Annual “Shoes for School” with a balloon release. Covenant Health was the presenting sponsor of this year’s event.

The first day of school for Knox County students is Wednesday, Aug. 8. The “Shoes for School” event at Caswell Park is timed to coincide with the start of the new academic year, sending children into the classroom with new shoes and the school supplies they need for the rest of the year.

“We could not have served the record number of children without our major sponsor, Covenant Health,” said Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. “We also are so grateful for financial support from supporters such as Comcast and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.”

Covenant Health signed on this year to be the largest sponsor for “Shoes for School.”

“Covenant Health is proud to be a part of this wonderful event, and we salute Phyllis Nichols and the Urban League for their commitment and leadership,” said Patrick Birmingham, vice president of philanthropy at Covenant Health. “As a community-owned, not-for-profit health system and one of the region’s largest employers, the success of our citizens, young and not-so-young, is critically important to us. ‘Shoes for School’ was a perfect way for us to contribute to the good health of our children in body, mind and spirit.”

Debby Saraceni, vice president of marketing and physician services at Covenant Health, enjoyed the festive atmosphere and community response.

Marcus and Marcella Jones happily present their new shoes after a day of fun at the Knoxville Area Urban League’s 16th Annual “Shoes for School.”

“I loved the music, balloons, face-painting, food and all the great organizations coming out to celebrate with these amazing kids,” Saraceni said. “The Urban League staff and board deserve enormous credit for a fantastic turnout. We met so many sweet, adorable families, and we felt so honored and privileged to get to be part of their special day.”

The Knoxville Area Urban League, Covenant Health and other sponsors provided food, games, inflatables and free haircuts thanks to 38 booth sponsors representing area businesses, nonprofits, church groups and others. The event is a community effort that families and volunteers eagerly anticipate each year. Children receiving shoes were pre-registered through 18 nonprofit agencies who identified the most in-need families. School supplies were made available to all children.

“So many volunteers thanked us for allowing them to participate,” Nichols said. “I want to thank the volunteers. Isn’t it amazing what good we can accomplish by working together? This is a true community event.”

About the Knoxville Area Urban League
Since 1968, the Knoxville Area Urban League has assisted disadvantaged people attain social and economic stability and self-sufficiency through direct services and advocacy. The League works to provide a skilled and diverse workforce; to increase homeownership; to support economic and small business development, and to enhance education efforts for our youth. The Knoxville Area Urban League is a United Way partner agency and affiliate of the National Urban League. The League’s work and results are evident in the lives of the over 8,000 people it impacts each year. For more information, call 865-524-5511 or visit