Voices For Children and Old Navy Put Some Much-Needed Smiles On Foster Kids’ Faces
“Everybody deserves a chance,” said Old Navy’s market leader for South Florida Teresa Thompson, whose team gave foster children the opportunity to shop for clothes and supplies before the start of the new school year. When the “Back to School” event, hosted by Voices For Children Foundation faced cancellation due to a funding shortage, Thompson along with Gap Inc. raised $18,000 in just four weeks. “I love seeing the kids’ smiles, seeing them empowered to spend their own money. It’s probably not something that happens often,” shared Thompson of the $100 gift card each child received to shop.
The crowd’s enthusiasm was evident as a group of kids and their foster parents lined up even before the doors opened at the Old Navy store, which closed to the public for the three-hour event. “They’re excited, they think the clothes are going to run out,” said Nelson F. Hincapie, President and CEO of Voices For Children. Inside, each child was treated to snacks, handed a shopping bag and encouraged to roam the store in search of their favorite back-to-school fashions. Sixteen-year-old Juan-Carlos Remedios was most excited to pick up a new pair of jeans, which he confessed he had not worn in more than six months. “The food started getting better so I started gaining weight,” said Remedios, who revealed he got his new pair in a smaller size as a way to motivate himself to get in shape. His brother and legal guardian, Juan Carlos, has volunteered with Voices For Children for more than three years and credits the organization with helping him care for his two younger siblings. “Voices For Children is like the surgeon who makes the smallest cut that has the most impact,” he said smiling. “I’m not dependent on this “Back to School” event but it’s definitely an assistance and makes such a world of difference.”
The turn out wasn’t the biggest the organization has had since the event launched five years ago, but it was the first time that Voices For Children depended wholly on the kindness of others since their limited budget is going to a similar event that aims to help approximately 2,000 unprivileged children. “The need is so great that we must partner with other organizations,” said Hincapie. Among them was Galleria Farms, a flower shop that donated brand-new backpacks for the children and a flower as token of appreciation. “I think the women just came for the orchid,” joked Hincapie. “But the children are going home happy.”