YMCA Bright Beginnings: Making a Difference in a Child’s Life

The beginning of school can be an exciting time for a student. It’s a time for a fresh start complete with new school supplies and a new outfit. However, getting the essentials needed for school can be harder for some children. Thankfully, with the help of the YMCA Bright Beginnings program, all students can start the school year on the right foot.

The YMCA Bright Beginnings program focuses on providing students from low-income families with the necessities needed to start school by giving them a new backpack and school supplies. Also, the children get to go shopping, where they pick out an outfit, shoes, socks and underwear. For this shopping experience, they are paired with a volunteer, who becomes their shopping buddy.

This past August, the Jerry Long Family YMCA in Clemmons held this fun event for its fifth year in a row. Five of our team members from Forsyth Magazines took part, and we all walked away with great memories. The focus of the program was on families in the Clemmons area. All of the students were from four elementary schools: Morgan, Southwest, Clemmons and Ward Elementary.

More than 70 volunteers and children participated, and the night began with dinner and a chance to get to know each other. Afterward, everyone boarded buses for the local K-mart for the shopping experience, where $50 gift cards were given to each student. These gift cards were provided by the YMCA Annual Giving Fund. As the group flooded into the store, the excitement in all of the children’s eyes was indescribable.

Everyone was instructed to spend his or her $50 completely. With the help of K-mart’s support, each child walked away with multiple new clothing items, allowing them to be confident on the first day of school.

I was paired with a little girl in the second grade. It was so motivating shopping for the different items because I knew I was making an impact in her life. One of the items she needed the most was socks. To make sure this need was met, we ended up with three pairs of socks, along with a dress, jeans, shoes and underwear. As she wears these items throughout the year, they will hopefully remind her of the special meaning of the night.

Before leaving K-mart, all the volunteers and children enjoyed snacks of popcorn, cookies and drinks. Once back at the YMCA, all of the students left feeling fearless and ready for school. The most memorable part was seeing the store filled with smiles and laughter from all the children and volunteers.

Forsyth Woman Publisher Keela Johnson reflects on her experience as being very gratifying. “I will definitely be participating in Bright Beginnings next year,” said Johnson. “The experience was so rewarding. I enjoyed getting to know my assigned child before we went shopping. He was a lot of fun, and it was fun to help him pick out shoes and an outfit for the first day of school.”

Robin Bralley, Publisher of Forsyth Family, was paired with a little girl who loved to shop. “I had the cutest little girl,” said Bralley. “Her enthusiasm was contagious, and her excitement about getting a new outfit was so fulfilling. The Bright Beginnings program is a great way to demonstrate to local kids in need that their community cares about them and wants to see them succeed in school.”

I have always been one to volunteer for any event, especially if it involved children. When the time came to sign up, I didn’t have to think twice and immediately added my name to the volunteer list. The night was more than just helping pick out a new outfit; it was helping children prepare themselves to be successful in a new school year. It was helping children have the confidence and assurance in their abilities and the knowledge that they can accomplish anything. After all, doesn’t everyone feel like they can take on the world with new clothes?