KEARNS — Hundreds of kids in Kearns got new shoes and books on Thursday as nonprofits teamed up with the library to help give students a running start into summer.
Out of the dozens of book choices for children of all ages, Toby Berry, 8, picked one about marbles.
"Because I really, really like marbles, and marbles are really fun to play with. It teaches how to do it, and also has some stuff that we need to build," Toby said.
He was also excited about his new blue-and-orange tennis shoes, which he chose out of the selection of shoes that included just about every color of the rainbow "because they looked really cool."
His mom, Charisse Berry, became emotional as she explained why the donations made a difference to them.
"He struggles with reading, so I'm really excited for this. Anything, especially things that he's interested in — even though it's an activity — I know I can help go through with him and read it. So hopefully this will help him enjoy the reading part," she said.
During the event, the Salt Lake County Library, Operation Warm, The County Library, Salt Lake County, MolinaCares, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, Utah Food Bank and the Nora Roberts Foundation expected to donate 1,000 pairs of shoes, 1,000 books and 1,000 bagged lunches to families.
"I think it's great for the community, just having the opportunity to get shoes for kids," Berry said, explaining that she is a part of the PTA and substitutes in the school district.
"So seeing the kids without shoes, they'll be playing with the flap on their shoe, and they'll be like, 'I need more duct tape.' And I'm like: 'You need a new pair of shoes.' ... It's a great help to my family, but to others, too, especially with the economy right now," Berry said.
Trish Hull, library manager at Kearns, said organizers wanted to specifically help children in Kearns. They spread the word about the event through elementary schools and preschools.
"We do Kids Cafe (a federal daily children's lunch program) every day, and we get a good turnout of kids who need food. A lot of the Kearns families, it's a strong community and they're great families, but the pandemic did hurt everybody," Hull said, noting that items like shoes are often the "last thing" a family buys after needing to pay for rent and other necessities.
"So it's kind of nice for these kids to get a new pair of shoes maybe that will last for school," Hull said.
By holding the event at the library, organizers also hope to help instill a love of books in the community's youth.
"We definitely want kids to like libraries, and right now it's good because summer reading has just started, and summer reading is a really important program for us," Hull said, adding that studies show that kids who read during the summer experience less "summer slide" in learning loss.
Krystal Garcia picked up a book, a bagged lunch and a size 2 pair of shoes for her son, "Because next year when school starts, that's what he'll use," she said.
"It's super helpful because I didn't actually even know about it, but the teacher actually reached out and they were like, 'Hey, this is something that they're offering.' And I think that with so many people right now and everything going on, it's hard for even basic needs," the mom said.
Evan Cjar, 3, got a book and new pair of sneakers along with his older brother. He showed off his new pair of bright red shoes.
"It's nice, it's very nice for the kids to get some new shoes," said John Cjar, Evan's dad.
Marisel Arellano, another mom with her kids in tow, explained: "They're excited."
Her daughter, 14-year-old Carolina Gomez, said she got an Aladdin book.
"It's wonderful that they all get a new pair of shoes and a book to read and a little snack to eat while they're here. They had a lot of fun," Arellano said.