For 17 years, the Greater Tulsa Association of Realtors (GTAR) works diligently behind the scenes through fundraising and volunteerism to ensure Family & Children’s Services (F&CS) clients receive an outfit, supplies and haircuts they need to embark on a successful school year.
Each year, GTAR holds a kids’ party in which more than 500 children pick up their backpacks and enjoy free pizza, ice cream, a photo booth and more. Each year, there is a party theme, and this year’s theme features the circus. The cost of each backpack is $75, which are filled with items by volunteers prior to the event. Many of the children have never had the experience of shopping for a new school outfit.
To ensure the continuing success of this initiative, GTAR starts fundraising for next year’s event as soon as it is over.
“When we started this, we would go to real estate company sales meetings and literally stand there and talk about (Backpacks for Kids) and pass around a clear backpack to everyone to get an idea of what we wanted to achieve,” said GTAR member Shelley Carson. “We did this because it had a profound effect on people, and it gave people the notion of what it takes to fill a backpack. Donations could be 50 cents, or it could be $50 because it all goes to the same place. That was our grassroots presentation that we did.”
A wine pull fundraiser was added seven years ago, which generates $6,000 to $7,000 for the Backpacks for Kids project. “This option, which is part of our annual banquet, is usually our kickoff fundraiser. Then the next thing we do is the golf tournament,” Carson said.
The 2022 Backpacks for Kids Spring Golf Tournament was held May 5 at The Canyons at Blackjack Ridge in Sand Springs. The event attracted 148 golfers and area sponsorships, with proceeds totaling $22,653.90. Carson, Jennifer Sanders, and Tiffany Villines, staff liaison at GTAR’s Backpacks for Kids, are already hard at work on another golf tournament on Thursday, Sept. 22 at the same location, which will be the first of its kind.
“We thought, ‘What a great way to get amped up for next year so we’re not always racing from January to June, which is what we’ve done in the last 16 years,’” Carson said.
Because of the generosity of GTAR, donors and many volunteers, seeing the reaction of F&CS clients makes it worthwhile.