Lake Norman & Mooresville

Project provides shoes, supplies for needy area student

Christine Leal, from left, Carmen San Juan and Director Bonnie Battalia with the Back2School box for donated supplies at St. Therese Church.
Christine Leal, from left, Carmen San Juan and Director Bonnie Battalia with the Back2School box for donated supplies at St. Therese Church. SUZANNE RUFF

Mooresville’s Bonnie Battalia, director of the upcoming Mooresville Back 2 School BASH 15, believes every student should start the school year in a positive way.

“You should be ready to start school, be joyful and ready to learn – not the focus ... on what you don’t have, but on what you do have.”

Any K-12 student of the Mooresville Graded School District or Iredell-Statesville Schools who is in need will be provided with a backpack, school supplies and a new pair of shoes.

This is Battalia’s first year as director of the BASH. “I went from zero to 100,” she said. “I had always heard of it, but we had always been on vacation. Then I had an opportunity to hear more about it from the church that I go to, which is West United Methodist Church. The pastor there is Andrea Smith. She talked to me more about helping with some of the development. We rely on many businesses to support us. We rely on local businesses for sponsorship support. It takes roughly $35 to sponsor one child. I was going to help secure sponsorships, applying for grants, which turned into becoming the director. It morphed into that.”

How does a student qualify? “It’s not our belief or job that you have to prove to us how big their need is,” Battalia said. “A need could be someone who lost their job six months ago and free school supplies makes all the difference that year. And it might be their only year that they need that. That’s how we approach it. It’s not our job to make you prove to us. If you are already taking the time to go to the website and register to come, that’s all that matters. Those few that may take advantage, they have to look within and answer to themselves. They don’t have to answer to us.“

Christine Leal, church secretary at St. Therese Church in Mooresville, once needed help. “I was a waitress when I moved here and when it was time for my daughter Layla to start school, I was living paycheck to paycheck and I remember it helped. She was able to go in a bounce house, eat a hot dog and get half of her school supplies and it was a huge help. Ever since then I’ve always been grateful and is one of the main reasons why I love this town. I love Mooresville. It’s why my husband and I bought a house here.”

Layla is now 11.

Leal heard through Carmen San Juan, faith formation director of religious education and youth minister, at St. Therese, that BASH needed volunteers to help bring in supplies. Leal stepped up: “I made flyers and handed them out after masses for a couple of weekends. The BASH is a good thing.” San Juan distributes the pink and blue shoe tags to the campers at the vacation Bible school.

There are 10 Mooresville churches involved, along with both large and small businesses, sponsors and private donations making it a community event.

BASH, which began in 2010, had approximately 6,000 attendees in 2014. It has grown so much that this year Troutman and Statesville will spin off and hold a BASH on Aug. 15. The Mooresville BASH expects 3,000 people this year and already has 927 students registered.

Remember to register by July 20, Battalia said, “The registration cut-off gives us enough time not only to gather the school supplies, but we outfit them with a free backpack, school supplies and a new pair of shoes, sneakers or tennis shoes, whatever you call them.”

Register by July 20 on the Back2School BASH website: www.b2sb.org Click on the student’s school, enter their name and student ID number and shoe size.

The fun begins the day of the BASH, Aug. 1, Battalia described it this way: “You walk through registration, and you actually get to pick a backpack, just like you’re going shopping. We have so many styles to choose from, whether you’re an elementary student or in high school. ... You pick out your school supplies, pick what color folder you want, then you’ll be escorted to the shoe room and you are fitted for your shoes staffed by a volunteer. It’s very interactive. It’s really a celebration of back-to-school. You exit out into the entertainment to a bounce house and food. The YMCA provides a slide. Just like you’re at a community fair, you have a hot dog, drinks, and a cookie. It’s such a wonderful outreach event. It fills your heart.”

Suzanne Ruff is a freelance writer. Have a story for Suzanne? Email her at ruffsuzanne@gmail.com

Want to know more?

Back2School BASH will be 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 1 at Mooresville High School’s Magnolia campus. You must register to attend. Register, donate/sponsor or volunteer at www.b2sb.org.

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