Simon Says Gives and Famous Footwear: Working Together to Repurpose School Supplies


As the school year winds down students are scurrying to clear out desks and lockers. I can picture the books, papers, pens, and highlighters, crammed for months into small spaces, quickly removed in the scramble to leave the school year behind.

I remember all those dollars spent on the must have items: the expensive calculator, just the right felt tip marker, matching folders and notebooks, graph paper, and more.

Am I the only parent who wondered what happened to all those school supplies at year’s end?

Chances are, whether used or unused, school supplies end up in the garbage.

The folks at Simon Says Gives recognized the waste. So its Kids Advisory Board put forth a solution: collect unused school supplies and pass them on to students who cannot afford to buy their own.

The folks at Famous Footwear stepped forward to facilitate a way to get the donations to Simon Says Gives so they can repurpose them in its annual “High Five for Supplies” event to be held at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, August 3-6.

How can you help? Take your unused school supplies to any Famous Footwear location in the state of Minnesota between June 1 and July 15. Famous Footwear has containers inside stores and will ensure donations get to Simon Says Gives so it can meet its 2017 goal of filling 10,000 backpacks with supplies.

I first wrote about Simon Says Gives in 2015. The Eagan, Minnesota-based nonprofit came about when Mandi Simon approached her mother Dina about helping kids who can’t afford to have birthday parties. In less than a year, a cleverly-named nonprofit was born.

Partnering with organizations like the YMCA, the nonprofit developed a program to provide the essentials for a birthday party and a gift the child will treasure. Since 2011 Simon Says Give has brought smiles to hundreds of kids who wouldn’t otherwise have enjoyed a birthday celebration.

But facilitating birthday parties is just one of the nonprofit’s initiatives. Knowing how costly school supplies can be and that some families are stretched to purchase backpacks and supplies, Simon Says Give started “High Five for Supplies.”

The advisory board determined which school supplies should be provided for each grade and committed to offering backpacks to families who live within two hours of the Twin Cities. The nonprofit reached out to corporations and individuals and established important partnerships to fulfill the mission.

Since its inception five years ago Simon Says Gives has expanded to South Dakota and Massachusetts. It operates with an ambitious goal: to impact 2 million kids by 2022, when Mandi Simon will be a college sophomore. The gals who have embraced a mantra of being “unstoppable,” will surely achieve the goal.

Simon Says Gives is about kids celebrating kids. It’s also about teaching kids how to look up, reach out, and step forward, the hallmarks of developing resilience I write about in “Bitter or Better.” Resilience is a vital life skill, best learned early in life. Dina Simon says, “We are growing the next generation of leaders by providing the opportunity for children to develop essential life skills and a passion for giving back.”