Think back to a time when you were a kid and you really, really, really wanted something. Did you get it? If so, it probably took a whole lot of hugs and kisses and an extra-large helping of puppy-dog eyes. Kids seem to know all the little tricks it takes to getting what they want, but when it comes to a child asking for something totally out of the ordinary, where do you draw the line?
When one nine-year-old asked her mom to make an unusual purchase for her while out at the store, the woman couldn’t understand what prompted such an odd request. But after learning the reason behind the little girl’s words, this mom needed more than just a minivan to bring her shopping bags home that day.
For most kids, September marks the end of summer vacation, that trying time when book bags and bus passes take the place of sunscreen and swimsuits. Fortunately, this season also brings with it something to look forward to: back-to-school blowout sales.
From clothing stores to school-supply outlets, every retail shop seems to offer steep discounts on their stock to get local kids back-to-school ready. Naturally, most parents are quick to take advantage of these low prices.
Carrie Jernigan of Alma, Arkansas, was just one of a handful parents looking to stock up on school supplies before the summer of 2019 finished. As president of her school board, Jernigan understood the importance of preparing her three kids for the year ahead.
Carrie Jernigan / Facebook
But instead of visiting Staples for pencils and notebooks, Jernigan’s first stop on her back-to-school shopping trip was Payless. With the company closing its doors for good, she knew she could score some great deals on shoes.
Sure enough, all three of her kids came away with brand new kicks, though before she could bring the shoes to the cashier, her nine-year-old daughter Harper pulled her aside to show her another pair that’d caught her eye.
Carrie Jernigan / Facebook
The shoes featured characters from Marvel’s “Avengers” team, which only made Jernigan scratch her head. Harper had never expressed interest in superheroes before — why would she be interested in this particular pair now?
Apparently, Harper had noticed one of her classmate’s sneakers looked worn out and wasn’t sure he could afford a new pair. She hoped her mother would be willing to buy the shoes to give to the boy as a gift.
Michelle Warren / Flickr
Touched by Harper’s generosity, Jernigan agreed to buy the shoes, though there was just one problem: she didn’t know what size the little boy was. She decided to bring them up to the cashier with the rest of their purchases to see if they had any other pairs in stock.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
As they chatted, Jernigan jokingly remarked that she should just buy out the entire Payless for the sake of giving the shoes away. But the cashier didn’t find the joke funny — he found it brilliant!
The more she thought about it, the more Jernigan, too, began to see the promise in her “joke.” The cashier took down her number to give to his manager, and, sure enough, she got a call later that day with an offer to buy out the rest of the store’s stock.
Seeing the good she could do, Jernigan agreed to purchase the remaining 400 pairs of shoes. She arrived at Payless the next day with a small loading truck, though she quickly realized she’d need much more than a U-Haul.
Apparently, the store had received a shipment of an additional 1,000 pairs of shoes that morning, all of which the manager offered to Jernigan. With her kids unwilling to leave them behind, Jernigan managed to swing a deal for the new stock as well.
Carrie Jernigan / Facebook
Loaded up with nearly 1,500 pairs of shoes, Jernigan and her family began the painstaking process of sorting through everything. Sizes ranged from toddler all the way to an adult 13, though the vast majority wound up being kids’ shoes.
With the entire stock accounted for, Jernigan was left with just one more hurdle to overcome: distribution. The mother of three had no idea how to begin getting these shoes to kids in need, so she decided to try Facebook to see if those online could advise.
An outpouring of support flooded in from users in the community, each volunteering to help Jernigan carry out her mission. Local churches soon hopped on board with further aid and donations, expanding the program beyond just handing out shoes.
Carrie Jernigan / Facebook
Eventually, local businesses in the Alma area began pitching in, leading the community to begin planning a special back-to-school event. There, needy kids could receive free shoes and clothes along with haircuts, eye exams, and other pre-school-year necessities.
Northwestern Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Word of the Arkansas mom’s kindness soon spread nationwide, with even the folks at Good Morning America taking notice. In fact, Jernigan and Harper were invited to be guests on the show’s “Strahan & Sara” segment to share the story behind their amazing mission.
Carrie Jernigan / Facebook
Yet despite the attention she received, Jernigan insisted that fame was never the end goal of her ambitious undertaking: it was all just a byproduct of buying a little boy a pair of shoes.
“In the grand scheme of things in this country, this is a tiny blip,” Jernigan explained of her mission. “But if it continues to grow and … it makes you do one little thing for that student fixing to go back to school then it matters to that one kid.”
Good Morning America
But giving back isn’t just about the physical things, as providing struggling kids with guidance and opportunity is equally as invaluable. No one knows this better than professional athletes, many of whom are working to provide these opportunities to their communities every day.
Black EOE Journal
Through his LeBron James Family Foundation, the basketball legend has donated millions toward improving living and education standards for the people of Akron, Ohio — his hometown.
But what is perhaps James’ most significant act of giving is the creation of his I Promise School. After learning of Akron’s high school dropout rate, James created the IPS to provide a stable education for at-risk children.
Lake Show Life
2. Serena Williams: Like James, Williams has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in youth scholarships, but she’s even worked to build schools in underprivileged nations like Jamaica and Kenya.
Not only that, but Williams is also active in violence prevention. Her Serena Williams Fund is dedicated to assisting families and communities affected by senseless violence.
Hip and Healthy
3. J.J. Watt: While he’s definitely not the type of guy you’d want to cross on the football field, as president and founder of the Justin J. Watt Foundation, the football star has raised over $1 million toward helping children get involved in athletics within a safe environment.
Watt’s giving doesn’t stop there, as in 2017, he was a major part of Houston’s Hurricane Harvey recovery effort. Through crowdfunding and his own personal donations, Watt raised almost $40 million for the city and was subsequently named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
4. Maria Sharapova: Tennis and charity seem to go hand in hand, as, like Williams, Sharapova is also actively engaged in helping those in need. Through her Maria Sharapova Foundation, the legendary Russian tennis player has donated over $500k to communities affected by the Chernobyl disaster.
Sharapova is also heavily involved in global disaster recovery and tragedy relief efforts as well. The tennis star donated $50k to those affected by the Beslan school hostage crisis in 2004 and even aided fellow competitor Monica Puig in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
5. Russell Wilson: The star quarterback holds dozens of charity events in and around Seattle, and in 2016, his Wilson’s Why Not You Foundation raised $1.06 million for the Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Strong Against Cancer initiative.
While Wilson’s charitable contributions are no doubt impressive, the personal relationships he’s forged through his philanthropy are just as valuable. When he isn’t training or prepping for game day, Wilson makes weekly visits to Seattle Children’s to spend time with sick fans.
6. Kristi Yamaguchi: A shift from figure skating to charity work may not seem like a natural transition, but the 1992 Olympic champion has taken to her new passion in stride. Yamaguchi works to provide literacy programs to underserved children nationwide.
Yamaguchi has also expanded into the world of fashion through her active lifestyle brand, Tsuya. The clothing line is designed to empower women to look and feel their best, and a portion of the proceeds from Tsuya sales are donated to her youth literacy efforts.
7. John Cena: The WWE legend is one of the most charitable athletes out there, having granted the most wishes for the Make-A-Wish Foundation with 500… and counting!
Even in the ring, Cena has been an ambassador for numerous charities. From late 2011 to early 2012, Cena sported a “Rise Above Hate” shirt to promote the “Be a Star” anti-bullying campaign, and during his October appearances, he wore pink in support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
8. Mia Hamm: For a woman that’s done it all both in and out of the sports world, Mia Hamm’s charitable pursuits are no less impressive. As the founder of the Mia Hamm Foundation, the soccer legend strives to empower and create athletic opportunities for young women.
Mia Hamm Foundation
Since her brother’s death from aplastic anemia in 1997, Hamm has also been an advocate for the demand for bone marrow and cord blood transplants in the U.S. Through her foundation, Hamm encourages enrollment in the national bone marrow registry.
9. Eli Manning: He’s won two Super Bowls and raised millions for causes like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Operation Smile, and the Wounded Warrior Project. Surprisingly, however, the future Hall of Famer’s mission of giving extends far beyond the borders of New York and New Jersey.
In 2007, Manning donated $2.5 million to the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson, Mississippi to create The Eli Manning Children’s Clinics. The quarterback is also heavily involved in his hometown of New Orleans, having assisted in the delivery of 30,000 pounds of relief supplies following Hurricane Katrina.
10. Colin Kaepernick: There’s no denying the good that Kaepernick has done since taking a stand against injustice in 2016. The former NFL star pledged to donate $1 million to “organizations working in oppressed communities” and has since encouraged other celebrities to do the same.
The Grueling Truth
Kaepernick’s philanthropic efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, and since 2016 he has received numerous accolades. In 2017, Kaepernick was named GQ‘s “Citizen of the Year” and honored with Sports Illustrated‘s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. In 2018, he was given the Ambassador of Conscience Award and the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal.