HISD’s Welch Middle School sparked to life for a few hours on Saturday as parents and students drove through to pick up school supplies during the 13th Annual Karen Johnson Back to School Bash.
This year’s event – hosted by the mother of retired Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson – had to be narrowed down to a Drive Thru Backpack Giveaway in accordance of COVID-19 physical distancing and safety measures. Nevertheless, cars filled with excited parents and students lined up as items were loaded into their trunks.
“Kids need their supplies for school, and some kids might be embarrassed to ask for a pencil, or a pen or a notebook,” Karen Johnson said. “We started in 2007 at Hobby Elementary and now, for the first time, we have partnered with Welch Middle School. So hopefully we will be able to keep this going for years to come.”
As part of the giveaway, students received shoes, produce, school supplies, basic home essentials and backpacks. A variety of partner organizations took part in the day’s festivities including the Houston Public Library, Brothers Produce, as well as the HBCU Houston Alumni Association. According to Welch Principal Rosa Hernandez, the event was a team effort to ensure the needs of the Welch community were addressed before the start of school.
“Our communities can often be forgotten here on the Southwest side of Houston, and it is so important that we keep our kids in the forefront of our mind at all times,” Hernandez said. “Our families are needing that extra support and we want to make sure that their basic needs, their social and emotional needs are met so when they start school in September, they are ready to go mentally and physically.”
Before the day was over, Andre Johnson stopped by with a few friends, retired NFL running back Jackie Battle, and former Lamar High School grad and former NFL wide receiver Brandon LaFell, to help pass out supplies and pass on a few words of encouragement to students and their parents.
“I know this can be very frustrating but at the end of the day, no matter what the situation is just give it everything you got,” Andre Johnson said. “If you’re not giving it 100 percent, then things are not going to work out. So, give it 100 percent and approach every day with a positive mentality.”
The event was held in partnership with HEB, Amerigroup, Brays Oak Management District, Lebanon Creek Leadership & Management, and DLW Foundation.