KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Hundreds of East Tennessee foster children will now be able to return to school with a little more confidence.

Knoxville Area Association of Realtors® (KAAR) raised over $15,000 this summer through their Birdies for Backpacks Golf Tournament for Youth Villages’ Backpack Heroes program.

Thursday, they put that money to good use. 

“We are doing backpack stuffing for all of the kids in East Tennessee that we serve in our Youth Villages programs,” said Melissa Jackson-Wade, director of the Youth Villages Program.

Youth Villages is a nonprofit organization that works hand in hand with the Department of Children’s Services to help foster children and parents.

“The need for foster parents is very high right now,” Jackson-Wade added. “There are a lot more kids in custody this year than there was last time. We’re constantly looking for people who want to take care of and support our local children.”

The first day of school can be scary for any child, especially when they don’t have the necessary materials.

“I do think that having all of the things that they need really does increase their confidence,” Jackson-Wade said. “A lot of our kids need support in school academically. Behaviorally, sometimes they have challenges, and so being prepared, going in with all the things they need allows them to focus on the things that they need to do, their academics, learning, acclimating to the classroom.”

Knoxville Area Association of Realtors is making sure these children have the proper school supplies for the first day of class.

“We enjoy making community and serving the community because a home is not just a house,” Jeff Fyke of KAAR said. “So, we have partnered with Youth Villages for over a decade, and we help fund their backpack program.”

They raised over $15,000 to fill over 300 backpacks with pencils, binders, folders and more for those who may not be able to afford them otherwise.

“This is really important for our kids because being prepared for school makes you have a little extra confidence, a little extra pep in your step when you walk in on your first day,” Jackson-Wade said.

Our Knoxville Youth Villages office said they serve around a thousand kids in East Tennessee annually. 

To find out more about the organization, click the link here