On June 2, 2012, tragedy struck Long County when Smiley Elementary School students Hannah Foreman and Ta’Keith Russell died. Foreman drowned, and Russell was fatally shot.
In the aftermath of the two 7-year-olds’ deaths, A New Beginning Church began giving away school supplies every July to honor their memories. On July 18, the church held its fourth annual Foreman/Russell Backpack Giveaway.
Danny Foreman said the annual event helps him deal with the loss of Hannah as well as helping many children.
“It helps me cope. It keeps her alive in my eyes, but it has become more than that. The children who come here need something, and it is good to see this church do this. It’s become bigger than Hannah and Ta’Keith,” he said.
According to Pastor Tom Gardner, the church gave away 700 backpacks filled with school supplies this year. The event also featured bounce houses and water slides, and lunch was provided.
Gardner said he is glad the annual event is held because it shows everyone just how precious life is and that no one should take it for granted. But he said that in addition to honoring Foreman and Russell, the giveaway also helps families with the cost of school starting back and allows the families a day to forget about everything and have a good time.
“Some of these families have three or four kids. Most backpacks are $20 or $25; you throw in some school supplies, and that can add up, so the giveaway helps with the cost of school,” Gardner said. “Also, many of these kids don’t take a summer vacation, so when they came out here for the day, they can have a good time and have like a mini-vacation.”
Gardner said the backpack giveaway is just one of many outreach programs that his church offers. He said it is important for churches to not only offer spiritual support, but also whatever support is needed.