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Students honored at churchs school supplies drive
Rally attendees came from a five-county area to enjoy festivities
0801 Backpack drive
Foreman/Russell Backpack Drive attendees collect school supplies from volunteers at the Saturday event. - photo by Mikee Riddle

Long County’s first annual Foreman/Russell Backpack Drive on Saturday honored Hannah Foreman and Ta’ Keith Russell, both of whom died June 2. Ta’Keith succumbed to a gunshot wound, and Hannah lost her life in a drowning incident. The children both were students at Smiley Elementary School and would have been going into third grade this year.

During the event, which was sponsored by The New Beginning Church, 400 book bags filled with school supplies were given to rally attendees. Lunch also was provided to participants, who enjoyed many activities, such as water slides, a moon walk and train rides.

“It was a tragedy, losing these two kids. We’re going to be doing this every year, helping families with their school supplies. And next year and from now on, it will be held in honor of Ta’ Keith and Hannah,” Pastor Tom Gardner said. “People often have negative thoughts of church. They think a church wants their money and wants to tell them what they can and can’t do. When they can come out for something like this and see that we’re not asking for their money or anything else from them, we just want to give them something and ask for nothing in return, then they have a much better outlook on churches.”

According to Gardner, families came from Long, Liberty, Tattnall, McIntosh and Wayne counties to receive school supplies.
Hannah Foreman’s father, Danny Foreman, attended the event and said his daughter would have enjoyed taking part in the day.

“It would have been hard to get her away from here. She just loved life. You hardly ever heard her cry because she was always laughing. It’s so hard to make it through something like this happening in your life without people in the church. … I’m very thankful for what they’re doing,” Foreman said.

Ludowici City Council member Gwen Davis praised the church for coordinating the rally.

“I’m so thankful for what they are doing today. There are a lot of people who need help now and something like this drive makes a difference. It’s also nice that these two children, who died so early in their life, are being remembered with it,” Davis said.

Gardner touched on the financial difficulties many families are struggling with.

“You know, I used to hear people say that they are making it from week to week. Now people say they’re making it from day to day. Churches need to do all they can to help those in need,” he said.

He also said he hopes Hannah Foreman and Ta’ Keith Russell will never be forgotten.

“Death doesn’t care who you are. You can look at these two children and see that — one white, one black, one boy, one girl. But with this drive taking place annually, even 30 years from now, people will remember these two kids,” Gardner said.

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