The first day of school can be tough. But for students at Rigler Elementary, the first day came with a surprise and some much needed supplies.
“We live in a community that has a high number of low socio-economic status among parents,” said Sara Gandarilla, principal at Rigler Elementary. “So the supplies helps the students get what they need to eliminate any barriers in their education. That’s why it’s so important that when the community comes and gives whatever they can, it really helps the kids. It takes a huge burden off the families.”
“I grew up in south central Los Angeles and I went to a school very similar to this one,” said Dr. William Johnson, president of Moda Health. “To have the ability to have gone to elementary school in south central L.A. and then to be able to give back now and to provide some advantages for children is incredible. I’m excited and privileged to be able to do that.”
But the bags were only half of the surprise. Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard was on hand to help distribute the backpacks and while getting excited for the new school year.
“The kids really look up to basketball players and they really love Damian,” said Gandarilla. “You can see that. It’s amazing because I know they’re going to be talking about this for a while. They’re going to go home excited and say, ‘This is who we met!’ There were a couple of kids crying in the front row because they were so happy.”
“This is another example of our commitment to the community and Damian’s commitment to the community,” said Dr. Johnson. “He loves Oregon and we love Oregon. That’s why we’re here.”
Lillard has made a point of reaching out to students in need since being drafted by the Trail Blazers with the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Having grown up in a rough neighborhood in Oakland, California, the 6-3 guard is familiar with the experiences of the students at Rigler and the difficulties they face.
“You never know what went wrong in someone’s life or childhood,” said Lillard. “Maybe they were smart and bright and talented, but they just didn’t have the resources that they needed to be successful. If somebody comes to school and doesn’t have a backpack, doesn’t have a pencil, doesn’t have paper, how can that person get good grades? The fact that they provide those things or are making an effort to make sure these kids get backpacks and everything they need, free lunch and free breakfast, that’s big.”