When Isaiah Thomas was young, he often spent afternoons at the Al Davies branch in Tacoma of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound. The NBA player and former Huskies hoops star was back last Saturday, handing out hundreds of backpacks stuffed with school supplies to Hilltop neighborhood kids.

With him was Malachi Flynn, another Tacoma native who just played his first season with the Toronto Raptors.

“It’s a really good opportunity to give back to the community I came up in,” said Flynn at the Saturday giveaway. “School is important, there’s no denying that.”

As kids head back to school, groups and individuals are stepping up to help them. The Seattle Times editorial board’s own school-supply drive is accepting donations until Labor Day.

On Monday, Thomas’ friend and mentor Jamal Crawford distributed backpacks to Seattle students at his alma mater, Rainier Beach High School. Both he and Thomas work with the Christian aid group World Vision to collect donated supplies.

This is the 11th year Thomas, who was also a University of Washington basketball standout, has partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to distribute backpacks in his old neighborhood. Before the pandemic, it was part of a bigger celebration that included food, free haircuts, games and prizes. This year’s drive-through event was more subdued to protect against the spread of coronavirus, but the enthusiasm was infectious.


“They’re so excited,” said Geneva Thomas, looking over at two granddaughters chatting and laughing near the building’s entrance. “It’s nice to get out in the community. We haven’t been able to do that for a while.”

A lot of kids are eager to return to class, said Sierra “Sunshine” Raynor, regional manager of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound. “We’re seeing a lot of smiles on their faces,” she said. “They’re excited to go back to school and see friends outside of the club.”

There are a few more days to join other Seattle Times readers in bringing more smiles to local students’ faces by donating to the school-supply drive, part of The Seattle Times Fund for Those in Need, a 501(c)(3) Charitable Organization.

Every penny donated goes to community partners YWCA Seattle-King-Snohomish, Hopelink and Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness to equip students in King and Snohomish counties with school essentials.

Donate online. Checks may also be sent to: The Seattle Times School-Supply Drive, P.O. Box C-11025, Seattle, WA 98111; email questions to ffn@seattletimes.com.