New Name For Our Nonprofit

Back 2 School Illinois replaces ICECF


We’ve changed our name to better reflect who we are and the work we do. In the coming months all of our communications will be converted to Back 2 School Illinois (B2SI) from the Illinois Currency Exchange Foundation, NFP (ICECF). The Board of Directors voted in the fall of last year to make the name change. While our name may be changing, our commitment to education has not. Our mission still remains; to create and support educational opportunities that enrich the lives of Illinois children.

In 2015 we will continue to support three initiatives. Our biggest, continues to be the Back 2 School program, providing free school supplies to children in need. The other two programs we focus on are, the Power Up! Boot Camp, which teaches youth about the importance of exercise and proper nutrition and providing college scholarships to high school seniors.


200 Children at the Pederson-McCormick Boys & Girls Club Get Kits

Uptown Club A Beacon of Hope In Challenging Community


The holiday’s can be tough for many but in particular children that come from low-income families and often aren’t able to get much in the way of presents. So, it was particularly rewarding to brighten the Christmas season for 200 youth that attend programs and use the facilities at the Pederson-McCormick Boys & Girls Club located on Sheridan Rd. just north of Lawrence. We had a wonderful time handing out Back 2 School kits and taking a tour of this amazing community institution that offers children dozens of activities from swimming and music lessons to ceramics classes and tutoring. We are proud to work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago and plan to expand our partnership in 2015.


Centro Communitario Juan Diego Kids Receive Special Holiday Gifts

Children Dig Into Back 2 School Kits


As we continue to expand our efforts to put more school supplies into the hands of children, we are partnering with more community organizations of all sizes. One of our newest partnerships is with Centro Communitario Juan Diego, which serves the South Chicago area and provides many vital programs such as health care, social services, and family education. As a part of their Christmas celebration that included lots of gifts each child received one of our Back 2 School kits.


Children All Smiles At Holiday Party

Kids Get An Early Christmas…including our Back 2 School Kits


The holiday season is filled with magical moments and we were happy to be a part of one; the George Watson Memorial Christmas Party at Camp Duncan YMCA. This annual event is one of our favorites, as the kids, who come from families that struggle financially, have an opportunity to celebrate and get some wonderful gifts including clothing, toys and of course, one of our school supplies kits.

Children from the areas are treated to a visit with Mr. and Mrs, Klaus, singing, holiday music, food, ice cream, face painting and a trip through a maze of rooms filled with all sorts of great gifts including sporting equipment, stuffed animals, gloves, socks, sweatshirts, games, books and more.

The annual event is put on with the help of some wonderful YMCA staff as well as volunteers from the Round Lake and Fox Lake Rotary Club and National Honor Society students. In all, over 400 of our Back 2 School kits so they will be well prepared to go back into the classroom ready to learn in the new year.




Kids “Eat Up” Exercise & Nutrition Boot Camp

And Parents Like It Too


Our first ever Power Up! Boot Camp program was a success, though not exactly the way we intended. We had initially envisioned a bigger event but we ended up with a smaller one that allowed us to provide each child with more individual attention. With an instructor/student ratio of 5 to 1, the children were able to ask more questions, do more activities and by the looks on their faces and the sound of their voices, had a ton of fun.

The first Boot Camp was held at Washington Park (5531 S. Martin Luther King Dr.) and the second was held at the Broadway Armory Park (5917 N. Broadway). The Chicago Park District, which runs both facilities, served as our partners in presenting the program. Their staff is second to none and worked incredibly hard to help us craft the curriculum and promote the program.

During each day, the kids, ages 7-12 rotated through a series of five different activities. While there are too many to mention here, some of the activities included; running an obstacle course, playing a Jeopardy-like game covering aspects of nutrition, “Build-a-healthy-snack”, Tug-of-war, yoga, kickboxing, stretching, and breathing exercises.

At the end of each day the children were given a fitness and nutrition pack filled with a variety of items including a jump rope, pedometer, healthy snacks, water bottle, and more.

While the Boot Camp only lasts one day, the program for the kids will continue. For the next three months, they will receive weekly inspirational emails, keep a journal on their exercise and eating habits, and then receive a final exam, which they must take in order to receive their Certificate of Completion. We hope this ongoing communication will help solidify the knowledge imparted to them during their Boot Camp.

Since we had the kids take the exam before they started the Boot Camp, we will see if they retained the information. You can check out the results at holiday time on our website.

A special thank you to all our sponsors, in particular Moneygram, Republic Bank and the Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois’ for their support without which this program would not be possible.




Students at Jesse Sherwood and Mahalia Jackson Elementary Surprised on First Day of Classes With Free School Supplies

Each Student Receives Own Back 2 School Kit


The first day of school is always a bit chaotic as students switch gears from summer vacation mode. So much goes on during the first day including meeting new teachers, finding classrooms, meeting new classmates and reconnecting with old ones and checking out any building changes such as a fresh coat of paint, new desks and computers in the lab.

For Jesse Sherwood and Mahalia Jackson Elementary Schools there was even more excitement as we surprised the students at both schools with free school supplies. The two schools were selected as winners of our annual Win School Supplies For Your Entire School Contest.

We love giving away school supplies and nothing is more rewarding than seeing the faces of children in school when you hand them one of our Back 2 School kits. Between the two schools we gave out school supplies to almost 800 students.

Both schools embraced us with open arms. Principal Alice Buzanis of Sherwood and Principal Robert Hubbird of Jackson were so welcoming and appreciative of our efforts. While we were at each school we witnessed first hand the dedication and commitment of these two individuals as they related to teachers, parents and the children.




Back 2 School Event at Broadway Park Armory Scores Big

School Supplies Distribution and Activities for YMCA Kids A Winner


We participate in many school supply distribution events but this one at the Broadway Park Armory is the granddaddy of them all. Last year we had our big distribution event here and because it was such a success we decided to come back.

This year we trucked in close to 25,000 Back 2 School kits filled with over three quarters of a million school supplies. These kits were sorted and then sent back out to over 60 YMCA sites from as far south as Joliet to as far north as Ingleside, Illinois.

In addition to providing so many low-income families with free school supplies we also used the day to host 500 children for an afternoon of fun and educational activities. The kids got to participate in aerobics, a nutrition class, arts and crafts, as well as learn about snakes (and hold them!) and see a real working bee colony (and taste the actual honey).

We are most grateful for the help of more than 150 volunteers and staff members. It is not an easy day for many of our volunteers as they are lifting and moving heavy boxes to make sure the Back 2 School kits get where they are going. Some of the people that helped us out worked for the entire day without much down time. It’s hard work but everyone that participated says it’s well worth all the sweat, sore muscles and tired bodies.

The Back 2 School program would not exist if not for the tremendous support from dozens of sponsors including: the Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois, MB Financial Bank, Western Union Foundation, Kits for Kidz, Republic Bank, Electronic License Service, Green Dot, Community Financial Service Centers, Pawlan Blumenfeld Misciniski & Assoc., Chicago Park District and many others.



Our Military Serves Us and Now We Serve Them

Families Grateful and Kids Are All Smiles Receiving Our Back 2 School Kits


Hundreds of active-duty and reserve-duty military personnel from all branches of the armed forces showed up at a series of school supplies distribution events we did in partnership with Operation Homefront. We are proud to partner with this great organization, which provides support to military families here in Illinois. This past weekend we gave out school supplies at Great Lakes Naval Station, Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, Camp Lincoln down in the state’s capitol, the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Mount Vernon and the Center of Excellence in Bartonville.

Having the opportunity to meet so many men and women and their children that make tremendous sacrifices to serve our country and keep us safe is particularly rewarding. These families were so gracious and appreciative of the Back 2 School kits we provided that we have committed to doing even more in 2015.

When all is said and done, we will have provided Back 2 School supplies to 1,500 children of military families at seven different sites around the state this August.