Group Brings Community Together


Katelyn Sullivan was one of the many children that enjoyed a community event recently that helped raise funds for school supplies.

Courtesy Photo


The Back to School Bash in Emory in August was more than just a mix of sports, music, and other entertainment that collected backpacks and school supplies for needy children in Rains County. It was also one of the ways people come together for the common good, and a model for other communities.

Activities at Rains Heritage Park included four-on-four touch football, softball, three-on-three basketball, four-on-four grass volleyball, BMX/mountain bike races, local musicians, and a broadcast by KKVI 89.9 FM. While admission was free to watch, the activities required a small paid registration fee plus a backpack of donated school supplies to contribute.

Growing up, event organizer Jeannie Taylor had a clear example for community service in her mother.

“My love for community service was developed by my mother. Mom had a catering service and would use her catering as a catalyst for stepping in and assuming the responsibility of planning events for people,” she said. “Lucky for me, I was at her mercy as she began to show me at a very young age the art of servicing the community and proper etiquette. From this moment on, I became very detailed oriented and developed a heart for helping others.”

Jeannie became a teacher – this year, the Texas A&M-Commerce graduate will add science to the reading and social studies classes she teaches fourth graders – and raised three daughters, coaching their softball teams, which led to the founding of Birdwell Sports Association, which uses sports to bring communities together.

“Being a teacher has taught me the value of multiple intelligences that children and adults possess as it relates to learning and enjoying life to the fullest,” she said. “When I took this knowledge and combined it with what I was seeing on the sports fields and courts of my children and students, I began to recognize that I could develop a business that combined all my talents and strengths into one big melting pot and service multiple ages of individuals while meeting their interests and needs in the sports industry and community events.”

The Back to School Bash grew out of her presentation to the Rains County Chamber of Commerce.

A couple of months ago, she spoke at the Chamber of Commerce about Birdwell Sports’ mission, and afterward talked with Keeley Roan with the Economic Development Corporation and a couple of Chamber board members and County Judge Wayne Wolfe.

“This is where I was born and raised, and I’ve seen Emory go through a lot of changes. It’s a great place to raise a family,” she said. “We have great things to offer, yet as we are evolving and more people are coming in, moving away, and coming back, there were some gaps in the community. We thought it would be great if we could have more events, and the more events we could have the more the community would come together.”

Jeannie took the next step in a school district with more than 1,600 students.

“Lots of families are really suffering the way the economy is,” she said. “I wanted to use my business to give back to my community. That’s how the Back to School Bash was born.”

Out of school fur the summer, Jeannie did a lot of legwork enlisting other businesses and organizations in the Bash. She learned, if she didn’t know it already, that the second step – after the idea is born – is to have a clear message and ask other people to get involved.

“I was in my car, driving, on the phone, and every business I’ve gone to, every family I’ve talked to – the more I’ve explained the mission of school supplies for children, people kinda oohed and ahhed over it, and so many have donated.”

She collected backpacks, school supplies, and cash donations.

“Our community has an enormous sense of compassion. I wanted to be a sort of catalyst in igniting that,” she said. “It’s hard on families, and it breaks my heart as a teacher the more a child embraces that hardship. Too many children in the classroom don’t have the luxury of having those backpacks and supplies, and try to camouflage themselves so other kids don’t see what they don’t have, and will use every excuse in the world. I wanted to change that, be the ambassador and step forward. I wanted the community to take pride in helping to solve this problem.

“No matter if it’s donated school supplies or bringing awareness to hardships some students face every day, I want to shake the community a little bit, and get them more involved –from selfishness to selflessness. I love Keeley Roan. She is creative and very supportive of what we do, and has really worked with me and the Chamber in getting things going forward.”

For more information, call 903.441.5658 or go to 

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