Tommy's Fund Article
A pair of old, black-and-white high-tops fit loosely on Wendell Thomas' feet.
The fifth-grader stood in the library of Payne Elementary School on Thursday afternoon, waiting with three other students for a visitor to arrive.
His mind was in other places.
"I get to go get some new shoes today because these shoes are real old," he said, pointing to his feet. "Just look at them. They have been through a lot. My mom said I wouldn't be able to get any new shoes until Christmas."
Then Tom Guild arrived and introduced himself to the students.
Guild, a former Payne student, is the founder of Tommy's Fund, which provides students with school supplies. After taking a moment to reflect on the two years he spent as a Payne student, he noticed Wendell's shoes.
"There have been times when I didn't have any shoes."
After first grade, Guild moved to Oklahoma. He was placed in foster care and eventually adopted.
He drives back to Wichita twice a year to sponsor Payne students.
After Guild's motivational speech, Payne principal Donna Welty explained that Wendell had been chosen to go shopping with Guild.
Donations like Guild's are needed at the school because more than 75 percent of its students live below the poverty level.
For Guild, it's about more than providing for students. It's about changing lives.
"I have been exactly where some of these kids are."
"We currently have about $1,300 in Tommy's Fund. The fund is listed as one of my beneficiaries and one day will be worth $250,000.
"I don't have a lot to give, but I do what I can to improve the lives of these students."
After Guild spoke, Wendell prepared to go shopping.
"I feel like God just blessed me by giving me this opportunity," he said.