Ten years ago, the Knights of Columbus recognized the needs of children in the United States and Canada living in extreme poverty and started the Coats for Kids program. Since then, Knights from 1,943 councils have donated 660,581 coats to children in need. In 2018 alone, councils donated 116,616 coats.
The Knights have distributed coats in 49 states and all 10 provinces in Canada, including military bases, Native American reservations and inner-city neighborhoods. The first event took place on Jan. 19, 2009, when Knights distributed 1,200 coats to children in Washington, D.C. Thousands more were given out in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and Duluth. Due to the events’ success, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson officially announced the creation of Coats for Kids as an Order-wide program during his address at the 2009 Supreme Convention.
“Our 2009 Coats for Kids program was a modest beginning for a program that we intend to grow in to a significant charitable effort to benefit children in need,” Supreme Knight Anderson said during his address to the 2009 Supreme Convention.
Coats for Kids is now one of the Knights of Columbus’ flagship programs and has been incorporated into the Faith In Action program.
“This is one of our signature programs for the Knights of Columbus, our Coats for Kids program,” Knights of Columbus Senior Vice President Mark McMullen said at a coats distribution earlier this year. “We’ve had it for 10 years now. We’ve given away over half a million coats to needy kids and families really all over North America. It’s been wonderful.”
As the program celebrates its 10-year anniversary, here is a look at some of the highlights of the Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids program:
• The Supreme Council, working with Connecticut Knights, sent coats to Newtown, Conn., following the tragic shooting there at Sandy Hook Elementary School for the students who evacuated the facility leaving their coats behind.
• The Connecticut State Council started an Order-wide trend of distributing coats on Black Friday. “The message the Knights are sending by having coat distributions on Black Friday is while people are out at the crack of dawn trying to get deals and sipping lattes, we, the Knights, are looking out for our fellow man and helping those who we can. We put the gift of giving ahead of the gift of getting,” Connecticut State Deputy Gary McKeone added.
• The Knights of Columbus has teamed up with sports franchises and individual athletes for coat distributions over the years. In January 2019, former Atlanta Falcons Wide receiver Brian Finneran and Former Atlanta Falcons Assistant Coach Eric Sutulovich helped at a distribution at San Felipe de Jesus Mission in Atlanta. Past athletes have included been Anthony Munoz, Dave Casper, Jack del Rio, Matt Birk, Mike Ditka and many more.
• On Sept. 16, Supreme Knight Anderson and other Knights of Columbus leaders visited Rosebud and Pine Ridge Indian Reservations, where they handed out hundreds of coats to students in anticipation of the South Dakota winter. In late October, the Knights of Columbus held a Coats for Kids distribution, at Mah-Sos School, located on the Tobique First Nation Reserve in New Brunswick at which approximately 100 students received new coats in preparation for the Canadian winter.
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