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 PGA Star Phil Mickelson Helps 1,500 Students Start Smart at Annual Event at Wal-Mart

​San Diego native and pro golf star Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy rolled up their sleeves and helped 1,500 local elementary students enjoy a back-to-school shopping spree at the Murphy Canyon Wal-Mart store, in the fourth annual “Start Smart” event they have sponsored.

“We thoroughly enjoy ‘Start Smart,’” Mickelson said, as the first of the 1,500 students prepared to enter the department store. “Education is so important. If we can help these students get off to a good start, and realize school is important, then we’ll have made an impact.”

First-through-fourth graders from eight San Diego County school districts took part, arriving at Wal-Mart in stages, beginning at 5:30 a.m. Each carried a shopping list of items to get: four pants, shorts, skirts or dresses; six shirts or blouses; two pairs of shoes; one package of socks, one package of underwear, one jacket or sweatshirt, and one backpack. Pre-packaged containers of school supplies were the first item given to each student.

First to arrive were 300 children from Audubon, Cherokee Point, Field and Valencia Park Elementary Schools in San Diego Unified School District. Just before 6 a.m., another 350 students from six schools in the Lakeside Union School District arrived. Forty-five minutes later, 250 students from Dehesa, Julian and Jamul rolled in. At 7:45, 200 students from the Bonsall and Borrego Springs school districts arrived. And the last group, 400 students from the Fallbrook Union School District, arrived at 8:45.

In addition to the shopping list, worth approximately $200 per student, Mickelson paid for the bus transportation. In all, his support exceeded $310,000 and brought his cumulative support for the four years of the program to more than $1 million. More than 5,000 students from 90 elementary schools have taken part. Twenty-one school districts have participated.

Schools were asked to select deserving, underprivileged students, and selections were made by principals and staffs on the participating schools and districts. Students were encouraged to pick items for brothers and sisters, too, if they wanted.

As it has for each of “Start Smart’s” four years, the event left children giddy with excitement, and parents and school staff overwhelmed by Mickelson’s generosity. “We cannot thank you all enough,” Julian Union School District Superintendent Kevin Ogden said. “This event was truly one of the best things I have ever been a part of! My families were blessed to be included.”