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 Words Cannot Do Justice to Describe Mickelson Start Smart Event for Kids

​A total of 1,500 students from six local school districts took part in a once-in-a-lifetime back-to-school shopping spree this month, courtesy of professional golf star Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy.

The seventh annual Start Smart event sponsored by the Mickelsons was held at a new location, the Mission Valley Target Store. The location was new, but the most important ingredients were the same: each first-through-fourth grade student left with a sizable wardrobe of brand-new clothes and shoes, along with a thick packet of school supplies. And families throughout the county realized they had friends in the Mickelsons, who are among the most generous of all education supporters.

“When you have new clothes and school supplies, you have high self-esteem,” Mickelson told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “And that means you’re happy and ready to learn. Amy and I are committed to this cause because, as I say to my own kids, education is like the foundation for a skyscraper. The bigger the foundation, the higher you can build.”

For many of the students it was the first time shopping in a large department store. For others, it was the first time ever to pick out new clothes. Throughout the morning, parents and teachers were seen crying in joy as they helped children select colorful tops and shirts, pants and skirts, jackets, backpacks and socks.

One of Mickelson’s PGA tour sponsors, KPMG, also took part in the event, giving each student a new Dr. Seuss book: Green Eggs and Ham for first and second graders, Fox and Socks for third and fourth graders. Each book had a special page added, with a congratulatory note from the Mickelsons.

Six local school districts took part in Start Smart 2011: San Diego, Carlsbad and San Marcos Unified School Districts; and San Ysidro, Chula Vista Elementary, and Lemon Grove School Districts. Four district superintendents were in attendance: Manuel Paul of San Ysidro, Francisco Escobedo of Chula Vista, Ernie Anastos of Lemon Grove, and Bill Kowba of San Diego Unified. County Superintendent Randy Ward also attended.

“This is such a generous gesture,” said Anastos. “Words really don’t do justice to this kind of generosity.”

The Mickelsons also paid for the transportation of students, parents and dozens of teachers and administrators to Start Smart. The first buses arrived just before 6 a.m., with 300 students from San Diego Unified aboard. They continued arriving at 45-minute intervals until just after 8:30. All of the young shoppers, their Start Smart bags bulging with merchandise were done by 11 a.m.