Despite the return to the classroom, grumpy teachers and piles of homework, there were nothing but smiles at Charleston’s Burke High School recently as thousands of kids from around the region lined up for the Hootie’s Homegrown Roundup. The event, inspired by the founding members of local legend band Hootie & The Blowfish, has become an annual tradition to kick off the start of another school year. It features a range or booths and displays of all sorts of back-to-school services, activities and programs, even a place to get a free haircut. But the main draw is the expanse of school supplies, donated by local companies and organizations, that fills the gymnasium – literally a ton (or more) of free stuff to equip the would-be scholars.
Front and center in the giving was the Rotary Club of Charleston, which anchored the key first corner of the handout line. More than a dozen Rotarians gave up their Saturday morning gardening routines to man the giveaway lines, handing out everything from calculators to rulers and notebooks to crayons and glue sticks. Happy students stuffed their backpacks with the helpful supplies, with grins and laughter to show their appreciation.
The event has fast become a favorite among Rotarians for the hands-on experience of helping kids and seeing their gratitude up close and personal. Of course, the chance for a brush with fame is an extra incentive, too, and this year didn’t disappoint. In addition to cameos by our Mayor John Tecklenburg (a proud Rotarian himself) and Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds (a recent speaker at our club), the man himself — Darius Rucker – made a special appearance and spent quality time with the kids – and adults – posing for selfies and signing autographs, as well as graciously thanking all the dozens of volunteers who supported the event. The Homegrown event was the first appearance of a big weekend for Darius and the boys, who performed a reunion of classic Hootie & The Blowfish magic later that night and even invited Mayor Tecklenburg to jam on stag with them.