Get Schooled: Here’s What Teachers Really Want for the Holidays


We’ve come a long way from the one-room schoolhouse days when teachers received the iconic apple as a gift. Stumped about what to get your child’s teacher for the holidays this year? We’ve queried teachers across the country and asked them about their favorite gifts from students. (Hint: no one said “apple!”)

All the teachers were extremely humble, and it was hard to get an answer, but with a little cajoling, here’s what they want:

“I love getting little thoughtful gifts. One year I was really into nail polish, and received a couple bottles of polish hand-picked by my student. Once I got two tickets to Zoo Tunes with a beach towel and sunscreen in a beach bag to kick off my summer. I had a baby this year and one of my students noticed that I love wearing floral dresses with jean jackets, and he got my baby a matching outfit! Once I got a sweet silver necklace that had a small locket with a tiny drawing from my student.”
Ms. Doyle, First Grade

“The best presents I get are notes saying why my class mattered to them, or how they appreciated me as a teacher.”
Ms. Turner, High School Seniors

“A good old gift card is great or a gift to a pedicure/manicure. Sometimes it’s nice to get something from a local store, like a cool scarf or a personalized wallet. I guess at the end of the day it’s about the sentiment behind it. If you feel like a student really made an effort to pick something out based on your personality.”
Ms. Brown, 3rd grade,

“Thoughtful notes from students are awesome, but I equally love a note from their parents. Coffee cards are a good idea. I am an English teacher so I always appreciate gift certificates to a bookstore. I have a student whose family owns a restaurant and she brings all her teachers fried rice ever few weeks. Another idea is to ask if there are classroom needs they could assist with financially. Really any token of appreciation is good.”
Ms. Kuplik, Middle School

“[My favorite present was] a small, metallic faux leather clutch bag. Perfect for the fashionista teacher to carry during the upcoming holidays.”
Ms. Gross, 2nd grade.

“I love unique ornaments for my Christmas tree or chocolate.”
Mrs. Hobbs, PreK

“I get lots of gift cards and I love it! I also love the little handmade art and notes they bring in. I get those almost every day.”
Mrs. Bachmeier, Kindergarten

“One of my most favorite gifts ever was a gift from the whole class. Some parents worked together to help the students create a beautiful work of art with their names and finger prints. They then framed it and it is now hung in my classroom. I love this special gift from the heart!”
Mrs. Kutil, 1st Grade

What are you planning to give your child’s teacher this year? Let us know in the comments below.

ENDED: #OpenHeartsNotGifts Contest


UPDATE: This contest has now closed and we’ve selected and contacted the winners. We had so many heartfelt entries, and it was incredibly difficult to choose, but after much deliberation here are the winners: 

Day 1 Blog: Janet A
“It’s not just the holidays. Even though my father died over twenty years ago (and my mom, a little over 10), I miss them and think of them every day. It’s been so long that it isn’t that earth-shattering grief that just hamstrings you at first. No. But somehow that’s worse: to wake in the sunny CA morning, get your cuppa, join the crawl of traffic winding to work……and then to suddenly remember that YOU are alive and in the world and they are not. It’s worse than that gut-wrenching, empty first-grief. It’s the F O R E V E R grief….the one that hangs there at the back of your mind, that stabs at your eyes with tears that you think you have no reason for. Oh, yeah. Another day. They aren’t here. Moms and Dads. What broke-down orphans we are without them. Miss you. Love you. Want just one chance to tell you in person.”

Day 2 Facebook: Christine Dayton
“End hunger. We donate as a family to our local food bank. We give when the kids school asks and I am helping with the gathering of holiday food items for needy families in the school I work. Our country is too rich and full of food to have hungry bellies.”

Day 3 Instagram: cheapoholicmama
“This is not so much an activity but more of a tradition. My children and I wait til the first snowfall of the season to put up our Christmas tree and decorate the house. It has been this way for 4 years now and we look forward to snow every year. ”

Day 4 Twitter: Heather Masters
“I’m thankful to have our family back in good health and together for the holidays. ”

Day 5 Pinterest: Cassandra Beato
“Every winter my family makes cookies together. It’s a gift because it allows my family to become closer and have fun. I also plan to give letters to my closest friends and my family. Each letter will be unique and written special for that person :).”

Closed Contest Details for Reference:

This week you’ll have 5 chances to win $25 in Schoola credit! Every day this week, we’ll post a new question about what’s really important this season on one of our social media platforms. You’ll have 24 hours (between noon PT and noon PT the next day) to reply to the prompt and we’ll choose one winner each day. The most heartfelt answer will win.

Here’s the nitty-gritty:

Who do you wish you could see over the holidays?

Who do you wish you could see over the holidays?

The contest kicked off right here on the blogMonday, November 16., with the question: Who do you wish you could see over the holidays?

Eager to get started? Each day the contest will run on a different social media platform. Make sure you comment on the right  one. Mark your calendars for the following dates and start thinking of your reply:

  • Monday, 11/16 right here on the Schoola blog leave your entry as a comment on Monday’s post. Respond to this question: Who do you wish you could see over the holidays?
  • Tuesday, 11/17 on Facebook, leave your entry as a reply comment.
  • Wednesday, 11/18 on Instagram, leave your entry as a comment on the post with the photo.
  • Thursday, 11/19 on Twitter, tweet your entry @Schoola and use the hashtag #OpenHeartsNotGifts.
  • Friday, 11/20 on Pinterest, leave your entry as a comment on our pin.

We  know you can’t wait to dive right in, but first read these important rules:

  • The entry period for each question begins at noon PT each day and ends at noon PT the following day.
  • Make sure your answer is original–if someone else already posted your idea, share another one.
  • You can comment as much as you’d like, and you’re eligible to win more than once during the contest if we really love your entries!
  • Remember that currently Schoola only ships to the contiguous 48 United States, so although anyone is welcome to participate, the prize will only be useable in those states.
  • The Schoola team will choose the winner that best reflects Schoola’s mission and brand.
  • The winner will receive a $25 gift code. This code will not be eligible for purchasing new-with-tags items and cannot be combined with any other code.
  • We’ll contact the day’s winner within a few days of the contest’s closing by replying to you on that social media platform.

We can’t wait to see all your wonderful answers!

5 Tips for Tip-Top Holiday Photos


You’re probably still planning your Thanksgiving menu, but soon enough your mailbox will be overflowing with fun holiday updates from family and friends. If you’re anything like us, you’re still scrambling to take a family photo for your holiday card.

Here are 5 tips:

  • Natural Lighting: Your first instinct might be to crowd in front of the Christmas tree, but instead step outside for that group shot. Then, find the light–even though it might involve a bit of squinting, looking into the light will ensure your photo isn’t backlit. Take your photos in that golden hour right before the sun sets to get the best shot.


  • Be Yourself: If your family is goofy, leverage that energy. Allow silly shots and have fun doing it. If your crew loves to build snowmen, capture an action shot. Your family photo is an opportunity to share something uniquely personal about your brood.
  • Take a Nap First: Cranky kiddos are the last thing you want on your hands when you’re trying to get a smiley photo. Try to schedule your photo session during an optimal time when you’re child isn’t going to have a meltdown.


  • Plan Outfits Ahead: You might want everyone to be matchy-matchy. Traditional themes are red and green, but there are lots of options. Silly sweaters (aka ugly sweaters) can be fun. Or maybe you want everyone to wear something that reflects their style. Remember that some colors like black and white can appear washed out in a photo, and that busy prints can sometimes appear even busier. Before setting the camera timer, check that everyone’s buttons are buttoned, flies are zipped (yikes!), and collars are flat.
  • Edit Your Photos: There are tons of free resources for for making small tweaks like lighting or adding filters. Most Macs come with iPhoto or you can try online resources like

What’s worked for you when it comes to taking your own family photos? Comment below with your own tips.

Tips for Keeping Kids Warm!


Guest post by Kelly Murphy, Director of Merchandising at Schoola and former ski instructor.

Winter is a magical time of year ripe with opportunities to get outdoors and have fun. From making snowmen, to snowshoeing to skiing, the outdoor activities in winter are limitless. But if you’re cold the last thing you want to do is lace up your ice skates or go sledding, instead you want to snuggle up with a warm cup of hot chocolate. Dressing properly for the elements can make all the difference and as a former ski instructor these are my favorite tips for keeping warm!

  • Always pee before you ski! We say it’s because your body pulls the warmth from your fingers and toes to keep your middle warm and prevent your bladder from freezing. While that could be true, the real reason is that there’s nothing worse than bundling up then going outside only to have to go back in to unbundle and use the bathroom. Whether you’re going skiing or going sledding it’s always best to go to the bathroom first.
  • Don’t wear jeans – It’s easy to pull up your snow pants over your jeans and go outside but resist the urge! Because of their heavy material when jeans get wet they stay wet. Instead opt for a breathable cotton like leggings or sweatpants or a pant made out of a fleece material.


  • Layer, layer, layer – If you’re too warm you can always unzip or take a layer off but once you’re outside there’s no closet with extra clothes so better be safe than sorry.
  • Put gloves or mittens on first – This generally takes two but if you can tuck your long sleeves into your gloves or mittens then put on your coat you’ll create a continuous sleeve that helps prevent those icy wrists that are the worst part of making snowballs or building snowmen.
  • Vests are the best – Just like with the “pee before you ski” tip, vests are a great way to keep your core warm so your body won’t start pulling the warmth from your fingers and toes. They make a great layer too because they won’t constrict your arms when you’re building a snow fort.


  • Wool socks – As a kid I used to wear three pairs of socks so my toes wouldn’t get cold and then I discovered wool socks. Warm and breathable, wool socks are the best.
  •  Hats and mittens are your friends – I’ve come across a lot of kids that don’t want to wear their hats or mittens, which when it comes to keeping warm are some of your best accessories. I would always try and turn it into game and let the kid choose to put them on, surprisingly enough not a lot of kids want icicles for hair. Or compromise, “we can’t go outside without our hats and mittens on but if you still don’t want to wear it after ten minutes we can take them off.” Once they start playing in the cold they’ll totally forget about taking them off.


One of Kelly’s favorite parts of school was lunchtime; she even wrote her college application essay on the moments at lunch. While lunch helped hone Kelly’s social skills it was her oratory and creative writing teachers who were truly her favorite parts of school. Having those electives and teachers that truly believed in her and instilled confidence are what inspires her to work hard and make sure that all students have the opportunity to learn and grow. 

Spice Up Your Holiday Clothing Drive With a Classroom Challenge


With Thanksgiving only a couple weeks away, ‘tis the season for teachable moments about giving…

Schoola is offering a holiday edition of the classic clothing drive. We invite you to our holiday classroom challenge! Use our holiday coat & clothing drive poster to challenge your classes to compete and see who can bring in the most donations for your school.


Here’s an example of the flyer you can distribute at your school.

Want to get started? Here’s how:

  1. Sign up to get a holiday coat drive poster: This will allow you to track your donations by class, allowing for each grade to compete for special recognition. Your coach can get the poster and tracking stickers shipped off to you lickety-split. If you don’t already have a coach helping you with your drives, email
  2. Encourage your community to clean out their coat closets! This time take a look at your coat closet, not just kids’ rooms to find unused items. It’s likely that you have a few pieces of outerwear that are ready to pass on from last season. During the challenge, your class will get “extra credit” for each piece of outerwear you donate, a sticker for each bag, and one for each coat means lots of chances for your class to get points.  
  3. Talk about your results: Following your clothing drive, you will need to take a photo of your results poster (example photo below) to send to Schoola so they can award the winner their $100 gift card. Why not use the poster to create a lesson involving math, giving, and ecology. Challenge your students to calculate the value of the donation – one coat sells on Schoola for an average of $15, which means each coat has the potential to earn $6 for your school. Based on this, what are your potential earnings? 

Closeup of a real Class Challenge in action!

I hope your holiday drive is successful and that the lessons in reuse resonate with your community.


Megan’s favorite school memory is discovering a peer counseling program that helped her become a leader in her toughest year of grade-school – when she grew 11 inches in 12 months, and moved / changed schools as a 5’8” fifth-grader. Now she is a mom of two bay area babes, and spends the workweek helping more parents find and leverage Schoola to fund their school programs.

Coaches’ Corner: Meet the Team + Fundraising Tips

Coach Group 2

If you’ve run a school-wide clothing drive, chances are you worked with one of Schoola’s coaches, a team of fundraising gurus who help you every step of the way when setting up and running your school’s clothing drive. We wanted to take a moment to not only introduce you to our awesome team, but share some of their insider fundraising tips.

Coaches 3

Favorite School Memory: Tim loves to draw! He was lucky enough to grow up in the 1990s when art programs were still funded in grade schools. His favorite times at school were creative projects such as painting, bookmaking, and designing props for school plays. Today Tim works as a Schoola coach to help organize clothing drives that fund programs like the art projects he fondly remembers participating in as a kid.
Fundraising Tips:
– Share often on social media to increase participation and donations, which drive your earning potential. (Your Schoola coach will provide you with templates to make this easy.)
– Create a competition among the grades or classes, and provide a prize for the class with the most bags donated (pajama day, pizza lunch, etc).

Favorite School Memory: Lauren has had a love of writing since the fifth grade, when she wrote her first short story for a class assignment. She continued to foster her fondness forwords throughout high school and college, and spent time working as a writing tutor and English instructor before joining the Schoola team. Outside of the classroom she spent much of her free time brushing up on her soccer skills and played for the varsity team throughout high school. Lauren now works as a Schoola coach, helping schools across the nation raise funds to support writing, sports, and other awesome programs!
Fundraising Tip:
– Encourage friends and family that don’t live in the area to participate remotely by requesting a free postage-paid donation bag online—anyone can donate on behalf of your school!

Favorite School Memory: Jake loves math. No doubt about it. Geometry and statistics are his favorite, but algebra will do in a pinch. His favorite memory from his grade school years is probably the ‘lake’ that his science teacher built in the classroom each spring that his class could explore with their microscopes. As the logistics coordinator at Schoola, he ensures all your donations make it from your school to our doorstep.
Fundraising Tips:
– Be sure to have your parents fill out the donor stickers so we can let them know when their clothes find a new home.
– Lost & found clothes are a great low-effort way to supplement your school’s inventory, and we can pick up boxes of clothes at any time. Pro tip: Send in your lost & found at the end of each semester so you don’t end up with a huge pile at the end of the year.

Coaches 2

Favorite School Memory: Growing up, Jana loved reading and science. One of her fondest memories is the school-sponsored bookmobile, a free bookstore on wheels from which every child got to take a book home. She was also part of after-school science programs like Odyssey of the Mind, competing in engineering and physics challenges with friends. Jana continues to have a passion for reading and explores her inner science geek with her two boys. She now works as a Schoola coach, helping schools provide similar educational experiences for their students.
Fundraising Tips:
– Use the clothing drive as a teachable moment in the classroom! Educate students about recycling and water conservation. (Check out this free free printable worksheet that demonstrate the impact you can make by reusing and recycling gently used items)
– Link your drives to other school events that bring parents into the school, such as parent-teacher conferences, the book fair, or your spring festival.

Favorite School Memory: Julie has a fine arts degree. From early on, she added a creative flare to any project that would allow. She attributes her understanding of design and illustration techniques to her grade school art teacher. Innovative projects such as making marionettes, carving out linoleum stamps, and creating papier-mâché masks are some of her fondest memories. Julie is now a Schoola Coach helping schools, including her grade school, raise funds to give other children the opportunity to create lasting memories.
Fundraising Tips:
– Include a blurb or article in your school newsletter with progress and money raised; everyone loves a good progress update. You can also link to your Schoola page from your School’s website so you can watch a live tally of your fundraising progress.

Coaches 1

Favorite School Memory: One of Marthaluz’s favorite school memories is performing in Baile Folklorico’s Pineapple Dance in the third grade. Baile Folklorico was mainly a high school group, but they allowed other students in the district to participate. Marthaluz still loves trying different and unusual things. She spends her workdays helping to raise funds for schools, and her personal time giving back to her community, reading, eating, and exploring.
Fundraising Tips:
– Put signs in prominent locations to remind parents of the drive.
– Activate your phone/text/email tree the week of the drive to remind parents to donate.

Favorite School Memory: One of Stephen’s favorite memories was dancing the Macarena in grade school! This was just one of the many activities his PE class had–he always loved getting to play outdoors, which probably contributed to his love of camping and hiking as an adult.
Fundraising Tips:
– Get the Environmental Club, Student Council, or other clubs involved. This is especially good for middle and high schools.
– Share your fundraising goals and successes with the Schoola team—we often feature schools on our social media, and the added exposure can help you raise more!

Now that you’ve met the team, reach out at to set up a clothing drive, or simply request more info by filling out our online form and save programs like PE, art, and music in your school.

We’re Celebrating 6X More Funds for Schools!


This week we wrapped one of our favorite jobs at Schoola HQ: we just put thousands of checks in the mail to our partner schools. This fundraising period, schools received 6x the amount of much-needed funding as we were able to give this time last year. That means more field trips, music classes and iPads in our schools. And we have all of our donors and customers to thank for that. 


Let’s take a moment to reflect on the past few months:

  • Our top-earning school, PS 9 Teunis G. Bergen School, raised a whopping $34,000 in the past three months alone! This means their students get to go on field trips this year. Read more about their #SchoolaSuccess on the PS 9 school page.
  • We’re now a community of more than 558,000 families working to support schools by donating and shopping.
  • We’ve welcomed a few new additions to the Schoola family: you can now donate & shop for baby and maternity clothes, which means more ways to raise money for schools.

We can’t wait to see what the next three months will bring. Thank you for everything you do. Share this message to keep up the good work!

A Mom’s Tips for How to “Fall Back” on November 1st


By Megan Walsh, VP of Marketing at Schoola & Mom

My least favorite thing about fall is the shortness of daylight, and this weekend we will lose a whole hour of it at once. We’ll be officially welcoming fall (and winter) this weekend as Daylight Savings Time comes to a close on Sunday. You’ll need to set your clock back one hour at 2 a.m. Sunday, November 1st.

Here are some great things about the time change this year:


Spend a little extra time together during family game night on Friday in preparation for the time change Sunday night.

  1. Starting this evening, it will become a good idea to let your kids stay up a little later than usual to prepare for the big shift on Sunday night. This might mean a little extra time for family game night on Friday and 30 minutes to an hour of extra Halloween fun as well! Slowly transitioning to a later bedtime will be the easy part, as this will probably be seen as a “bonus!” to your little ones. 
  2. Start practicing for a later wake-up time by sleeping in on Sunday morning! This will be the trickiest part for my almost-two-year-old who is an early riser. I plan to triple-check that the blackout shades in his room are fully operational, and might even reinstall an old set in my kindergartener’s room in order to help her make the transition for the first week or so.
  3. Look at the bright side—you will likely have a little extra time in the morning for the first week, as your body will probably wake you up before your alarm. Our family plans to take advantage of this by shifting some of our typical afternoon activities (like walking the dog) to the morning. Getting outside is a great way to help your body adjust to the new time, as daylight is the single most influential trigger to your body’s circadian rhythms.  

Shift your evening walk with the dog and kiddos to the morning when it will be brighter.

So that doesn’t sound all that bad right? Well, it just wouldn’t be realistic to talk about time change without mentioning some of the pitfalls:

  1. When you are stretching bedtimes later, be sure to do so without screens. Television and cell phones stimulate kids and make it harder for them to settle down to sleep on their own. Make it a habit to turn off devices at least an hour before bed to get better quality sleep.
  2. Expect whining. There will be some sleep loss in the first week of the adjustment, and in addition, many kids are losing some of the afternoon outside time that helped them blow off after school steam. Plan to address this double-whammy of crankiness proactively by stocking the game or craft closet with some exciting replacements for their beloved sports or park time. There is not much a new Lego set from Pley can’t fix in our household 🙂  
  3. Get glowing. A very real side effect to neighborhoods getting darker earlier is increased danger in transportation. Make sure your kids have the appropriate reflective gear for walking or biking in the dark. 

Be well this weekend!


Megan’s favorite school memory is discovering a Peer Counseling program that helped her become a leader in her toughest year of grade-school–when she grew 11 inches in 12 months, and changed schools as a 5’8” fifth-grader.  Now she is a mom of two bay area babes, and spends the workweek helping more parents find and leverage Schoola to fund their school programs.

A Mom’s Tips for a Successful Clothing Drive Fundraiser

2015-09-17 08.25.42-1

By Cindy Ann, Schoola Graphic Designer & Mom

When it comes to creative ideas for how to fundraise for my daughter’s school, doing a Schoola clothing drive was a no-brainer. It was super accessible for everyone in our community, and gave a everyone a chance to contribute and get involved!

Here are 5 things I learned:

  1. Leverage Schoola fundraising coaches as a resource: I worked with Tim to set the date for our drive, get custom flyers, and schedule a pickup for our donations. He was able to give recommendations for the duration (one week) and set expectations.
  1. Make the ask easy. Our elementary school has aggressive fundraising goals, which is awesome, except sometimes it feels like they are always asking for money. So, hosting a fundraiser where we are asking families to clean out their closets instead of their bank accounts was an easy ask. I mean who doesn’t have to clean out their closet from time to time, especially with kiddos who sometimes outgrow clothes even before they are worn? It was an easy way for our whole community to contribute and get involved!

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  1. Timing is everything! A large portion of community of parents “drop and go” in the morning, so they don’t always have the opportunity to see our message board and signs around campus. We timed the clothing drive to be a week after back-to-school night. Hosting the drive the week after back-to-school night worked out perfectly because parents had the opportunity to learn about the drive while they were on campus, seeing exactly where they would need to drop off their donations.

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  1. Get the kids involved. My daughter’s local 4th Grade Girl Scout Troop volunteered to be Clothing Drive Ambassadors. They each wore personalized t-shirts, which made them feel important and we made it fun by asking the girls to make signs and pass out flyers and stickers in the front of the school during our car line drop-off the week of the clothing drive. The girls even decided to collect the bags from parents so they didn’t even have to leave their cars.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 11.22.50 AM

  1. Get the word out. Not only is it important to get the word out, but to get it out in lots of different ways! We comminuted through emails, flyers, posters and word of mouth.
  • Email-newsletter & paper-flyers: We included info about the upcoming clothing drive in our weekly newsletter 3 weeks before  the drive and added it to our school calendar as well as sending home a flyer with every student a week before the drive. Then during the week of the drive all kids went home with another reminder flyer and sticker to place on their donation bags.
  • Posters: This took a little more time but it was an extremely effective way to let folks know about our drive. Our Local Girl Scout Troop made big and colorful posters to hang up all around the school and we made sure they were in all the prominent places where we get foot traffic so parents would see them.
  • Word of mouth and social media: Our Girl Scout Troop was super excited to be doing community service for our school and were amazing advocates. They made sure to ask their friends to clean out their closets to help our school. And we got parents talking about it as they waited in the yard during pick-up and posted about it on our school’s Facebook page.

In the end with all our efforts our school collected a whopping 225 bags of clothes. This was an amazing and easy fundraiser for our school. You can check out our school page and track our progress here. And what are you waiting for? Sign up for a Schoola clothing drive today!

CINDYANN-Biocard (1)

Cindy Ann’s favorite part of school was always art class, from drawing and painting to collaging and gluing (and at times tasting the paste). After winning 1st place in her 3rd grade Art Show there wasn’t a creative art class that she didn’t sign up to take. Now as a mama to Ava Blu, and author of a mother & daughter craft book she knows how important it is to have Art offered in schools. It’s not just about making pretty pictures it’s about getting kids thinking and developing them into creative learners with the ability to seek questions, create their own ideas and make personal connections.

Introducing our “Brands Give Back Flash Sales” Benefitting the Malala Fund!

Blogger Cakies' kiddos wear Gymboree and stand #withMalala. Source:

Blogger Cakies’ kiddos wear Gymboree and stand #withMalala. Source:

We’re partnering with brands including Gymboree, Tea Collection and ModCloth to raise money for the Malala Fund. These companies have made generous donations of thousands of new-with-tags items that we’ll bring to you each week! You can feel great about shopping these exclusive collections because every purchase supports the Malala Fund.

Here are the details:

  • Each week in October we will launch a new sale.
  • Schoola donors get first pick of each sale on Mondays.
  • On Tuesday, our whole community is invited to shop the sale.

You get incredible values on new-with-tags items, up to 80% off regular retail prices! And every purchase supports educational projects in the most vulnerable communities in the world.


Our first brand to give back with a generous donation to the Malala Fund was Gymboree. Shop the coordinating collection of adorable playwear in kids’ sizes 4-12, right here. You can put together an adorable outfit for under $17 and $6.70 goes directly to the Malala Fund.


Come back each week—we’ll be launching new-with-tags flash sales from Tea Collection, ModCloth and more soon!

It’s just one more way we can partner together to help kids reach their potential.