EAST ISLIP

Parent-operated nonprofit improves student experiences

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When the going gets tough in the East Islip School District, FTK is there to help.

Nonprofit organization For the Kids Foundation, or FTK, was founded by district parents 24 years ago after the district faced financial challenges.

“The district was in austerity back then,” East Islip superintendent John Dolan recalled. “The budget hadn’t passed; they couldn’t include sports in the budget. So, a group got together and asked, ‘How can we help?’ And that’s really been their motto ever since: ‘How can we help, and how can we make the experience better for the kids?’”

FTK president Pat Blair said that a decade ago, the district’s budget was “bare bones.” At the time, the group paid for high school and middle school clubs and financially supported the high school musical productions.

“It was just to enhance the educational experiences of our students – because we love them,” Blair, an East Islip resident, said.

Since its founding, FTK has raised and donated roughly $1.45 million back for district programs and infrastructure across grade levels. Most recently, FTK was responsible for funding elementary school STEAM programs, purchasing 150 Chromebooks for middle and high school students, and the Thousand Book Club, which purchases 1,000 books for children at two elementary schools to use.

The signature “FTK” logo can be found across district grounds where they’ve made donations, like the outdoor concession stand near the high school and the upgraded outdoor grounds near Spur Drive South.

The new triangular grassy spot between the high and middle schools is adorned with “E.I. Pride Forever” in the district’s red and white colors. Just north of the area is a walking path across Heckscher State Parkway.

“Things were a little upside down last year,” Dolan said, referencing the pandemic. “Pat and her board were really pushing for this, they wanted us to get this done, because it would be a nice spot for kids to take pictures, after a crazy year.” As things return to normal, Dolan said he expects that the area will serve as a hotspot for graduation and prom pictures this year, too.

Dolan said FTK was “overwhelmingly generous” with helping to make end-of-the-year festivities happen for students during the pandemic in 2020.

“They supported our drive-by [celebrations], our parades,” Dolan said. “Last year FTK even prepared goodie bags for the kids, which were chock full of all kinds of stuff for the graduates.”

This year, the district struggled to acquire funds for the senior prom due to COVID-19. Blair said FTK paid for about 240 seniors to attend their prom, which this year is at the high school.

And of course, East Islip’s multimedia center, “W-FTK” – inspired in part by the popular American 1970s sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” Dolan said – is also named after its financial founder. East Islip aims to expand its broadcast and media programs in upcoming years, Dolan said.

“Since their inception, they’ve donated over $1 million – and that’s a showstopper right there,” Dolan said.

Although the nonprofit hasn’t hosted a fundraising event in over a year due to the pandemic, Blair said the group hopes to host an annual carnival this fall, though nothing is set in stone.

Earlier this year, Blair, the fourth FTK president, created the “Positivity Project 2021” Facebook page, which has worked to share positive thoughts and affirmations amid a wave of social media negativity. The group has led a series of local clothing and food drives for those in need.

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