Gadsden Belk store manager Lorrie Phillippi (left), congratulates contest winner Ally Acker (middle) alongside Southside High School principal Julie Tucker (right). Photo courtesy of Belk.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Local Southside High School student Ally Acker just added “award-winning fashion designer” to her resume.
As hundreds of hand-drawn t-shirt designs flooded Belk stores nationwide, Acker’s own design – showcasing a world united by kindness – arose as one of three selected winners in Belk’s KidFest contest.
“It’s exhilarating to win this contest,” said Acker. “I am very thankful I had this opportunity for Belk and my school.”
As an annual children’s event that welcomes families and youth to local Belk stores, KidFest offers gaming and crafting experiences alongside traditional shopping opportunities. The event’s inception arose from Belk’s intentional desire to celebrate kindness and joy through a child’s perspective, who so often inspire those around them. The first large-scale event to return to Belk in over a year, KidFest generated hundreds of submissions for its t-shirt contest, which prompted students to consider what the word “kindness” meant to them personally.
Belk Store Event Specialist Jaimie Small and Belk Senior Director of Events and Community Relations Jennifer Anderson shared that while KidFest always emerged as a wonderful way to showcase fall trends and engage with children, this year’s event proved even more special – and sparked the theme for the contest.
“While there have been many variables and difficulties over the last 18 months (as a result of the pandemic), the common threat that connects us all is kindness and respect for each other,” said Small and Anderson.
Acker’s design features a collection of people united, holding hands and standing atop an image of the world. The words “love” and “always” appear on the right and left shirtsleeves, with three hearts floating beneath the earth.
“I drew this design because I believe that acceptance and kindness will unite us all together,” said Acker. “The shirt means a lot to me. It represents that if the world comes together as one, kindness will spread no matter race, religion, gender or sexuality.”
KidFest t-shirt contest winners received a $2,500 donation to a local school of their choice, a $500 Belk gift card and their t-shirt design made available for purchase on Belk.com.
Though KidFest fosters a fun day enriched with entertainment, its mission coincides with Belk’s advocacy for education. Throughout all communities Belk serves, providing resources and education remains a paramount priority for the residents that live, work and learn in the cities and counties where Belk resides.
“We are so proud of Ally for her beautiful drawing that so eloquently illustrates what the word ‘kindness’ means to her,” said Lorrie Phillippi, store manager at Belk in Gadsden. “Her t-shirt design, along with designs from two other winners, will be available online this fall at belk.com and we’re thrilled to have her representing this community. At Belk, supporting education is a major part of who we are and we’re always looking for opportunities to celebrate local students who go above and beyond for their communities and schools.”
“Partnering with schools within Belk’s footprint – like Southside High School – gives us the opportunity to support local students and educators and spread more kindness to the youth of our communities,” said Small and Anderson.
Small and Anderson reiterated the same message Acker hoped to evoke through her design, encouraging others to uphold the noble mantra of compassion and extend benevolence at every turn. As Acker’s design represents the unifying power of kindness, her vision for the world illustrates a profound hope for a brighter future – one trend that never goes out of style.
“We should all be kind and love each other,” said Acker. “That is what I hope the world will become.”