AJ Broadus says he knows what it’s like to not always have the tools you need to express yourself artistically or even just make it through the school day.

“When I was little, I didn’t always have a lot of school supplies,” he says. “I’ve been working with kids for the longest time. I worked at a daycare and had a lot of kids telling me their stories and opening up about things they were dealing with.”

Broadus, a senior graphic design major and member of the track and field team, has launched a fundraiser that has raised nearly $4,000 that will be used to purchase art and school supplies for local kids.

“I know that during quarantine, a lot of kids ran out of art supplies or just didn’t have any,” said Broadus. “I emailed McKinley Elementary to ask what kind of supplies kids needed. I have been volunteering there for a year or so, so I already had a relationship with the principal and counselor.”

In addition to art supplies, he learned the school needed tissues, hand sanitizer and other items due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Broadus started with a post on Facebook asking for contributions. He soon heard from a representative with the Joplin Elks Lodge saying the organization wanted to donate $2,000 toward the effort.

“I’ll be meeting with them soon to talk about their donation,” he said.

Even if it’s simply providing children with pencils and paper, Broadus feels like it could make a tremendous difference for them. As he looks ahead to graduation and beyond, the effort fits with one of his career objectives.

“I want to continue working with kids,” he says. “One of my goals is to eventually work with a nonprofit for kids.”