The JCPenney and the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation join forces to promote back-to-school positivity during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The “Ready for Anything Challenge” is supporting students in need in this difficult time. 

To kick off the challenge, JCPenney invited kids and teens from Boys & Girls Clubs in Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando, and Los Angeles to participate in a virtual mentoring session held on Sept. 1. During the online event, guests received the surprise of their lives when Shaquille O’Neal made a special appearance. O'Neal took the time to encourage students, answer questions, and announce a donation of $20,000 in JCPenney gift cards to the clubs – $5,000 per group. 

“I’m excited to be part of the JCPenney ‘Ready for Anything Challenge,’” O'Neal said. “With what kids are facing this year, I wanted to check in with local Boys & Girls Clubs and share some of my experiences and advice to help them feel confident and supported.” 

Through the session, O’Neal will participate in the challenge by taking the fifth action – mentoring students. With his signature humor and optimism, students will undoubtedly be entertained while gaining valuable insights and words of wisdom.

The campaign also challenges JCPenney associates and customers to take actions to help prepare students in their communities to be ready for anything this school year:

  • Inspire – share words of encouragement with a student in your community. 
  • Listen – lend a supportive ear.
  • Donate – give supplies or gently used clothing to a local school or nonprofit, or make a financial contribution.
  • Volunteer – in-person or virtually within your community.
  • Mentor – share your story with a student about how you persevered through challenging circumstances. 

“As JCPenney focuses on closing the opportunity gap, we are delighted to support deserving youth at the Boys & Girls Clubs in Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando, and Los Angeles,” said Jill Soltau, JCPenney chief executive officer. “For young people in need, community assistance is more important than ever, and the vital resources provided by schools and organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs are not currently as accessible due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The JCPenney ‘Ready for Anything Challenge’ will help provide essential support and encouragement for students as they start the school year.” 

“We all know this school year will look and feel very different from virtual learning at home for some students and mask-wearing and social distancing for those who return to the classroom. They’re navigating new environments and facing many unknowns. We want to do our part to empower and set students up for success so they can do and feel their best,” Soltau continued.