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DALLAS - Hundreds of students from Hernandez Elementary School in Dallas will get a chance to have a unique back-to-school shopping experience.

Former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith and his wife, Pat, have taken on a mission to make sure many of those students and their parents don't have to worry about getting a new school uniform.

Back-to-school shopping is a pretty big deal for many families - especially when the budget is tight - according to parents like Robert Jones.

'With all of my bills and me being on a fixed income, I've got to make sure that our income is stretching,' he said.

Jones has two young sons who attend Hernandez Elementary School. Uniforms are requires on the campus. The school's principal, Torey Willis-Calhoun, said in the past, some parents just couldn't afford the clothing.

'It has been an extreme challenge,' Willis-Calhoun said. 'You know, our parents do the best they can with what they have. But most of the time, our students will come in their everyday clothes. We don't turn them away.'

This school year, the Pat and Emmitt Smith Charities are working to make a difference for nearly 400 students attending Hernandez Elementary. They are partnering with Belk to provide new shirts, pants, and belts for the boys. The girls will receive new uniform skirts, blouses, and socks.

Jones said he and other parents are appreciative.

'We usually pass our uniforms around in the community,' Jones said. 'Certain kids who outgrow their uniforms, we usually pass them to our neighbors and whatnot.'

The charity said it chose to make the gift to Hernandez Elementary after evaluating the community's demographics and needs. Organizers spent the day transforming the school's gymnasium into a back-to-school boutique for the free uniform event.

'Oh, this is going to look good on you, son,' Johnel Jones said as she sized a pair of uniform pants on her son.

Educators say the Pat and Emmitt Smith Charities' $40,000 gift will not only take some of the burden off the parents, but will help boost the students' morale and help keep them focused on learning.

'They're going to be energetic,' Willis-Calhoun said. 'They are going to be happy, and they are going to be ready to learn.'

E-mail dfernandez@wfaa.com

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