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Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Pair of campaigns looks to fill backpacks for kids in need ahead of school resuming in the fall


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Heading back to school may be the last thing on kids’ minds as July rolls into August, but there are more than a few people watching the calendar. There are currently two campaigns running in the area collecting school-related items for children in need – the Waterloo Regional Police Service’s #BackpackChallenge, and the Woolwich Community Services annual backpack program.
The #BackpackChallenge started on Twitter. It encourages all members of the community to buy a new backpack, lunch bag, or $25 gift card that goes to kids in need. The challenge runs across the entire Waterloo Region, with Woolwich firefighters happy to pick up the challenge from regional police chief Bryan Larkin.
“The idea for the challenge came from Chief Larkin,” explained Dennis Aldous, deputy fire chief at the Township of Woolwich. “Larkin tweeted us out the challenge; so he was challenging all emergency services in the region to participate in this program with him. Last year, they did 600 bags, so this year he wants to see if they can get more.”
“We’re collecting backpacks through all of our divisions and headquarters here,” added police spokesperson Cherri Greeno. “And we’ve also opened up the challenge to the community as well, not just to emergency services because we were getting a lot of phone calls, and a lot of inquiries over social media from members of the community who wanted to help out. We certainly appreciate that. We have been getting quite a few dropped off here. They will be given to children and family services to be dropped off to the children that they have in need.”
This is the first year that the WRPS has issued this challenge to other emergency services in the region.
“We think the need will be greater this year,” added Greeno. “We all remember what it was like when we would go back-to-school shopping, and it’s an exciting time of the year for kids. We just want to make sure that every kid in the region gets to share that experience.”
The WCS backpack program has a similar idea. The Elmira-based agency’s annual campaign launched this week. It, too, aims to assist low-income families by providing backpacks and grade-appropriate supplies.
“We help over 100 children get backpacks to get ready for school,” said Tina Reed, coordinator of community support at WCS. “It’s been running for quite some time – we’ve done the program since 2003.”
It began as a youth centre-driven initiative that has prospered to a successful program that helps many families in the townships. This program is entirely funded by donations from the community, whether it is a financial contribution that allows WCS to purchase the needed supplies or an in-kind donation.
“I think it’s important for the community to know that we really care about our children, and making sure they have what they need for back-to-school,” said Aldous. “If anybody’s interested in helping out, they can just come into town hall and drop off a gift card for Staples or the Bargain Shop or Dollarama, and then a backpack or a lunch bag, just come on in and drop it off and they can be added to our collection.”
“We wanted to do our part and do whatever we could do to ensure that kids head back to school with a smile on their face,” added Greeno. “It’s not seen particularly as a season of giving, things kind of slow down, so we’re just trying to get people to think about those kids as they head back to school, and how they can help them go back to school feeling a sense of pride and excitement.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to either campaign can do so by dropping off a backpack or school supplies at Woolwich Community Services at 5 Memorial Ave. by August 20, or delivering a gift card, lunch bag or backpack to 24 Church St. W. by August 17. Find out more by checking out the hashtag #backpackchallenge on Twitter.

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