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Multicultural Centre seeking community’s assistance for annual Big Backpack Event

By Staff | Apr 26, 2019

The Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida is reaching out to the community for assistance in providing backpacks full of supplies for the organization’s 20th annual Big Backpack Event scheduled for this July.

“We are in that fundraising stage right now. They can donate any amount. Every $10 raised helps support a child in need,” Big Backpack Event Media Chair Connie Ramos-Williams said of the Adopt-A-Student program. “We accept donations all year round.”

With that said, those who would like to support this year’s event are asked to make a donation between now and July 1, so the Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida can purchase what they need to have it ready for the event.

“Our overall cost per student to provide them with a backpack and school supplies comes to just about $10 per student. For just a $10 donation, anyone can sponsor, or Adopt A Student for back to school,” she said. “The fundraising portion every year comes from the generosity of business sponsors and locals.”

Every year Ramos-Williams said they hear from teachers and the Lee County School Board that they have to dip into their own pockets to help students that come to school without backpacks and school supplies.

“These donations help to make sure those students that are in need get to pick up their backpack and school supplies,” she explained.

Those interested in contributing can do so by visiting www.multicultural-centre.org or by emailing info@multicultural-centre.org.

During the 20th annual Big Backpack Event, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday, July 28, families with students between the ages of 5 to 12 years old are invited to the Fort Myers Skatium, 2250 Broadway, to receive their backpacks full of school supplies.

“The first 2,000 students receive a hand stamp, or ticket when they get to the event. There is a table full of all different (colored) backpacks — pink, purple, blues and yellows — they are a nice size and well-crafted backpack,” Ramos-Williams said. “They get to pick out the color backpack. They are on a little shopping spree.”

The students receive such items as a 24-pack of crayons, notebook paper, pocket folders, pens and pencils and glue.

“They load up their backpack,” she said. “They enjoy that a whole lot more than getting a full backpack. They get to see what is inside the backpack and be apart of that.”

Last year the event was held at North Fort Myers High School and the year before, Dunbar Middle School. Ramos-Williams said they are excited to be holding it at the Fort Myers Skatium this year.

“That area is where we see a lot of families that come out to the event. It’s within walking distance for a lot of families that are needing a little bit of help,” she said.

This year marks the event’s 20th year, which Ramos-Williams said with a hint of exhaustion.

“It’s hard to believe these 20 years have gone by that quickly,” she said.

When Leonardo Garcia, executive director of the Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida, introduced the event to her, they started out by helping 50 students, which grew to 500, then to 1,000 and for the last 10 years 2,000 children every year.

“When the economy has been really down, we have helped an upwards of 50,000 people. I believe we are in a much better situation. I believe our attendance has been under the 10,000 mark. We will always have those that are in need. In 2007 people who were used to making six figures in the construction industry were laid off. They were extremely appreciative of the help.”