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Organizations join forces to make Big Backpack Event larger yet

By Staff | Jul 16, 2020

More organizations have joined forces to make the annual Big Backpack Event bigger this year, which will also provide kid-friendly food.

“First time we have truly partnered and collaborated with friends in nonprofit world,” Public Relations and Marketing Chair Connie Ramos-Williams said. “Everybody has a different mission, but we all share that commonality to where we all want to support families and children that are in need and struggling in this time.”

The 21st annual Big Backpack Event, which this year will feature a drive-thru atmosphere, will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at the Fort Myers Skatium, 2250 Broadway. The event is geared towards school-aged children between 5 to 12 years old.

The families who attend will remain in their vehicles and stop at designated locations where volunteers will load backpacks full of school supplies, giveaways and a grocery bag of food. The volunteers placing these items in the trunk will be wearing gloves and masks.

Ramos-Williams said a lot of their volunteers are principals and teachers who are connected to the children they are serving during the event.

“There will be a nice vibe because we will have music playing. The volunteers always put a nice smile on their face, their hearts are in the right place. It’s a feel-good event regardless. We are excited,” she said.

Community Cooperative and Blessings in a Backpack of Southwest Florida have joined The Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida to ensure students have what they need to start another school year.

“We are excited to partner with The Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida at this year’s Big Backpack Event to provide a little bit of hope through offering kid friendly groceries as children and their parents get ready for the new school year,” Community Cooperative Chief Development and Operating Officer Stefanie Ink Edwards said in a prepared statement.

Each family who attends the event will receive a grocery bag full of such kid- friendly foods as peanut butter, jelly, Pop Tarts, box of oatmeal packets, macaroni and cheese, tuna, SpaghettiO’s, pasta and spaghetti.

Blessings in a Backpack of Southwest Florida donated a pallet of school supplies for 1,500 of the 2,000 students being served.

“This is our first year participating in this community outreach event and we look forward to handing out school kits donated to us by the Kids in Need Foundation to support and help families in need,” Executive Director of Blessings in a Backpack SWFL Cecilia St. Arnold said in a prepared statement.

Ramos-Williams said Blessings in a Backpack provided school supply packages with such items as erasers, glue, rulers, crayons and colored pencils. She said they will be putting those in backpacks

Ramos-Williams said the City of Fort Myers and the Fort Myers Police Department have also been crucial in making the event go on this year. She said the City of Fort Myers has been extremely helping with the Skatium, and the police department has been vital in figuring out the best way to do a car line, while managing traffic to keep the flow of cars continue through the event.

“Even though they don’t get to go through the line and fill backpacks this year, they love to have new backpacks and have all the great things in the backpack,” she said.

Ramos-Williams said they are preparing to help 2,000 kids this year.

“The need this year is greater than ever. For that reason we will see quite a few people come out,” she said.

If the Big Backpack Event happens to have anything leftover from the event, like years past, they will be donated to the Foundation for Lee County Schools, the Heights Foundation, churches who provide extra support and teachers who know of families struggling.

The drive-thru curbside event will feature a DJ, as well as some radio stations doing live remotes and fire trucks.

Since the event’s inception nearly 40,000 backpacks have been distributed to families. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 80 percent of Lee County children qualify for free, or reduced meal programs at their school.

For more information about the event, visit www.multicultural-centre.org, or email info@multicultural-centre.org.