By Erin Crowell
Every student needs a backpack.
Its the reason why the Traverse Bay Sunrise Rotary Club has donated over 7,700 backpacks to area elementary and high school students.
Since 2004, the Backpacks for Kids program has become the signature event for Rotary members, providing area students with vital school supplies and the means to carry them.
This year, the Rotary Club will host its first Shoe & Snacks for Backpacks fundraiser on February 21 at Timber Ridge Resort in Traverse City. Participants will enjoy a snowshoe hike along the groomed trails with complimentary hot beverages and snacks. The $15 registration fee sponsors one fully supplied backpack for the 2010 Backpack for Kids program. The maximum fee for families is $25, with additional donations welcome.
Backpacks for elementary students contain supplies such as markers, crayons, craft paper, hand sanitizer, pencil boxes and scissors. The supply for high school students gets a little heftier, says event coordinator Jessica Luckey. They carry more books, and calculators, notebooks, pens and pencils.
In August, Rotary members and volunteers stuff backpacks via assembly line and then have the bags shipped to two central locations, just in time for the new school year.
The Rotary Club, partnered with Traverse Area Public Schools, provides 1,000-1,500 packs to area school children each year. Last year, the program donated 1,300 backpacks 100 of those going to high school students, and the other half to elementary students.
Every year, TCAPS gives the Rotary a list of students eligible for the program. Although the program started with primarily TCAPS students in mind, its not limited to students in that school district, says program director David Payne.
Were reaching out to Benzie, Manistee programs all over the region.
Last year, the program included specific bags for the TBA ISD programs. Payne explains schools outside of the Grand Traverse area can obtain backpacks too.
Other surrounding rotary clubs have requested information on the backpack program to be implemented into their own communities, says Luckey.
The total cost for collecting items and distributing backpacks is around $22,000.
We dedicate a majority of club resources, both money and manpower, says Payne. Its our main focus every year.
But why backpacks?
Everyone needs a backpack, and with more and more people losing jobs, and economic hardships taking a strong hold in the area, its something we identified as one less thing for someone to worry about, says Payne.
The event at Timber Ridge will be a first-time fundraiser for the program, something of a crapshoot, according to Payne.
We have no idea what to expect. Are we going to make a couple dollars? Are we going to lose money and not do it again? Im pretty sure we wont lose money, but you just never know. For one thing, its another thing to keep the momentum going. Its another way to create awareness and know who we are.
You can help donate a stuffed backpack by participating in the snowshoe trek at Timber Ridge Resort in Traverse City, on Sunday, February 21, from 2-4 p.m. $15 fee sponsors one fully stuffed backpack, a fun trek and hot beverages and goodies. Families can participate for $25. Snowshoe rentals are available at $5/pair through GT Cycle. Advance registration is encouraged. Visit tcsunriserotary.org or call Jessica Luckey at 932-6238.
Those interested in the Backpacks for Kids Program may contact David Payne at 231-313-9653 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.