EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. In the story “Backpack Buddies offers help all week” which ran on page A1 of the Tuesday, July 16, 2019 edition of the Mohave Valley Daily News, Key Club students’ campus of origin was misidentified. They are students at Mohave Accelerated Learning Center.
MOHAVE VALLEY — Many area families are spending time — and money — preparing for school to come back into session. For some families, purchasing the most basic back-to-school items can be a financial reach or simply unaffordable.
BHHS Legacy Foundation-Legacy Connection Tri-State Backpack Buddies “Dress Kids for Success” allows students in families living at or below poverty level to receive school supplies, hygiene items and clothing.
They even get the chance to choose a backpack so they can carry their school supplies in style. The backpacks smartly matched the sneakers also being given out.
It’s an effort to put all children in area schools on more equal footing — academically and socially — when they start the school year. It allows all children in the area to show up at school looking their best. The supplies help them do their best in class.
Volunteers who help distribute these items to children get a thrill devoting time to this event.
DJ Loke provided music and people of all ages were upbeat. Some of the volunteers and children occasionally broke into dance. The local DJ donated her time and talent to Backpack Buddies, said Nancy Mongeau, BHHS Legacy Foundation vice president for program development in the Tri-State.
The event has been moved to a building owned by the Mohave Valley Elementary School District that the organization rents. It allows the overall feel of the event to more closely resemble a shopping trip — with bus rides, water and snacks.
Having a central location allows the organization to help families new to the area as well as assist those affected by fires or other emergencies that leave them without belongings, said Rebecca Vaughan, Backpack Buddies event coordinator.
Some students from the Mohave Accelerated Learning Center Key Club were waiting between tasks. Two seniors said this was first time they were able to usher children around to gather shoes, clothing, hygiene items and classroom supplies. They said they usually spent their time behind the scenes helping to sort and pack these items.
“It’s way better to see the kids,” said Dallas Davidson, a MALC senior. “I love this. It’s really fun.”
It was the first time for Bev Siemens as a Backpack Buddies volunteer. She helped children pick out the right sized school logo shirts by holding the knit garments against their backs on Monday after spending last week helping with event preparation.
“This has been an amazing journey to be a part of Backpack Buddies,” she said.
Many Bullhead City Police Department employees volunteered. A couple brought robots with them. Instead of removing potential explosives, the devices were used during the event as high-tech display racks for backpacks.
The robot operators moved the electronic arms to the proper level so the children could grab a backpack. The robot arms often appeared to want to shake hands after each child removed a backpack. The greeting delighted the children as well as the adults in the room.
One of the other volunteers said to a child that the robots also were Backpack Buddies like everyone else there.
“We make the claw wiggle back and forth,” said Cpl. Edward Mooney, a member of the BHCPD’s Bomb and Hazardous Device Team. “It’s like shaking hands.”
He said the experience was gratifying for a number of reasons; the children loved seeing the robots; the children usually have fun gathering back-to-school gear; and, most importantly, it was an opportunity for department personnel to meet residents and just be “people.”
The only first-day glitch was trouble with air conditioning in one of the rooms. Fans helped keep people fairly cool until the unit was repaired.
Staff with the Mohave Valley Daily News also are among volunteers from throughout the community.
Mongeau said that a former Tri-state resident now living in Oregon still comes south to volunteer. He had car trouble on the way but was able to get needed repairs and arrive on time.
Monday’s session was primarily for Arizona schools. Children in Needles, Laughlin and area Head Start programs will get their turn next month, Vaughn said.