Jul 29, 2017

Community helps area kids kick off school year right with 16 Pack-A-Backpack

Category: Station News

South Bend, Ind. (WNDU) -- School supplies are an essential part of learning, and that's why we here at WNDU-TV are proud to give back to students in need through our annual 16 Pack-A-Backpack donation drive.

Since it began 17 years ago, 16 Pack-A-Backpack has provided more than 50,000 school kits to K-6 students across Michiana.

Our 16 Pack-A-Backpack donation drive ran from 7-10 a.m. Saturday, and we had live reports from each of our four locations-- in South Bend, Benton Harbor, Goshen and Plymouth. Watch the highlights in the attached videos and scroll down for a photo slideshow!

The drive kicked off with a 'Shred-a-Thon' fundraiser in June and it was very successful with about 77,000 pounds of paper shredded and more than $14,000 raised. The suggested donation was $5 per vehicle, but many donated much more.

Saturday's drive brought in more than $35,000, as well as, stacks of backpacks and school supplies. These donations will help pack over 4,000 backpacks.

“That tells you how much the community really cares about education,” said Dreama Jensen, the former Area Director for the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. The BBB is a project partner.

If you missed our drive, we're still collecting donations through Friday, August 4 at the WNDU Studios, 54516 State Road 933 in South Bend. If you prefer to donate money, you may write a check to "Goodwill Industries of Michiana." Be be sure to put "16 Pack-A-Backpack" in the memo line. That money will be used to buy more supplies for students in our area.

With each $5 donation, a backpack will be purchased; $10 will fill it with enough supplies to get kids started for the school year.

President and CEO Debie Coble says Goodwill Industries of Michiana is very excited to be part of this effort.

“We know that education is really the key for folks to be able to sustain themselves in their future and get jobs that they want and the need,” Coble said. “And so getting kids started at an early age with the resources that they need just makes a perfect match for us.”

For many students, this isn't just a backpack.

"I was a teacher and I saw kids that didn't have supplies," said Debra Peterman, a 16 Pack-A-Backpack donor.

It means showing up on the first day of school with confidence.

"The need is so immense out there, you just don't realize what it does to a child not to be able to have the supplies for a simple assignment," said Peterman.

Sen. Joe Donnelly stopped by our WNDU studios in South Bend to drop off a backpack donation, saying it is important to set up students to succeed. He also joked a bit with our own Tricia Sloma and Mike Hoffman.

“I also hope that these children --our friends and neighbors-- have better handwriting than me," said Sen. Donnelly.

Generous folks from the community rolled into WNDU's parking lot, including one couple with hot wheels.

"By purchasing these school supplies it kind of takes us back to our younger years when we had children and it makes us kind of feel young again too, and it makes us feel like we're helping the community," said Joseph Molar, a 16 Pack-A-Backpack donor. "Kind of like driving a cool Studebaker?" asked NewsCenter 16's Tricia Sloma. "Yeah, kind of like that," said Molnar.

All generations pitched in to help our effort.

"I can give away this backpack so a little girl can have it," said Amber, a young girl and 16 Pack-A-Backpack donor.

Paqui Kelly, wife of Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly, also joined us during our live broadcast to donate a $10,000 check to Pack-A-Backpack. She says the donation drive aligns with the three pillars of the Kelly Cares Foundation: health, education and community.

“As a prior school teacher, I already know how special it is to start that year off great and it’s so much fun to be part of this," said Kelly. "And everybody deserves a good start. It should be a fresh start every year and this is one of the programs that really gets kids started on the right track.”

Local owner/operator Dave Sparks stopped by with a $3,000 check and some school supplies from McDonald's and Julianne Morris, the marketing manager with Notre Dame Federal Credit Union, donated a $5,000 check on behalf of the bank, along with some supplies collected at the bank's seven branches.

You can find much more information about the drive and backpack distribution by clicking here.

WNDU-TV would like to thank our community partners for supporting this year's 16 Pack-A-Backpack drive, including Goodwill Industries of Michiana, The Better Business Bureau, Integra Certified Document Destruction, Meijer, McDonald's, The Kelly Cares Foundation, Notre Dame Federal Credit Union, U93, and Jamil Packaging Corp.