Sign up now for program that gives free backpacks - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Sign up now for program that gives free backpacks to low income kids

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Summer break is just around the corner, but for organizations that help families afford school supplies, like a backpack, the preparation for fall begins right now.

The first day of school can be daunting for any child, but imagine how much harder that day would be, if you had to walk through the door with no notebooks or pencils, and nothing to carry them in.

"We want all the kids to feel comfortable and we want them to feel that they're ready to start the school year off and they can focus on school and not worry about not having a backpack," says Tracey Smiskey of the Eau Claire Boys and Girls Club.

Each fall, the Boys and Girls Club gives away as many backpacks as they can. Last year that number was close to 1,000. "Each year we get more registrations in, we get more phone calls," commented Smiskey.

The Back to School Backpack Program used to extend to all of Eau Claire County, but shrank a few years ago after donations fell short.  The funding to purchase the backpacks and supplies actually comes from the community. It costs about $25 per backpack for us to get out to the kids.  The backpacks, stuffed with supplies, are offered free of cost to any child enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program at the Eau Claire or Altoona school districts.

"The most exciting part of this program is actually the day that we distribute the backpacks," says Smiskey. "The kids come in with huge smiles on their faces, they cannot wait to pick out the color and the school supplies. We've had parents with tears in their eyes come in and thank us so much for being able to start their kids school year off with a backpack.

The start of another school year may seem far off, but parents must return the necessary paperwork by the second week of June, to make sure their child receives a backpack this fall. Those forms have been sent to the homes of all who qualify.

The free backpacks were first provided by the Junior League of Eau Claire. Around five years ago the Boys and Girls Club took the effort over. If you'd like to donate, checks can be sent or dropped off at the Boys and Girls Club in Eau Claire.

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