Last week was the first day back to school for many children and to help make it the most wonderful time of year, local Innisfil charity “C4Kids” filled 101 backpacks with school supplies for kids from donations through local businesses.
C4Kids is a non-profit group run by a board of directors and executives that strive to help offset the costs for families experiencing financial hardships, who have children with disabilities or illness or who have been involved in car accidents.
Local founders Debra Harrison and Marlene Boken started the organization 20 years ago and registered C4Kids as a charity in 2012 (originally called “Christmas 4 Kids”) – with the “C” representing caring, community and campaign.
The group, which runs the backpack program annually, was not sure what to expect this year with the current ongoing COVID pandemic but persevered and continued to request donations for the backpacks in need of supplies.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of the Innisfil schools and support of individuals, town hall, and local businesses,” expresses Harrison. “We were able to fill 101 requested backpacks despite COVID and that’s just amazing!”
Cram-the-RAM by 400 Chrysler Dodge Jeep Jam donated financially towards the fundraiser and posted a list of items needed to fill the backpacks on their website to help.
Collected items included: glue sticks, tape, scissors, calculators, pencils and sharpeners, crayons and markers, pens, highlighters, binders, lunch boxes, hygiene products (for teens), and masks – all packed tightly into a ‘cool’ backpack.
“We were very blessed with community support," shares Harrison. “We were able to fill 101 backpacks to help kids in need this year."
There are approximately nine schools in Innisfil, not including privately funded locations, and last year C4Kids filled approximately 107 backpacks through the program.
“We have a database with around 135 families (approximately 500 people) from Innisfil that needed help,” explains Harrison. “So, we knew we had to fill about 100 backpacks for school from this program."
The non-profit charity works in conjunction with the local schools to find out how many kids are in need of backpacks and what grades each of them are in so the bags are filled with appropriate supplies.
“We don’t judge people, if you need a backpack, tell us the name of the child, where they go to school, and which grade," details Harrison. “If the kids liked Spiderman, they got a spiderman backpack."
In previous years, the backpacks would be dropped off at the schools and dispersed through the staff. But due to COVID, parents had to pick up the backpacks at a unit in Cookstown (supplied by the Chamber of Commerce) where everything was organized.
“We start in the middle of August organizing everything," notes Harrison. “We take inventory, send out a media blast, see what is needed and ask for donations to meet our quota”.
The organization also hosts food drives for the town during Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving, working with the Innisfil Food Bank to help families in need. They also organize a year-round birthday gift program providing presents for kids who can’t afford a gift for a party invite.
“We’re not a band aid," stresses Harrison. “We want to bridge the help to get families out of the financial crisis they’re in and help them with food in the meantime."
In preparation for a second-wave, the board has already created a COVID-relief plan and are predicting to see an influx of clients once CERB ends.
“We are ready!” exclaims Harrison, noting that they have had support from the town, community and food bank already. “But right now, school is dealt with… it’s a wonderful thing when kids can go to school and feel confident with their backpacks."
To learn more about C4Kids, visit: www.christmas4kids.ca or on Facebook: Innisfil’s Christmas for Kids